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Emerald – The Stunning Birthstone for May

by Carathea
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The birthstone for May.

A rich, green gemstone, the emerald is associated with the sumptuous, green of spring, the month of May and the zodiac sign of Taurus (for those who are born between April 20th and May 20th).

An emerald’s colour is so striking and distinctive that the word emerald is associated with the rich, bright and lush colour it is so famous for. 

Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle due to it’s lush green landscape. 

Anniversary Stone

Emerald is also the anniversary stone for the 20th and 35th Wedding Anniversaries. 

Gold Cluster Ring with Emerald and Diamonds
9ct Gold Emerald and Diamond Cluster ring
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The History of Emerald

As early as 1300 BC Emeralds were mined near the red sea in Upper Egypt at Jabal Sukayt and Jabal Zabgrah.

After the successful conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, most of the jewels from this area were also seized.  This is why many historical emerald jewellery items featured emeralds from this mine, known as ‘Cleopatra’s Mines’.

The mine was rediscovered in 1817,  although only poor quality emeralds were found.

Cleopatra was known to love emerald and included the stone in many of her jewellery pieces. 

Columbia is the world’s largest Emerald producer, followed by Zambia. The rich deposits in Columbia were exploited after being discovered after the Spanish conquest of South America. Huge quantities were then shipped to Europe, and traded to the Middle East and India where they were loved by the Mogul rulers.

Emeralds occur within thin veins of white calcite or quartz and also granite rocks.

Synthetic emeralds were successfully created in 1937. Currently these are manufactured within the United States and are very similar in appearance to the natural crystals.

9ct Gold and Emerald Teardrop stud Earrings
9ct gold Emerald Teardrop Earrings
9ct Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald Pendant
Gold Pendant with Emerald, Sapphire and Ruby

What is Emerald?

Emerald is a type of beryl, along with the beautiful aquamarine stone, although it is coloured green from the chromium content within the stone. 

It is a mineral which grows with six sides and the gemstones can grow quite large.  The largest weighs over 16,000 carats!

The name emerald derives from the Greek smaragados, meaning “green”, through the Latin “smaragdus” and the Middle English esmeralde.

Emerald and Diamond Ring
Emerald and Diamond Ring
Silver modern ring with gold detail and emerald
Silver Ring with Gold Fill and Emerald

What Makes a Good Emerald?

A beautiful green stone, emerald’s hues can range from blue-green to yellow-green. This is quite a different colour green to the August birthstone, Peridot.   The colour should be bright but a dark tone. If 0 is colourless and 100 is black, some say the ideal tone for an emerald should be around 60-75.

The lightest tones are not as “good” an emerald, with the lightest not even being classified as an emerald but instead they are labelled as “green beryl”.  

The more translucent the stone, the better.

All precious stones are graded according to the Four C’s – cut, clarity, colour and carat.  

Emeralds are prone to many ‘inclusions’ and fissures on their surface. Therefore a flawless emerald is incredibly rare and would be worth a vast fortune.

Unlike a diamond, where a magnifying eye loupe is used to spot inclusions in the stone, an emerald is considered flawless if there are no visible inclusions to the naked eye.

For the those reasons, emeralds are considered a Type III gemstone, meaning they are virtually always ‘included’ (having small fissures or inclusions within the stone).

As the surface fissures are so common, as many as 90% of commercial emeralds are treated with oils to increase their clarity – the oil being used ‘sit’ in and seal the cracks.

9ct Gold Emerald Flower stud earrings
9ct Gold Emerald Flower Earrings
Gold and Diamond stud earrings
9ct Gold and Diamond Earrings

Susceptible to Damage

Because of the high number of fissures that are common within emerald stones, it makes them a little more susceptible to damage and is also pose a real challenge for the gem cutter!

Although the gem is quite hard (it scores 7.5-8.0 on the hardness Moh’s rating scale) this only means that it is less susceptible to scratching, hence the stone can still be liable to splitting.

Because of this emeralds should not be cleaned mechanically (with an ultrasound machine).

Silver Pendant with Green and Pave Set CZ's
Silver Studs with Green and Pave Set CZ's


The Eygyptian’s believed that emeralds were a symbol of fertility and life.

In ancient times people believed the colour of emerald to be very soothing to the eye and hence it was said to relieve both stress and eye-strain.

Emerald was also said to be the stone of Mercury (Hermes) – messenger of the gods and the manager of the souls of the dead.

Rather shockingly, dysentery was believed to have been cured by holding a piece of Emerald in the mouth! 

It was also supposed to prevent epilepsy, help in childbirth, and was also good for the eyesight.

Emerald was said to protect the chastity of the wearer, which seems like an odd claim to us.  Albertus Magnus, in the 13th century wrote that King Bela of Hungary found his wonderful piece of emerald broke into three pieces after he embraced his wife!  (Make of that what you will!)

Celebrities Wearing Emeralds.

Elizabeth Taylor very famously showed her love for emeralds.  Richard Burton, her fellow actor and twice-husband, purchased a Bulgari emerald suite whist they were filming ‘Cleopatra’ in Italy in

In 2011 Elizabeth Taylor’s emerald necklace sold for a record $6,578,500 (more than $280,000 per carat).

The Women’s Movement

At the recent 2018 Golden Globe Awards, a show of solidarity to the cause to end sexual harrassment (an initiative started by a Time’s Up campaign) included women wearing black but also saw a similar silent but strong message in the female celebrities wearing emeralds as written about by Today.com here

The reasoning behind this, as talked about in the article,  was that emerald stood for feminine power and the colour green was also adopted by the women’s Suffragette movement which fought for women’s right to vote. 



Rock and Gem


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