Enviously Beautiful - Emeralds are May’s birthstone.
These beautiful green gems have been coveted and revered by all cultures for centuries. From the Aztecs, Inca and Maya, to European nobility, African royalty and Asian aristocracy. All cultures hold emeralds in a high regard. Emeralds are one of four gemstones universally recognised as being highly valuable, the other three being diamonds, sapphires, and rubies.
Most ancient treasures in history - Emeralds
The oldest emeralds can be dated as almost 3 billion years old, however they were first mined in Egypt around 1500 BC. It is unsurprising then that Emeralds were Cleopatra's favourite gemstone. Not only are these stones exquisite, but they symbolised fertility and rebirth in most of the world. In South America Emeralds were even worshipped as gods of fertility by Incan and Aztec people.
Emeralds were also thought by many to possess special properties. Placing an emerald under one's tongue was thought to allow a person to see into the future and holding an emerald could help decipher truth from lies, according to ancient folklore. Wearing emeralds was also thought to enhance intuition and guard against memory loss. Some ancient tales also tell of emeralds being effective ingredients in truth serums and love potions.
Today it is still widely believed that wearing emeralds grants good health, wisdom, prosperity, creative skills and blissful relationships. The world’s finest emeralds come from South America, primarily Colombia, which contributes more than 50% of the world’s emerald production. This is an exceptional achievement, especially since emeralds occur naturally globally.
Make it Green - How emeralds get their colour
Emeralds are a variety of the mineral beryl that has been coloured by chromium or vanadium being present during the formation of the crystal. “Emeralds” are only ever green although their colour can range from a yellow-green to a deep jade tone. Beryl, the other hand, can be found in a wide range of colours like pink, blue, yellow, orange, purple, and red - as well as green.
Stones that are paler in colour are referred to as green beryl rather than emerald. Bluish-Green to Green stones are the most desirable emerald colours, with vivid saturation and medium to medium-dark tone. In coloured gemstones, the colour of the stone is it’s most important feature, and there is a special gemstone grading system used to establish the quality and value of stones for larger, higher quality stones.
Soft and elegant
Emeralds have long been a symbol of hope, renewal and growth, but they are also reasonably soft, as far as gemstones for long wear go. Almost 99% of all natural emeralds have inclusions in them. These are formed by gases, other minerals, crystals and liquids that are present during the crystallisation process. Referred to as ‘jardin’ (French for garden) these inclusions are often seen as desirable and create patterns in the stone ensuring that no two stones are exactly the same. This actually increases the value of the gem unlike in diamonds where clarity is paramount to the value of the stone.
Although beautiful to see and highly desirable, inclusions in an emerald make them softer than most other gemstones. As a result emeralds are more susceptible to cracking when subjected to severe temperature changes or if knocked against a hard surface. As such most natural emeralds are treated to help prevent cracking and chipping.
Natural Emeralds are some of the most valuable gemstones on the planet. Because of this, many attempts were made to synthesize them. Although other gems like diamonds and sapphires were successfully synthetically created by the end of the 1800’s, emeralds were not able to be successfully replicated until the late 1930’s. These beautiful gemstones are more commonly natural than lab created however, and their popularity has endured through the centuries.