Cover David Warren recalls the time he unearthed a perfectly formed rough emerald in just 15 minutes (Image: Jonathan James Wilson)

David Warren, CEO of the Moussaieff jewellery house, recalls scouring Colombia’s Muzo mines for emeralds in the name of love

The year was 1988. I attended a dinner party in North London and it was here that I met my future wife, Adriana. When I decided to propose, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to present her with an exceptional emerald. Adriana is Colombian and, for hundreds of years, her homeland has yielded many of the world’s finest emeralds. In fact, it is estimated that the country accounts for a staggering 50 to 60 per cent of the world’s emerald market.

I first visited Colombia a year after we met. I was immediately struck by its undeniable beauty. It has a dramatic Caribbean coastline, cobbled colonial communities and snow-capped peaks that offer some of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. The Colombian people are wonderfully warm and welcoming. They have an amazing sense of humour and love to laugh, dance and play music.

Fast forward to 2005 and I found myself, once again, at a dinner party. Around that time, I was writing an industry article about the emerald market, and was coincidentally sat next to the president of the Colombian Exporters Association. He ended up inviting me to visit his country’s ancient Muzo mine first hand. It was an incredibly rare opportunity, especially back then, because mining remained a very secretive and local industry.

The Muzo mine is undoubtedly one of the best known in Colombia, but its location high in the Andes mountains makes it very inaccessible. It took an hour to fly in a six-seater plane from Bogota to the tiny airstrip in Quípama, through a nail-bitingly narrow route with sheer cliffs on either side—not that I could see much of them with the clouds being so thick.

When we arrived at the mine, it dawned on me how claustrophobic I actually am. Wet tunnels, which were so small I had to crouch, dropped down into complete blackness. It was incredibly hot—close to 40C—and because of the high altitude of the Andes we were working with 40 per cent less oxygen.

That being said, the entire experience was thrilling. After a shaft was blown up with dynamite, I was handed a jack hammer, which I used to hew for emeralds. It only took me 15 minutes before I unearthed a perfectly formed emerald crystal. Nobody could believe it.

One of the miners told me that you can dig for up to a year and not find anything. I decided to have it cut and set into a ring for Adriana. It weighed about seven carats rough. Once I’d had it cut, it came in at just under three carats.

I was appointed CEO at Moussaieff in September, and I can’t wait to continue setting the world’s most exceptional emeralds. I’ve long admired our founder Alisa Moussaieff, as well as her late husband Shlomo, and have had the pleasure of collaborating with them both over the years. Moussaieff’s coloured diamonds and gemstones, and let’s not forget our pearls, are virtually unparalleled. In July, we purchased a spectacular D-colour 100.85-carat diamond at the Geneva Magnificent Jewels sale by Christie’s. We’re in the process of setting it into a magnificent art jewel. There’s no doubt that you can expect great things from us for years to come.

This is a series in which we ask jewellery experts to weigh in on industry trends, innovation and more. David Warren is the new CEO of Moussaieff Jewellers

See also: What's Next For Austen Chu? The Entrepreneur Is Launching A Second-Hand Watch Business In Hong Kong

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