Oxygen Isotopes and Emerald Trade Routes Since Antiquity

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Science  28 Jan 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5453, pp. 631-633
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5453.631

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Oxygen isotopic compositions of historical emerald artifacts from the Gallo-Roman period to the 18th century indicate that during historical times, artisans worked emeralds originating from deposits supposedly discovered in the 20th century. In antiquity, Pakistani and Egyptian emeralds were traded by way of the Silk Route. Together with Austrian stones, they were the only source of gem-quality emeralds. Immediately after the discovery of the Colombian mines by Spaniards in the 16th century, a new trade route was established, first via Spain to Europe and India and then directly via the Philippines to India. Since then, Colombian emeralds have dominated the emerald trade, and most of the high-quality emeralds cut in the 18th century in India originated from Colombia.

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