Emeralds are one of most highly prized, and most expensive, stones in the world. Ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks held this stone in the highest esteem, above all others. This might explain why so many kings and queens chose to adorn themselves with the gem.
The Aztecs and Incas considered emerald a holy stone and incorporated it into their ritual masks. India also considered the stone sacred and used them to adorn temples and other holy relics.
Because many cultures believed that emeralds had special healing properties, they were often used in amulets for protection. Archeologists have found may Egyptians mummies with emeralds buried inside their tombs. It is believed they were placed there to order to ward off tomb raiders.
Today, the most expensive and most beautiful emeralds are found in museums; often as part of crown jewel collections or set within daggers, swords, or even writing implements. These emeralds are even more valuable than some of the rarest diamonds in the world.
Emerald got its name comes from the French word “esmeralde,” which literally means green gemstone. In many cultures, green is considered the color life. It is, of course, connected directly with nature, which may explain the natural affinity that people often have with the stone even today.
More than that, however, green is a harmonious color that is appreciated by a vast majority of people. Some even call it the color of love. Perhaps that is somewhat due to the fact that the emerald was the gem of Venus, the goddess of love.
The oldest emeralds are believed to have come from the Pakistan where it appears that they can be traced back about nine million years. Emeralds were also found within the mines of ancient Egypt. Although those mines are now played out, stones from the era between 3000 and 1500 BC still exist in some of the most prized pieces of art and jewelry known to man.
Today Colombia produces the most sought after emeralds. They differ from many other emeralds because they tend to be the purist and most vibrant shade of green, without any tint of blue.
Beautiful emeralds are also found in Afghanistan, America (in North Carolina), Brazil, India, Madagascar, Pakistan, Russia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Zambia’s gems are deep green in color, sometimes with a slight blue tint. These gems are often even deeper than the highly prized Colombian stones. However, Zambia’s emeralds have outstanding transparency whereas the Colombian variety generally contains inclusions.
Equally stunning stones are found in Zimbabwe. Although the color and clarity is outstanding in these gems, they tend to come in a much smaller size; making them less valuable overall.
Brazilian emerald mines are also beginning to rival the best in the world. Their stones are rich in color and tone. Brazil also offers something that most other mines cannot; the rare cat’s eye emerald.
Although few can be easily found today, there are still some Egyptian emeralds available. Unfortunately, they are generally a much duller green color and are not considered particularly high in quality by today’s standards.
Emeralds come from the family of beryls, which are normally clear in nature. However traces of chromium and vanadium give emeralds their rich green color.
Authentic emerald often contains inclusions and well as tiny cracks and fissures referred to the stone’s “jardin.” Oddly enough, these inclusions do not necessarily detract from the beauty or value of the gem. Perhaps it is because they add character to the stone, as well as helping to deepen its color.
Flawless emeralds can be very pale in color. They range from a tone just slightly darker than that of peridot to a medium, dull green. Overall, they are actually of less appeal to many emerald wearers.
Emeralds are relatively hard stones, ranking about eight on the Moh’s scale of hardness. However, the brittleness of the gem, along with its tiny cracks and fissures can make it difficult to work with. Some of the world’s best gem cutters shy away from cutting emeralds because of all of the problems they offer.
To get around some of the problems inherent within this rare stone, gem cutters developed a special type of cut – – the emerald cut. It helps to protect the gem from unnecessary strain. This rectangular cut, with its beveled edges contains much fewer facets than most other gems; making it unique.
Because of their high value, emeralds were one of the first stones to be synthesized as well as lab created. Luckily, many of these varieties tend to remove all inclusions; providing a perfectly clear stone. While these can be quite beautiful in nature, they also show a way to tell the stone apart from an authentic gem.
Another way to single out a possible fake stone, is by its size. Today’s emeralds are generally not high in carat weight. Therefore any stone over two carats could be suspect.
Even authentic emeralds can be enhanced to improve their appearance; deepen the color, lessen the inclusions, and to improve their clarity. Nearly all of them are treated with oils or epoxy resins. These are used to fill-in any surface cracks as well as to improve the transparency of the stones.
Many today still subscribe to the healing properties of emeralds. They are believed to help promote easier childbirth as well as preserve skin decay that might result from the bite of a venomous creature like a spider or snake.
Still others believe that emeralds help to enhance clairvoyance. For that reason, many psychics and mediums use crystals of emerald.
Emerald is the birthstone for May and the recommended stone for the 55th wedding anniversary.
Although I love wearing the color green, like most other redheads, emerald has never been one of my favorite stones. That is probably considered blasphemous for someone with roots in the Emerald Isle (Ireland). Let’s hope my ancestors will forgive me.
Highly skilled gem cutters also cut emeralds into other classical shapes. A handful will even facet them. These stones, however, are often among the most expensive in the world because of the time and skill required to make them. Emeralds are also often cut into cabochons or even made into beads. These types of emeralds are extremely popular in Asia and the Orient.