May’s Magical Birthstone: Discovering the Beauty of Emeralds

QUICK LINKS: 1. The Origin of Emeralds | 2. The History of Emeralds | 3. The Healing Properties of Emeralds | 4. The Composition of Emeralds | 5. Caring for Emeralds | 6. Most Expensive Emerald Jewellery |

Many cultures have been fascinated with the luminous Emerald for thousands of years. These fascinating & vibrant green gemstones have been treasured throughout history for their rarity and beauty. Let’s explore their history, properties, and significance.

The Origin of the Emerald Gemstone

According to mythology, the name “Emerald” was known in Sanskrit as “marakata,” which translates as “the green of growing things.” It is thought that the name we know today was an ancient Persian word, translated to Latin “smaragdus“, meaning ” green “. Eventually, this evolved to “Emerald” over time. 

rough gemstone emeralds in granite and quartz

The History of Emeralds: From Egypt to Rome, India & the Rest of the World

Records show that the Emerald was found in Babylon markets as early as 4000 BC. The Incas worshipped the Emerald, and the ancient Egyptians believed it stood for rebirth. In Ancient Rome, Nero supposedly peered through a large transparent emerald to watch gladiator fights, as he found the colour calming. Shah Jahan, one of the wealthy mega moguls that built the Taj Mahal, had sacred texts inscribed into Emeralds and used these as talismans.

Fun Fact about Emeralds from history:

  • Ancient Egyptians believed that the Emerald symbolised fertility and rebirth, and it was often used in jewellery worn by pharaohs. 
  • The ancient Greeks believed that the Emerald had healing properties and was therefore used to treat various ailments.
Historical Antique Egypt Marble

Cleopatra and Her Love for Emeralds

Cleopatra was known for her love of emeralds, and she was said to have amassed a vast collection of these precious gemstones during her reign as queen of Egypt. According to legend, she would often adorn herself in emeralds, wearing them as earrings, bracelets, and necklaces and crushing them into a fine powder to use as her distinct eye shadow. It is said that Cleopatra was so taken with the beauty of emeralds that she gave visiting dignitaries emeralds carved in the shape of her likeness, a symbol of her wealth and power.

The Healing Properties of Emeralds: Physical, Emotional & Spiritual

  1. Physical healing: Emeralds are reported to have healing properties and help with eyesight in every language. It is said that the Sumerians believed an emerald worn in a ring on the pinkie finger of the left hand would cure inflammation of the eyes. During Hippocrates, emeralds were crushed into a delicate powder to create an eye lotion.Some say they help improve circulation, alleviate respiratory problems, and support overall physical well-being.
  2. Emotional healing: Emeralds are also believed to help promote feelings of love, compassion, and kindness. They are beneficial for healing emotional wounds and promoting emotional balance.
  3. Spiritual healing: Often associated with spiritual growth and transformation, Emeralds are believed to help connect individuals with their higher selves and the divine. They promote spiritual awareness and insight, allowing individuals to better understand their purpose and path in life.
emerald necklace

The Composition of Emeralds: How we Identify the Best

Only the highest quality emeralds are clear and free of flaws. The majority of Emeralds have slight mineral inclusions or internal fractures, affectionately known as “jardin,” which translates from French as ‘little garden’. The gemstones are filled with interesting little clues, as Emeralds from different mines have different inclusions, which helps us identify the origin. 

Tiny two-phase (liquid/vapour) inclusions composed of water and an air bubble in a hexagonal cavity of negative crystal are fascinating under the microscope. 

Tricky three-phase inclusions (liquid/solid/vapour) have water, air and another crystal mineral trapped inside, like pyrite, calcite and mica, to name a few. Fibres of grammatite and actinolite, which look like bamboo, and surface-reaching fractures again lend to a “Jardin”, a beautiful garden of shapes and surprises inside the stone.

Caring for Emeralds

The royal Emerald is a durable stone with a Mohs hardness of 8.5 but is brittle and easily fractured. This means extra care is needed when handling and setting the stone, as it can shatter. Emeralds can suffer from heat stress and crack if exposed to hot then cold temperatures, so it’s essential to be very gentle while cleaning your jewellery and not expose the stone to extreme temperature changes. Like royalty, this prized gem needs delicate and preferential treatment!

Most expensive Emerald Jewellery of all time

  • The Rockefeller Emerald: This Emerald, which weighs 18.04 carats, was once owned by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and was sold at Christie’s auction house in 2017 for $5.5 million. The Emerald was set in a diamond and platinum ring and was initially purchased by Rockefeller in the 1930s.
  • The Chalk Emerald: This Emerald, which weighs 37.82 carats, was sold at auction in 2014 for $17.8 million. The Emerald was originally part of the collection of the Maharajas of India and is set in a platinum and diamond necklace.
  • The Elizabeth Taylor Emerald & Diamond Necklace: This necklace, which features a 23.44-carat emerald pendant surrounded by diamonds, was part of Elizabeth Taylor’s personal jewellery collection. The necklace was sold at auction in 2011 for $6.5 million.
  • The Marlene Dietrich Emerald & Diamond Necklace: This necklace, which features a 60-carat emerald pendant surrounded by diamonds, was once owned by actress Marlene Dietrich. The necklace was sold at auction in 2017 for $3.1 million.

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