Continuing with our series of birthstone features, this month we celebrate those who have a birthday in May with the stunning emerald. 

History of Emeralds

Emerald takes its name from the ancient Greek word, “smaragdus,” meaning “green.” Its rich color represents new spring growth, making it the perfect birthstone for May. It is also the traditional gift for the 20th and 35th wedding anniversaries.

Emeralds date back nearly three billion years, with the oldest stones coming from South Africa. In many cultures, emerald was regarded as a holy stone. It was one of the gemstones found in the Bible’s Breastplate of Aaron. Egyptian Pharaoh Cleopatra was known for her love of emeralds.

Vivid color saturation is the hallmark of quality emeralds. Trace elements of chromium and vanadium dictate the May birthstone’s color. The presence or absence of each and their relative amounts determine the exact color of an emerald crystal. The deeper and more transparent the green, the more valuable the emerald.

Clear, transparent emeralds with few inclusions tend to be more valued than those whose heavy inclusions. It has become standard practice today to treat the gems with oils or resins to enhance clarity. As a result, emeralds should not be cleaned using heat, harsh chemicals or ultrasonic cleaners, which can dissolve oils and resins. You can clean with a soft cloth or use warm water and a gentle soap before rinsing. Or, bring your emerald jewelry to Worthington Jewelers, where professional cleaning and inspection are always free.

A variety of the mineral beryl, emerald has a hardness of 7.5–8 on the Mohs scale and has fair to good toughness. Gem-quality emeralds are mined in Afghanistan, Brazil, Colombia, Russia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Why We Love Emeralds

Their rich color has set the standard for green gemstones for thousands of years. The gem is often associated with lush landscapes, which is why Ireland is known as “The Emerald Isle.”

Almost all emeralds contain some inclusions or internal imperfections. These inclusions are like a fingerprint, giving each emerald a distinct personality. Because of their resemblance to growing plants, these inclusions are sometimes called “jardin,” which is French for garden. Wearing emerald jewelry gives a reminder of spring gardens throughout the year.

Emerald’s hexagonal crystal shape naturally lends itself to rectangular step cuts, which are known as emerald cuts even when used in other gemstones. Producing jewelry with an elegant, classic look, step-cut gems were especially popular during the Art Deco period of the 1920s and 30s. Round, oval and pear-shaped emeralds are also commonly available. With their stunning color, emeralds look great in almost any style setting.

Emeralds give you the chance to get a larger stone for a fraction of the cost compared to what you would pay for a diamond.

Famous Emeralds

Emeralds have captivated people’s hearts and minds throughout history, and there are many famous emeralds throughout the world.

The stunning Spanish Inquisition necklace features 15 large emerald beads and over 360 diamonds. It was given its name by jeweler Harry Winston, who acquired it from the Maharaja of Indore, and has no known connection with the historical Spanish Inquisition. It is currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

The Patricia Emerald from Chivor, Colombia is unique in that it has a 12-sided shape instead of the six sides of a standard emerald crystal. This massive 632-carat stone is in the collection of New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

The Crown of the Andes is made from 100 pounds of gold set with an astonishing 447 emeralds, including one measuring in at 46 carats. It is currently in the collection of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Lee Bouvier in 1953 with an Art Deco-style engagement ring by French jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels that boasted both a 2.84 carat emerald and a 2.88 carat diamond.

Emerald is still widely prized by the rich and famous, with Elizabeth Taylor’s famous emerald pendant brooch selling for $6.5 million in 2011.

The Perfect Gift for May Birthdays or Engagements

When choosing an emerald, color is the most important characteristic, as this is what catches your attention right away. Look for a rich, vibrant green. Experts recommend choosing a smaller stone with excellent color over a larger one with poor color quality.

Emeralds and colored stones, in general, have seen a surge in popularity in recent years. If your special someone is a bit non-traditional, an emerald engagement ring could be just the thing to solidify your love, although you will need to choose a protective setting and take extra care, since emerald is much softer and more brittle than diamond, sapphire or ruby.

Bob, Theresa or one of our associates look forward to helping you find the perfect emerald piece for yourself or a loved one! Stop by Worthington Jewelers to choose from our beautiful selection, or create your own custom ring for a look that is truly unique and special.

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