The Emerald is the perfect birthstone for May because of its beautiful green hue; the color of Spring. The word Emerald comes from the old French word “esmeralde” which means … emerald, and derived from the Greek word “smaragdos” meaning “green stone”. It is also the anniversary gift for 20, 35 and 55 years of wedded bliss.
Myth and Lore
In some legends of King Arthur, the Holy Grail is described as being fashioned from an emerald that fell from Lucifer’s crown when he was cast out of heaven.
In Ancient Rome Nero supposedly watched gladiator fights through a large transparent emerald as he found the color to be calming. Though some speculate that the emerald was hollowed out and used as a concave lens that would fix his extreme myopia or nearsightedness.
Rome’s Pliny the Elder described the emerald in his Natural History, published in the first century AD to “have to better method of restoring their eyes than by looking at the emerald, it soft, green color comforting and removing their weariness and lassitude.” Even today, the color green is know to have a calming effect to help relieve stress and eye strain.
Cleopatra was said to have been obsessed with emeralds and had one of the most famous collections in known history. She even laid claim to a large emerald mine not far from the Red Sea, taking it from the Greeks so she could have all she wanted. The mine was rediscovered in 1817, but due to heaving mining, the emerald cache was all but depleted.
The emerald was said to have magical properties that would protect against evil spells and enabled a person to foretell the future when placed under the tongue. A cure for malaria and cholera, the emerald was used by medicine men for centuries. And as written in the holy scriptures of the Hindus, the Vedas, it is said the emerald will promise good luck, enhances well-being, and was believed to reveal the truth or falseness of a lover’s oath.
The most precious gem in the beryl family, the Emerald has a Mohs hardness of 7.5-8.0. The chromium and vanadium in the Emerald is what produces its vibrant green color. It is so stable against light and heat, the color, which varies according to location, does not fade. By definition, the Emerald is any dark green beryl colored with chromium, though most of the UK and Europe do not recognize the lighter green beryl colored with vanadium as emeralds, but as green beryls. There is still a difference of opinion as to what constitutes a true Emerald.
The Emerald is considered one of the four Precious Stones along with the Ruby, Sapphire and Diamond, and though it is a clear stone when cut, it is almost never without inclusions that are visible to the naked eye. So a super clear “emerald” is most likely a man-made stone. These small fractures in the crystalline structure make it very susceptible to breakage even with the high Mohs rating.
Harsh chemicals or ultrasonic cleaners and steamers can damage the emerald and remove the oils that have been used to enhance the emerald this is why the emerald will need re-oiling from time to time. The emerald will scratch many stones, however, the sapphire, diamond and topaz can scratch the emerald, so keep the emerald as well as all precious stones stored separately.
True emeralds can be found in Columbia, Brazil, and Zambia, which are the largest suppliers of quality emeralds, though there are mines in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Russia to smaller degrees.
Brazil is one of the most consistent suppliers of high quality emeralds. And with its strict environmental laws governing mining practices, Brazil has the most eco-friendly stone mining operations in the world. So if buying ethically mined stones is important to you, look for the Brazilian Emerald.
- Emeralds were first mined in Egypt as early as 3500BC
- The Emerald Cut is named after a special cut to enhance and protect the emerald; rectangular in shape, with a stepped crown and cut corners.
- The emerald was one of the four precious stones given to King Solomon by God
- The Spanish traded emeralds for gold and silver, placing a higher value on the metals than the stone
- Thailand’s “Emerald Buddha” is carved from a single piece of green jadeite, not an emerald
- The emerald and the aquamarine are part of the same family, the Beryl family, and have the same chemical formula. It is the Chromium in the emerald that gives it its green color.
- In 2011, an emerald necklace owned by Elizabeth Taylor with an amazing 23.44 carat emerald sold for $6.5 million, breaking down to $250,000 per carat!
So if you want a beautiful green precious gem to help relieve stress, that is ethically sourced and can foretell the future, find yourself a beautiful green Brazilian emerald. You have famous and beautiful company with the likes of Cleopatra and Elizabeth Taylor.
Until next month when we look at three stones, the birthstones for June; choose from the Moonstone, Pink Amethyst, or the Pearl.
The Jeweler’s Directory of Gemstones by Judith Crowe