Nothing says “Happy birthday” like a nice piece of jewelry and if your loved one is born in May, why not get them something emerald, which is this month’s birthstone.
Emerald is rich in color but also history, and emerald jewelry has been coveted by royals, celebrities and so many others. Not only did Cleopatra love the gem so much that she claimed all of the emerald mines in Egypt during her reign, but the UK’s Princess Eugenie famously wore the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik tiara (that has a massive 93.7 carat emerald) on her wedding day.
Charlemagne had a collection of emeralds and Henry II was given a large emerald ring when he was made King of Ireland in 1171. Another royal, Queen Elizabeth II also had an amazing collection of emerald jewelry, including an emerald jeweled crown. And when it comes to celebrity icons, its well known that the late Elizabeth Taylor was obsessed with emeralds. In 2011, the sales price for a famous emerald pendant she owned was $6,578,500.
One of Elizabeth’s husbands, Richard Burton, gave her the emerald and diamond brooch as an engagement present, and she wore it with an emerald necklace he gave her as a wedding present. Burton then gave her earrings, a bracelet, and a ring. Some of the emeralds in Taylor’s set were also from the Grand Duchess Vladimir in Russia.
Former US President John F. Kennedy also proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier with an emerald-and-diamond engagement ring. Purchased in the summer of 1953, the emerald engagement ring consisted of one 2.88 carat diamond mounted next to a 2.84 carat emerald cut emerald with tapered baguettes. In 1962, the ring was reset to include round diamonds totaling .66 carats and marquise diamonds totaling 1.46 carats. The ring was on exhibit in 2003 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.
Aside from being May’s birthstone, emeralds are the gemstone for twentieth and thirty-fifth wedding anniversaries. According to GIA, the world’s foremost authority on diamonds, the gemstone is the bluish green to green variety of beryl, a mineral species that includes aquamarine. On the Mohs Hardness scale its a 7.5 to 8, meaning it’s pretty durable.
Emerald are mainly found in three types of deposits: magmatic-metasomatic, sedimentary-metasomatic and metamorphic-metasomatic. The country of Colombia is known among gem experts for producing some of the best emeralds and production is believed to date back well over a thousand years, according to GIA. Archaeologists have estimated that natives in the country were mining and trading Colombian emeralds as early as 1000 BC.
Chromium, vanadium, and iron are the trace elements that cause emerald’s green color. The exact color of an emerald crystal is determined by the how much those elements are present or absent in the stone.
The most desirable and coveted emeralds are highly transparent and colored bluish green to pure green, “with vivid color saturation and tone that’s not too dark,” according to GIA. The color should be “evenly distributed, with no eye-visible color zoning.”
Emeralds mined in Colombia are said to have a warmer and more intense pure green color, while Zambian emeralds are said to have a cooler, more bluish green color. Eye-clean emeralds, where there are no inclusions visible to the naked eye, are very valuable and expensive because they’re so rare. Those emeralds are usually held in special collections and not worn on a daily basis.
According to GIA, the most popular and common cut for the stone is the emerald shape (which is rectangular) because of the original shape of the crystals. If a stone is cut well then the beauty of the emerald’s its green color is maximized, making it brighter and livelier, while the impact of fissures are minimized. Emeralds are also difficult to cut but Colombian rough emeralds is especially hard because the distribution of “coloring agents” during formation, GIA said.
Long been seen as a symbol of mercy, compassion and universal love, the name “emerald” comes from the ancient Greek word for green, “smaragdus.” Emerald was said to be the gemstone of Venus (the goddess of love and beauty) in ancient Greece and Rome, and it was believed that the stone could help women in fertility. Others considered it to be a gift from Thoth, the ancient god of wisdom, and some legends state that emerald was one of the four precious stones given by God to King Solomon.
The first known emerald mines were in Egypt and it’s believed that these mines were worked as early as 3500 BC. The ancient Incas held emeralds in high regard and thought it to be a source of eternal life.
There are so many different ancient beliefs about emeralds. Once people believed it could cure diseases, like cholera and malaria, and others thought if someone wore an emerald it revealed the truth or falseness of a lover’s oath, and would also make someone an eloquent speaker. The Roman magician Damigeron stated that an emerald “influences every kind of business, and if you remain chaste while you wear it, it adds substance to both the body and the speech.”
The earliest reference we have to emeralds in Western literature was by the famous philosopher Aristotle, who wrote that owning an emerald increases the owner’s presence and speech during business, gives them victory in trials, helps settle litigation, and comforts and soothes eyesight. He also stated “An emerald hung from the neck or worn in a ring will prevent the falling sickness.”
The sacred text of Hinduism, Veda, lists emerald as being the “gem of good luck” and the “gem that improves one’s well-being.”