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The Birthstone for May
Emerald, the birthstone for May is a rich green colour and is associated with the sumptuous, green of spring which is, of course, in full bloom during the month of May.
Emerald is also the zodiac sign of Taurus (for those who are born between April 20th and May 20th).
An emerald’s colour is so distinctive that the word “emerald” is used to describe the rich, bright and lush green colour it resembles.
Ireland is known as the “Emerald Isle” due to it’s lush green landscape.
The Anniversary Stone
The History of Emerald
Emeralds were mined near the red sea in Upper Egypt at Jabal Sukayt and Jabal Zabgrah, from as early as 1300 BC .
After the successful conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, most of the jewels from this area were 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 at the time.
Cleopatra's Love of Emerald
Where are Emeralds Mined?
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.
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.
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 of an emerald should be bright but a dark tone. If 0 means colourless and 100 means black, some say the ideal tone for an emerald should be around 60-75.
This means that the lightest tones are not as “good” an emerald, with the lightest not even being classified as being 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.
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!
Despite the gem being quite hard (it scores 7.5-8.0 on Mohs hardness 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).
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 believed to protect the chastity of the wearer (we’re not sure how!).
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 Who Love 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 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