Emerald’s lush green color has soothed souls and excited imaginations since antiquity. Its name comes from the ancient Greek word for green, “smaragdus.”
Its color reflects new spring growth, which makes it the perfect choice as a birthstone for the month of May. It’s also the gemstone for twentieth and thirty-fifth wedding anniversaries.
The first known emerald mines were in Egypt, dating from at least 330 BC into the 1700s. Cleopatra was known to have a passion for emerald, and used it in her royal adornments.
Legends endowed the wearer with the ability to foresee the future when emerald was placed under the tongue, as well as to reveal truth and be protected against evil spells.
Emerald was once also believed to cure diseases like cholera and malaria. Wearing an emerald was believed to reveal the truth or falseness of a lover’s oath as well as make one an eloquent speaker.
The finest emeralds are found in the region around Muzo and Chivor, Colombia. These green gems were used by indigenous peoples for at least 1,000 years before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century.
Although spurred primarily by their passion for gold and silver, the Spanish quickly recognized the potential of the exquisite green crystals and took control of the mines.
Emeralds became popular among European royalty and were shipped from the New World by the boatload. The great richness of the Colombian mines led to a glut of emeralds in Europe, triggering a brisk trade of the gemstones to the Middle East and India.
The Mogul rulers in India were especially fond of emeralds and encouraged a vast gem cutting and jewelry industry. Many finished pieces were traded back to Europe.
Emerald is the green to greenish blue variety of beryl, a mineral species that also includes aquamarine as well as beryls in other colors.
Gem experts differ on the degree of green that makes one stone an emerald and another stone a less-expensive green beryl.
But to most gemologists, gemological laboratories, and colored stone dealers, it is more correct to call a stone green beryl when its color is “too light” for it to be classified as emerald.
GIA uses lab-graded comparison stones to determine if the green color is dark enough and saturated enough to be called emerald.
Today, most of the world’s emeralds are mined in Colombia, Brazil, Afghanistan, and Zambia. The availability of high-quality emerald is limited; consequently, treatments to improve clarity are performed regularly.
Types of treatment:
Fracture Filling: Filling surface-reaching fractures with colorless oils or resins to improve clarity. (Routine — Not Permanent)
Dyeing: Adding a colorant to the oils or resins used in the fracture filling process to improve color. (Rare — Not Permanent)
Coating: Covering a light-colored beryl with a green plastic to create an emerald imitation. (Rare — Not Permanent)
Care & cleaning:
Due to these treatments special care must be taken when cleaning emeralds. Only warm soapy water should be used, and the use of harsh detergents and vigorous scrubbing must be avoided at all times!
Emerald’s toughness is rated as poor, and as such it is prone to fracturing. Therefore, emerald must NEVER be cleaned in an ultra-sonic cleaner. A steam-cleaner must also be avoided!
In addition, it’s subjection to heat may also cause additional fracturing or even complete breakage. If the stone was “oiled” with green oil, exposure to light may cause the stone to fade over time.
If ever in doubt, see your local jeweller, as most will clean your precious jewelry at no charge!
We hope you found this article helpful in getting a better understanding of Emerald. Should you have any additional questions about this or any other jewellery related topics, you can always: “Ask the Jeweller”
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