Inkalamu is making waves in the world of gems, and rightly so. Gemfields, a London-based mining company, in association with the Industrial Development Corporation of Zambia, discovered this 'lion' of a mineral from Kagem, the largest open pit mine. At 5,655 carats, this sparkling emerald is mesmerising.
Some stones get named and find a place in history while others don't. Since it was mined in Zambia, Gemfields decided to pay tribute to wildlife by naming it Inkalamu, which means lion in the local language. As part of their proceeds go towards wildlife preservation, and also because this is a huge stone, this beautiful green beryl got a name to match. “What determines this choice is a matter of instinct and experience of the miners and jewellers. Of course, the weight, clarity and translucence play a part. In the case of Inkalamu, all these elements were in place,” says Rishabh Tongya, Creative Director of Diacolor, the jewellery firm that bought the Inkalamu at an auction in Singapore last year. “Weight alone is not the deciding factor.”
Emeralds are as old as time or almost. The oldest one is said to date back to 2.97 billion years. That's the marvel of carbon dating. The earliest known emerald mines were in Egypt. The most prized green stones from the beryl family in present times come from Colombia, Brazil and now Zambia and even Ethiopia. But history steps in, too. Cleopatra, the famously charismatic queen of Egypt loved this vivid mineral. Closer to our times, Elizabeth Taylor, the Hollywood beauty, is said to have paid $280,000 per carat for a pendant.
There are no rules (4Cs - colour, cut, clarity, carat) as for diamonds. More than anything, a trusted jeweller's instinct is the key to buying a quality stone. He would best advise you on the purity of its colour, the inclusions or the internal patterns in the stone, the density and the rectangular steps or emerald cuts. Rishabh Tongya insists that a good jeweller would be the best guide.
He says they have no plans at present to cut and polish the Inkalamu. At 5,655 carats (1,113grams), it would be a shame to chip away from its impressive size. There are discussions afoot with museums to display the stone in all its glory to the citizens of this country. Having delved deep into their pockets to acquire the Inkalamu from Gemfields at an auction, Diacolor has no immediate plans to recover the cost.
“There's such a thing as nain sukh (for the pleasure of the eyes),” Rishabh Tongya says with a smile.