Birthstone of May: the Emerald

By Frank

Highly experienced diamond polisher who loves to share his knowledge with you. Continues to stun his colleagues with interesting - or simply bizarre - facts about diamonds and gems.

May 4, 2017

May’s birthstone is the first green stone in our monthly series: the emerald. The emerald is one of the oldest and most famous gemstones. The history of this stone dates back to thousands of years before Christ. That is why the emerald is also called the “King of the gems”.

The color of emerald

Every emerald is green. But the intensity and hue of this green can differ a lot. We consider the deepest dark green the most luxurious and expensive emerald. Due to its green color and its colorful appearance, the gem is also associated with spring.

Why an emerald?

According to multiple beliefs, the emerald is a calming stone. It helps against restless disorders such as stress and insomnia. Emerald has healing powers for eye problems and activates the heart chakra which represents love. In Western astrology, this green gemstone belongs to the zodiac signs Aries, Gemini, and Cancer.

emerald ring on green velour

The emerald stands for

  • – Eternal youth
  • – Spring
  • – Life wisdom: growth in spiritual sense and patience
  • – Love and loyalty to love
  • – Feeling peacefully
  • – Vision
  • – Positive effect on relationships in the broadest sense of the word

The meaning and origin of the name emerald

The name emerald goes way back: from the Latin and Greek language to an ancient Semitic language. The original name was Marakata. Literally translated, it means something like ‘green growing things’. During Ancient Greece, the word changed to Smaragdus. Much later, Smaragdus turned, due to French influences, into Esmaraldus. This is where the current word Emerald stems from. The meaning of emerald remained the same over the years though. It still means “luxurious green stone”.

rough emerald

The Egyptian Queen Cleopatra was crazy about emeralds. Even centuries before she was born, Egyptians already looked for emeralds. But under her rule, the search strengthened and all mines were put in her name. In her almost obsessive search for emeralds, she sent the miners on life-threatening trips to discover the mines.

But Cleopatra was not the only one who loved emeralds. The Incas and Aztecs already considered the stone as sacred. And the Native Americans attributed healing powers to this gemstone. If you were to put it under your tongue, you would be able to see the future.

The properties of emerald

The emerald is a type of beryl and one of the noblest of gems. The colorant substance in the beryl is usually chromium and sometimes also vanadium. Just like a diamond, an emerald also can have inclusions. For this stone, it also applies: the clearer the stone, the more valuable. In America, people consider green gemstones from vanadium also emeralds. In Europe and Asia, those are not official or “real” emeralds. They refer to the vanadium emeralds as “Colombian Emeralds”.

rough emerald

The origin, history and finding locations of the emerald

Emerald is created by the rising of magma from the earth’s crust. When the magma gets to the crust, it quickly cools down into rocks. These rocks are the only places that can hold emeralds.

The main finding places of emeralds are currently Columbia, Brazil, the United States, and Russia. In ancient times, the stones were mainly found in Egypt where they were minded by Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs. After the demise of these great empires, the Egyptian mines fell into oblivion. It was not until the 19th century that these mines returned on the radar. Some of the world’s most famous diamonds and gemstones come from these mines. For example, the emeralds of the Turkish Sultans and the famous lenticular emerald that Emperor Nero used as glasses to look at the gladiator fights. Another historic finding place is the Habach Valley in Austria. This is also a place where people found emeralds during Roman times.

The processing of emeralds

Emeralds can be cut in all thinkable shapes. The ‘emerald cut’ is named after this gemstone, because this was the original grinding form for this green stone. The emerald cut is a staircase cut with a large table and high visibility into the stone. Therefore, only the finest emeralds with the highest quality, color and purity are cut in this shape today. High-quality emeralds are also often cut into a brilliant shape. Less beautiful emeralds are often carved in half a sphere or tumbled. Emeralds are fragile and sensitive to bumps, pressure, and heat. At temperatures over 700 °C they lose their color. Strangely enough, these fairly porous stones are not sensitive to acids.

cut emerald in tweezer

Emerald jewelry

Emerald jewelry is beautiful and timeless. They work in solitaire settings, but also along (white) diamonds. The latter creates beautiful combinations. Emeralds work in all sorts of gold, but we prefer yellow gold settings because of the stunning contrast. Unlike in diamonds, impurities in emeralds are necessarily flaws. As long as there are not too many. Minor imperfections are actually proof of authenticity compared to forgeries.

Fake emeralds

There are two types of imitation emeralds. The first variant consists of imitation and fake stones. The second one consists of synthetic emeralds. Forgeries are artificially fabricated to look like emeralds. These are easily recognizable by a craftsman. The synthetic variant is a man-made stone. In terms of physical and chemical properties, it is almost impossible to distinguish a synthetic and a real natural emerald. Nevertheless, there are some minor differences, such as specific kinds of inclusions from the manufacturing process. Only a skilled craftsman can see the difference between a synthetic and a natural emerald.
Emerald necklace

Would you like to see May’s birthstone in jewelry? We have some amazing green emeralds in our jewelry collection. Learn more about diamonds and gemstones during one of our diamond tours.

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