The emerald is May’s birthstone, and if you’ve been following the red carpet the past few years, you’ll notice stars like Angelina Jolie and Julianne Moore are making us all green with envy as they bring the bauble back into the spotlight.
Emerald is a green variety of the mineral, beryl, and has been prized for thousands of years for its lush green hues and rare beauty. Throughout the ancient world, emerald symbolized eternal hope, rebirth and the arrival of spring – and some cultures believed the gem rewarded its owners with love, intelligence and eloquence.
The ancients ascribed numerous magical and mystical properties to this precious green gem. In ancient Rome, for example, emeralds were believed to have a soothing effect on the soul. Modern scientists have since shown this myth to have some basis in fact: tests indicate that the human eye is more sensitive to green than any other color.
Middle Age seers used emeralds to foretell the future, as well as to ward off evil spirits and cure ailments ranging from bad eyesight to infertility. The stone was also said to improve memory and bring great wealth to its wearer.
Derived from the Latin word for green, “smaragdus”, emerald is also the traditional gift of choice for couples celebrating their 20th and 35th wedding anniversaries.
The finest emeralds have traditionally come from Colombia; both the Incas and Aztecs mined rich emerald deposits in the rugged Andes Mountains. But Russia’s Ural Mountains also have produced top-quality gems. Brazil is by far the world’s largest producer of emerald, with a wide range of sizes and quality.
Emerald’s precious green color is caused by small amounts of chromium and enhanced by traces of iron. Emeralds come in a variety of light and dark shades – often with subtle background hues of other colors like yellow, blue, brown or gray. Generally, the purer and richer the green, the more valuable the emerald.
The gem ranks 7.5-8 on the Mohs hardness scale. This means that emerald, while relatively hard, can still be scratched, chipped or split fairly easily. Most emeralds have numerous flaws, or “inclusions”, which weaken their structure. Flawless emeralds are exceptionally rare, and therefore command great prices (in some instances, higher than diamonds).
Take that April!
Visit Jewelry.com for a bevy of birthstone bling – including hundreds of emerald styles for your favorite May birthday girl. And be sure to watch their Daily jewelry giveaway for your chance to nab one – for free!