With an Air of Lush Nobility: An Examination into The May Birthstone the Emerald

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Everything you need to know about emerald

Classification:  Precious stone
Colour: Green, Yellowish-Green, Blueish-Green
Hardness: 7.5-8
Fluorescence: Usually None
Transparency: Transparent to Opaque


History and Lore

emeralds have a long history of use from multiple regions

Historically the purpose and symbolic meaning of emeralds has changed from place to place. Even the name of the luxurious green gemstone has been altered throughout the years. According to Indian lore the name emerald was first derived from the Sanskrit word “marakata” meaning “the green of growing things”. The version of the name we know today is believed to come from the Greek word for green, “smaragdus”. And over time through various translations society has rested on the word “emerald”. While its symbolism and purpose has changed throughout the ages the jewel has always been associated with nobility, elegance, lushness, and interestingly enough, foresight.

Cleopatra loved emeralds

The trading of Emeralds dates as far back as 4000 B.C. in Babylon. There the Chaldeans believed the opulent gemstone was so beautiful and mystical that there must have been a Goddess dwelling within it. In 330 B.C. Egypt, Cleopatra, who is famous for her passion for emeralds, adorned herself and her palaces with emerald jewels. She also used emeralds as gifts for foreign powers as a means of flexing her wealth and influence. The Incas would worship the vibrant jewel believing it to be a gift from the Gods. The Spanish turned Emeralds into a major commodity in European trade after they stole the jewels from the Incas in the “New World” during early colonialism. In various time periods Arab, Hindu, and Spanish physicians believed emeralds had healing properties that cured cholera, malaria and dysentery. After realizing that emeralds were written in biblical literature and were linked to the apocalypse the stone then became associated with foresight. 

            Rich in colour, beauty and history, emeralds have never once been turned away from any soul capable of possessing it.



Understanding the colour of emeralds

Emeralds are an iconic, lush, vibrant, and rich green. For the most part emeralds stay within that colour realm only varying in hues between yellow-green and blue-green. The noble enriched gem is a member of the beryl family. This simply means that it shares a very basic chemical composition with other stones (i.e. aquamarine). All together they make up the beryl mineral family.

Now there is actually a lot of debate around the green colour of emeralds. Gemologists today debate as to what degree of green makes a stone an emerald or simply a green beryl. Some professionals believe a beryl that is “too light” in its green should not be classified as an emerald. While others argue back asking what exactly is supposed to constitute “too light”. No one has been able to definitively answer that question, because the chemical composition of a very light-green emerald is somewhat off from that of the dark versions, leaving scientists completely perplexed.

It is interesting that the shade of green of emeralds is so debated, since the ancient Romans had their own beliefs around this exact topic. They believed that Emeralds grew darker in colour with age, stating that light-coloured emeralds were “unripe” and darker emeralds were “mature”. This of course is exactly the opposite of what we now know to be true. Emeralds, like many other coloured jewels actually fade over time. If a stone is exposed to light for too long and too often then that beautiful saturation will begin to dull and become muted.



World's larges emerald
The oldest emerald on record is from South Africa which is dated at being 2.97 billion years old. While the largest emerald in the world, named "Fura" is 11,000 ct, weighing at almost 5lbs, and was found in 1999 Brazil. 
And as mentioned before the green gemstone has historically be mined out of regions all over the world, including Babylon (modern day Iraq), Egypt, and Peru. Today the most common emerald mines can be found Colombia, Zambia, Brazil, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe. Colombia Emeralds are considered to be of especially high quality when they have a distinct deep, clear, truly emerald green colour, and they are therefore the most expensive.



The presence of inclusions is a strong indication that the stone is a genuine emerald
All gemstones have naturally occurring inclusions, some more so than others. Emeralds are on the “more so” side of things. Emeralds are known for being one of the most heavily included jewels out there, and that’s ok. In fact, not only is it expected, but in most cases, it’s preferred. It is extremely rare to find emeralds with minimal inclusions never mind flawless. Thus, the presence of inclusions is a strong indication of a stone being a genuine emerald. Some businesses (ourselves included) actually sell synthetic green stones that are purposeful made with “inclusions” in them to make them look more authentic. There is a certain realness to an emerald with inclusions. The grit of inclusions combined with the lavishness of the stone’s quality makes for a genuine aesthetic.



Mohs scale of hardness indicating that emeralds are a 7.5-8

Emeralds have a hardness of 7.5-8 on the mohs scale of hardness which makes for a beautiful and strong precious stone. However, the many inclusions within an emerald affect the stone’s overall strength. More inclusions mean the molecules that make up the stone have more gaps, therefore reducing the strength of the stone and making it more susceptible to damage. So, while an emerald is categorically strong, it is not strong enough to take any serious abuse.

Another important factor in the durability of emeralds is their level of porousness. Even though they are strong, emeralds are also very porous. This means that they need moisture to maintain their vibrant colour, shine, and strength. Without enough moisture the stone will become brittle, making it easier for the jewel to crack and chip.


Care and Maintenance

Emerald care nd maintenance

Because emeralds are porous, they require a little more care than other stones. We recommend applying a thin layer of oil (preferable olive, vegetable, or coconut) to the surface of the emerald about once to twice a month depending on use. This will moisturize the emerald helping the stone stay lush, saturated, and shiny. Doing this will help prolong the longevity of your piece. We also highly recommend keeping your emeralds in a dark place, like a jewelry box, when you are not wearing it. As mentioned before the colour of emeralds is rather sensitive. If worn too often and left out in light the colour will fade over time dulling down your vibrant jewel. Due to the amount of work required to maintain an emerald we don’t recommend wearing it as an everyday piece. Instead save it for special occasions.

Proper Emerald Cleaning, care and maintenance

And after those special occasions you can clean your emeralds with lukewarm water, gentle detergent and a soft toothbrush. Do not put your emeralds in liquid solution jewellery cleaner. The chemicals in liquid cleaning solutions, whether it’s for white or yellow gold, are much too harsh to use on such a porous stone like emerald. The chemicals will completely strip the stone of its shine and durability.



There is nothing that encapsulates the sense of nobility, opulence, and wealth than that of an emerald. An ancient and captivating stone with a rich and evolving history. The May birthstone is a jewel that will reflect its wearers beauty and dignity. With the right care and appreciation this precious stone can easily become your next family heirloom.

Emerald facts, history, lore, origins, care and more

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