They’re green, they’re gorgeous, and they stand in a class of their own. Emeralds are a May birthstone and it is one of the most popular gemstones currently on the market, apart from three others that are considered precious: rubies, diamonds and sapphires.
Emeralds have been captivating the world for thousands of years. From Elizabeth Taylor’s Bulgari brooch to Queen Elizabeth II’s gorgeous tiara, it is a gem steeped in history and it is still treasured and cherished today. What makes these green gemstones so popular?
The Long History of Emeralds: From Cleopatra to Queen Elizabeth II
This May birthstone comes from the Greek word “smaragdus” which means green. It was mined in Egypt around 330 BC and well into the 1700s.
One of the first famous women to be known for loving these green gemstones was Cleopatra. She had a passion for emeralds and used them to adorn her royal wardrobe.
As early as the 16th century, the Spanish invaded the New World and plundered the Incas, stealing their bountiful supply of emeralds. Before that, the Incans had been using emeralds in their religious ceremonies and jewelry for 500 years.
With their new supply of precious stones, the Spanish used emeralds to trade for precious metals. This introduced emeralds to Europe and Asian royalty.
Legends about this gemstone include stories that allowed the wearer to see into the future. If an emerald was placed under your tongue, you would be forced to reveal the truth and be protected from evil spirits.
Emeralds had the reputation too of being able to cure diseases, force a lover to tell the truth, and make the wearer an eloquent speaker.
One of the most powerful legends is that emeralds were one of the precious stones bestowed by God to King Solomon. These stones gave the king the power to rule over all creation.
Physical Features: Rare, soft, various hues, pricey
Emeralds are rare. Every stone is from a finite source. It’s like a fingerprint. Each is unique, has a character and quality of its own, and represents ultimate luxury.
Emeralds are a member of the beryl mineral family. The green coloring comes from chromium and vanadium. When compared, a 1-carat emerald will appear larger than a 1-carat diamond because it has a lower density.
Colors of Emeralds: green, yellow and blue hues
Emeralds also have yellow and blue hues. The features that make emeralds so unique is that they have various color intensities, hues, and inclusion patterns. The color intensity will change from stone to stone. Yet, there are emeralds that have perfect purity, and are therefore priceless.
The most confusing category for classifying emeralds is color. Gems range from a distinct green to bluish-green or a yellow-green tint. Stones that have a light tone and low saturation are called “green beryl”; If the color is green-blue, the gem is classified as an aquamarine; An emerald with a green-yellow tint is called a heliodor.
Gem professionals sometimes disagree on where the color lines should be drawn. Some believe that only the gems that are green due to chromium should be classified as emeralds; that is to say, if the gems are colored by vanadium, they should be classified as “green beryl”.
In addition to the color, emeralds are rated on the following properties too:
- Clarity – Visible with the naked eye, most emeralds found in nature have inclusions which are fractures on the surface or are healed fractures.
- Luster – Vitreous with the luster of glass.
- Diaphaneity – From transparent to translucent.
- Cleavage – Perfect cleavage has smooth surfaces (seen as parallel sets of straight lines) and imperfect cleavage has planes that are not smooth.
- Durability – Almost all Emeralds have inclusions and surface fractures that compromise durability.
- Mohs Hardness – Soft: 7.5 to 8.
- Specific Gravity – 2.7 to 2.8.
- Chemical composition – Color is caused by trace amounts of vanadium or chromium.
- Crystal System – They form as hexagonal or prismatic crystals.
Values of Emeralds: color, cut, clarity, and carat weight
Unlike other precious gemstones, color variations or unusual shapes will not reduce the value of the gemstone. Since clear emeralds are rarely being mined, such a clear one will be brilliant and sparkle with an intense green hue and of course, very valuable.
Left: Sterling Silver and 14k Yellow Gold Emerald Cut Created Emerald and Diamond Accent Art Deco-Style Ring, $167, SHOP NOW; Right: 925 Sterling Silver Green Simulated Emerald Earrings For Women, $69, SHOP NOW.
The natural pattern of inclusions found in emeralds adds to their natural beauty. The French have called these patterns “jardins” meaning gardens which describe the tendril-like and mossy patterns running through the stones.
Four factors are used to determine an emerald’s value: color, cut, clarity, and carat weight, although the color is the most important feature. They can be more expensive than diamonds per carat because they are softer on the Mohs Scale of Hardness and are more susceptible to cracking or chipping.
Production and Locations: Columbia, Brazil, and Zambia
The main sources of emeralds are Colombia, Brazil, and Zambia but they are found all over the world in locations such as Russia, Afghanistan, Australia, and even the United States. Columbia produces the most emeralds worldwide contributing 50% of the world’s yield.
The first emeralds found in the United States were in the Yukon Territory in 1997 although large emerald deposits are very rare in North America.
Meanings of Emeralds: new beginnings, hopes and soothing effects
The emerald is a May birthstone that symbolizes new beginnings, hopes, and budding spring. They are also the wedding anniversary gifts for year 20, 35, and 55.
It has soothed souls and sparked the imagination since the first century AD. Pliny the Elder, a famous Roman, described emeralds as having a soft green color that comforts and relieves weariness and lassitude.
Emeralds are also known to be able to relax the eyes and even today, green is a color that is known to relieve eye strain and stress.
Why Buy Emeralds? Elegance, popularity, rarity and investment values
Emeralds have been loved and cherished by populations all around the world. They were believed to have magical and mystical properties and were used in religious ceremonies.
Women who have been drawn to their elegance, including Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth II, and more modern and famous ones like Elizabeth Taylor.
There are many reasons to choose an emerald gemstone as a valuable addition to your precious jewelry collection. Even though emeralds are not as hard as diamonds, if cared for properly, they do stand the test of time.
You can be sure that emeralds will amaze you thanks to their unique features. They are able to captivate your imagination, bring you solace, and be a brilliant addition to your jewelry collection.
And perhaps, according to legends, when you wear emeralds you may be able to see the future, decipher the truth, and ward away weariness.
Famous Emerald Jewelry Pieces Around the World
According to Galerie Magazine emeralds are valued for their rich and unique green color. They are the most vibrant of any green-hued gemstones in the world. Here are five of the world’s most famous emeralds from around the globe.
1. The Chalk Emerald
Arguably the most famous emerald in the world, the Chalk Emerald weighs in at 37.8 carats. It is regarded as the finest emerald ever discovered because of its perfect clarity and velvet-green color.
Before it was cut, it weighed 38.4 carats. Later on it was recut and set in a gold and platinum ring surrounded by diamonds, designed by the well known jeweller Harry Winston.
This incredible emerald ring was later donated to the Smithsonian in 1972 and can be seen today in the Gem Gallery in the Museum of Natural History.
2. Elizabeth Taylor’s Bulgari Diamond and Emerald Brooch
Purchased for Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton, this brooch was used for the film “Cleopatra”. This emerald green beauty weighs 23.5 carats and was worn by the actress for her wedding to Burton in 1964.
It was sold in 2011 to Christie’s for 6.6 million dollars and holds the world record for being the most expensive emerald jewel ever sold at an auction.
3. Vladimir: Queen Elizabeth II’s Emerald Tiara
Vladimir became the source of rumor in 2018 at the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Meghan wanted to wear it on her wedding day but was denied because she wasn’t royalty.
The tiara was originally commissioned by the Grand Duchess Vladimir. It was then hidden in the Russian palace in St. Petersburg during the Russian Revolution and was later secretly smuggled out of Russian and sold to Queen Mary.
4. Grand Duchess Vladimir’s Diamond and Emerald Earrings
Another famous piece of jewelry from Grand Duchess Vladimir was her teardrop-shaped emerald and diamond earrings.
The Russian royal family had claims to fame when it came to jewelry and these earrings were part of that legacy. The earrings were sold at the Sotheby’s auction in 2014 for over a million dollars.
5. Catherine the Great’s Emerald Necklace
This famous emerald necklace was also part of the Russian collection. Weighing 75.6 carats, it was gifted to Grand Duchess Vladimir in 1874 from Tsar Alexander II when she married his son.
When the duchess died in 1920, the emerald necklace was passed to her son. It was then sold and owned by famous collectors such as Pierre Cartier and was finally sold by Christie’s in 2019 for 4.5 million dollars.
Tips for Caring for Your Emerald
Fascinated by emeralds? If you strive to own one of these truly unique and exquisite gemstones, rest assured that you are making a wise investment. Here are a few tips in caring for your precious stone.
Never use an ultrasonic cleaner to clean emeralds, which may damage the natural inclusions. The best way to clean an emerald is by hand, using warm and soapy water, and gently scrubbing.
Oil is often used when you want to avoid chipping and cracking. You can coat the emerald after cleaning with baby oil to prevent the stone from becoming brittle and cracking.
Keep your emerald away from heat, strong light, and chemicals as they can deteriorate the oils and polymers used to fill the tiny fractures on the gemstone’s surface.
Conclusion on May Birthstone
When you search for birthstones by month, emeralds as the May birthstone appear. It is so much more than just a birthstone as this gem has captured the hearts and desires of jewelry lovers around the world.
Thank you for reading this article about the May birthstone, I hope it helps you get the information needed. Feel to share your thoughts below or check other articles on birthstones by month that we have published.
- January birthstone: Garnet- chastity, sincerity, friendliness, authenticity
- February birthstone: Amethyst– Honest, Peaceful
- March birthstone: Aquamarine and Blood stone– Calm, Brave, Smart
- April birthstone: Diamonds- Pure and Flawless
- May birthstone: Emerald– Lucky and Happiness
- June birthstone: Pearl, Moonstone, Alexandrite– Healthy, Longevity, Richness
- July birthstone: Ruby– passion, love, dignity
- August birthstone: Peridot, Spinel and Sardonyx– Pure, Holy, Protective
- September birthstone: Sapphire- Loving, Honest, Virtuous
- October birthstone: Opal, Tourmaline– Joy, Ease, Blessings
- November birthstone: Citrine, Topaz- Friendship, Hope
- December birthstone: Turquoise, Tanzanite, Zircon– victory, good luck, success