Friday, May 1, 2009

Emerald - May’s Birthstone

One of the most intense of all the gemstones is the Emerald. Like Aquamarine, the Emerald is a variety of the mineral beryl. However, it’s the trace amounts of chromium when combined with iron that give the Emerald its fantastic, radiant green color.

As is the case with most crystalline gemstones, Emeralds are formed by intense heat and pressure beneath the Earth over millions of years. Though Emeralds are believed to be among the oldest gemstones in the world, it’s only in the last 4000 years that they have become valued.


Most of the world’s emeralds have typically come from Egypt. The Pharaohs of Egypt are the first people that exploited the use of Emeralds. For thousands of years Emeralds were mined in the desert south of Cairo at the famous Cleopatra mines, which got their name from Cleopatra’s intense love of the gems.

However, the name Emerald actually comes from an ancient Persian word, translated to Latin as “smaragdus” which eventually over time was corrupted to “emerald.”

It wasn’t until the 1600’s when Spanish Conquistadors conquered the Muzo Indians of Columbia in South America that Egypt’s control over the Emerald trade was challenged. The Spaniards had seen breathtaking Emeralds like none before and quickly forced the Indians into slavery mining the gems for the royalty of Europe. Today, Columbia dominates the Emerald trade, setting the standards for color and size against which all others are compared.

Emeralds have been prized as a symbol of love and eternal youth and have been said to provide the ability to tell the future and bring goodness into one’s life. Aristotle claimed that an Emerald amulet would prevent epilepsy. But throughout history, Emeralds have been valued simply for the beauty of their intense green color.


Throughout history, Emeralds have been prized by the famous as well as infamous. Cleopatra, Alexander the Great, Charlemagne and Queen Elizabeth II all coveted the green stone. And in more recent years, celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor all had prized collections.

Bearing a Mohs’ Hardness rating of 7.5 to 8, the Emerald is quite hard and thus resists scratches. Unlike other beryls however, Emeralds commonly contain flaws, called inclusions. These flaws are mostly overlooked because there is a large trade in imitation emeralds and such inclusions are evidence that the stone is natural. The Emerald is also the birthstone for the month of May and is used to celebrate both the twentieth and thirty-fifth wedding anniversaries. Many consider an Emerald Mothers Birthstone Ring, as Mother’s Day is also in May.