Emeralds treasured by science
Until recently, nobody would have dreamt of buying synthetic emeralds, but times are changing
Scientists from the Scientific Practical Centre at Belarus’ National Academy of Sciences have organised the production of their own high-tech products, vividly showing that science can be financially productive. Employees are now benefiting from bonuses and some of the profit is being used to continue scientific investigations.
Synthetic emeralds are a by-product of the creation of their close ‘relatives’ — memory magnetic systems, electro-optical devices, communications and ultrasonic reflection devices. “Over the last year alone, we’ve earned 30 million roubles from selling our synthetic emeralds,” notes Vladimir Merkulov, who heads the laboratory of superconductive materials physics and is a Candidate of Physico-Mathematical Sciences. “We supply unprocessed mono-crystals to Latvia and Israel while selling faceted ones on the Belarusian market, including some in a jewellery store in Minsk. A private enterprise in Gomel does our gem-cutting and our laboratory has good jewellery equipment. “Belarusian Emerald” brand is sold on our own website and is being promoted at various exhibitions of high-tech goods. Talented employees, who’ve developed an original way of growing emeralds at high-temperatures, are receiving bonuses today. They are solving fundamental problems in material science and superconductivity. Meanwhile, other employees are involved in implementing manufacturing and commercial programmes, which require other capabilities.
Domestic synthesis technology has enabled Belarusian artificial emeralds to occupy their own niche in the jewellery market. In terms of quality, they are better than those made in Russia from a hydrothermal method; accordingly, they cost more. Companies oriented towards customers with modest budgets still prefer to work with cheaper raw materials, to keep the price affordable. The Belarusian emerald, which is only slightly distinguishable from natural ones, is designed for ‘gourmets’. Of course, those found in Columbia or Zambia cost 100 times more than an artificial stone of the same size.
The Belarusian method can be used to grow high-quality rubies, alexandrites and sapphires but scientists have sensibly decided against this path, since it would be difficult to compete on price. Emeralds are particularly in demand, so there is scope for custom. The physicists now plan to expand manufacture and are seeking an investor.