Gemfields makes another startling discovery - a 7,525 ct rhino emerald named Chipembele

Chipembele was discovered on 13 July 2021 by geologist Manas Banerjee and Richard Kapeta
Gemfields introduces Chipembele, the rhino emerald, Kagem 2021
Gemfields introduces Chipembele, the rhino emerald, Kagem 2021

Gemfields is delighted to introduce “Chipembele”, the latest and largest significant gemstone discovered at the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia.

Naming of uncut emeralds is a tradition reserved only for the most rare and remarkable gems. While no official record exists, it is thought that not more than a couple of dozen gemstones have ever been given their own name, and it is extremely unusual to encounter a gemstone weighing more than 1,000 carats. Weighing 7,525 carats (1,505g), Chipembele – which means ‘rhino’ in the local indigenous dialect of Bemba – has earned a place in this exclusive club, and a name to match.

The discovery of Chipembele follows Insofu (Bemba for ‘elephant’ – discovered in 2010) and Inkalamu (‘lion’ - 2018), all of which were formed within relatively close proximity at the Kagem emerald mine in Zambia, which is the world’s single largest producing emerald mine, owned by Gemfields in partnership with the Zambian government’s Industrial Development Corporation.

Chipembele was discovered on 13 July 2021 by geologist Manas Banerjee and Richard Kapeta (who was also the team leader for the discovery of Inkalamu in October 2018) and his team at Kagem. The discovery, they said, “left everyone speechless”. Kapeta shouted in joy, “look at this rhino horn!” And hence, the gemstone found its name.

Chipembele formed under near perfect conditions, allowing the combination of the elements beryllium, chromium and vanadium to crystalise into large, distinct hexagonal crystal structures with glassy surfaces. The recovery of such a large high-quality emerald is extremely rare and was made possible by the skilled Kagem mining team, who practise gentle extraction techniques when mining in areas where emerald mineralisation is present. The rich, golden green hue and gemmy nature of this emerald will be appealing to buyers looking to yield fine quality faceted emeralds after the cutting and polishing process.

This remarkable gem is due to be sold at the next Gemfields emerald auction, with viewing expected to take place from early November. Selected premium emeralds brought to the auction will once again receive Gübelin Gem Lab’s ‘provenance proof’ service, which embeds nanoparticles coded with information within the gemstone that provides key details pertaining to the gemstone’s origin – like miner, mine location and date – in a process referred to as ‘the Emerald Paternity Test’. The process provides greater clarity of origin to gemstone customers, aiding transparency and trust in the industry. The winning bidder for Chipembele will be given the option of a unique DNA nano-tag identity, developed by Gübelin, ensuring that the cut and polished gems that it yields can be identified and certified as having originated from this extraordinary gemstone.

Chipembele stands proud as the largest of the three significant finds at Kagem emerald mine, with Insofu weighing in at 6,225 carats and Inkalamu at 5,655. The names of these three significant emeralds pay homage to the wildlife that is such an integral part of the landscape of Africa, and as precious as the coloured gemstones beneath the soil. Ten per cent of the sales price of Inkalamu was donated to aid conservation efforts benefitting its namesake, shared between large carnivore conservation projects in the Niassa reserve in Mozambique and carnivore tracking projects in Zambia. Chipembele will maintain this tradition, and a share of the proceeds of the sale will support the North Luangwa Conservation Programme in Zambia, to aid critical black rhinoceros conservation efforts.

 “A key Gemfields tenet is that Africa’s gemstone wealth must contribute meaningfully not only to host-country economies, but also to conservation efforts, host communities and the next generation by way of education, healthcare and livelihoods projects. We are delighted that the legacy of Chipembele will support rhinoceros conservation efforts, bringing a positive impact to conservation communities in Zambia.” Jackson Mtonga, Kagem Sort House Assistant Manager.

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