Green has been associated with “envy” since Shakespeare’s time. You can’t help but be envious that the May birthstone is the beautiful emerald. Of course, emeralds are so loved, people own and wear them regardless of their birthdate. The May Birthstone is considered to be a symbol of rebirth and love. Emeralds are the rarest gemstones and are typically mined in Colombia, Brazil, Afghanistan and Zambia.
All About Emeralds
A little bit of the lore
Emerald’s lush green has soothed souls and excited imaginations since antiquity. Its name comes from the ancient Greek word for green, “smaragdus.” Rome’s Pliny the Elder described emerald in his Natural History, published in the first century AD: “…nothing greens greener” was his verdict. Even today, the color green is known to relieve stress and eye strain.
Emerald is the most famous member of the beryl family. Legends endowed the wearer with the ability to foresee the future when an emerald was placed under the tongue, as well as to reveal truth and be protected against evil spells. Emerald was once also believed to cure diseases like cholera and malaria. Wearing an emerald was believed to reveal the truth or falseness of a lover’s oath as well as make one an eloquent speaker.
Legend also states that emerald was one of the four precious stones given by God to King Solomon. These four stones were said to have endowed the king with power over all creation.
Its color reflects new spring growth, which makes it the perfect choice of a birthstone for the month of May. It’s also the gemstone for twentieth and thirty-fifth wedding anniversaries.
The first known emerald mines were in Egypt, dating from at least 330 BC into the 1700s. Cleopatra was known to have a passion for emerald, and used it in her royal adornments.
The History of Emeralds
Emeralds are gem-quality specimens of the beryl mineral family with a rich, distinctly green color. They are found in igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks in a small number of locations worldwide.
For over 5000 years, emeralds have been one of the most desirable and valuable colored gemstones. Ancient civilizations in Africa, Asia, and South America independently discovered emeralds and made them their gemstone of highest esteem.
Emerald is defined by its green color. To be an emerald, a specimen must have a distinctly green color that falls in the range from bluish-green to green to slightly yellowish-green. To be an emerald, the specimen must also have a rich color. Stones with weak saturation or light tone should be called “green beryl.” If the beryl’s color is greenish blue then it is an “aquamarine.” If it is greenish-yellow it is “heliodor.”
Gem experts differ on the degree of green that makes one stone an emerald and another stone a less-expensive green beryl. However, to be considered a “real” emerald it should be deep and saturated enough in color.
The first synthetic emeralds were produced in the mid-1800s, but it was not until the 1930s that Carroll Chatham began producing emerald in commercial quantities. To date, several companies including Chatham Created Gems, Gilson, Kyocera Corporation, Lennix, Seiko Corporation, Biron Corporation, Lechleitner, and Regency, have produced synthetic emeralds by flux and hydrothermal processes.
Synthetic emeralds, also known as lab-created emeralds, have the same chemical composition and crystal structure as natural emeralds. They are sold beside natural emeralds in most mall jewelry stores in the United States. When compared to natural emeralds, the synthetics have superior clarity and a more uniform appearance than natural stones of equivalent cost. Many consumers purchase them for their attractive appearance at a lower cost.