Emerald is simply one of the most desirable, famous and historical gemstones of all time. Part of the Beryl family of gemstones, which also includes Aquamarine and Morganite, Emerald has been mined for around 4,000 years. From Ancient Egypt to the modern-day, all those who have gazed on the intense vivid greens of the gem have fallen under its spell, and it can be found throughout time in some of the most stunning pieces of jewelry ever to have existed. Let’s delve deeper into the fascinating history of this unmistakable treasure.
THE HISTORY OF EMERALD
Emerald is simply the most famous green gemstone in the world. It holds an allure that has captivated people for thousands of years and inspires generation after generation of gemstone enthusiasts. The stone has possibly the richest history, too. Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD) was mesmerized by this crystal, as was the Incan Empire in South America (1438 – 1533 AD) who had been using it in their jewelry for 500 years before trading with the 16th-century explorers in order to obtain precious metals.
This precious stone has been held in high regard since antiquity. The first known mines were in Egypt, and date back possibly as far as 4,000 BC, incredibly. Cleopatra was said to be hypnotized with the unique charm of this gemstone, and so adorned herself in the very finest Emeralds. The Greeks, who were working at the mines of Alexander the Great, were said to have yielded their gems to the Egyptian Queen too. In 1817, Cleopatra’s mines, which were once thought to be nothing but the myth, were re-discovered on the coast of the Red Sea, adding significant credibility to her legend.
Its name is derived from the Greek word ‘smaragdos’, a name was once given to a number of gems with the color green in common. The world evolved over time to the current ‘Emerald’, and the given name ‘Esmerelda’ also translates to Emerald. A representative of the color of spring, Emeralds are said to signify hope, new growth, and eternal life. The intense color of the gemstone has long been associated with the lushest of landscapes. For example, Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle and Seattle as the Emerald City. The association has even crossed over into works of fiction, such as the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz.
Pliny the Elder, the author of ‘Natural History’, wrote of Emerald “…no color is more delightful in appearance. For although we enjoy looking at plants and leaves, we regard Emeralds with all the more pleasure because compared with them there is nothing that is more intensely green”. Although not a believer in myths, Pliny did go on to say, “And after straining our eyes by looking at another object, we can restore our vision to normal by gazing at an Emerald”. He also correctly identified Emeralds as part of the Beryl family.
Shah Jahan, the architect of the Taj Mahal, wore Emeralds as a talisman and had them inscribed with a sacred text. His Mogul Mughal Emerald is noted as one of the most famous Emerald pieces of all time and dates back to 1695. It is an impressive 10cm tall Colombian Emerald and weighs 217 carats. In September 2001 it sold for $2.2 million dollars at auction to an anonymous bidder, though by 2009 it was in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. Another renowned Emerald is the 632ct Patricia Emerald, which was also found in Colombia and is named after the daughter of the mine owner. It is still in rough crystal form and is on display in the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
Emerald was revered as a holy gemstone by the Incas and Aztecs and was associated with Venus, goddess of love and beauty, by the Romans. Emeralds have long adorned the rich and famous, with Richard Burton memorably buying Elizabeth Taylor a whole suite of exquisite Emerald pieces during the filming of (appropriately enough) Cleopatra in 1962. When these pieces were auctioned after her passing, they broke auction house records. Queen Elizabeth II has a number of incredible Emeralds in the Royal Collection including the Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara and the Delhi Durbar Necklace. There are also 11 Emeralds in the Imperial State Crown, and many of the other Crown Jewels also feature the stone. We travel the world in search of the finest Emeralds from Colombia, Brazil, Zambia and further afield, and each of these valuable gem sourcing communities attaches significance and meaning to their green treasure. In 2013, Emerald was chosen as Pantone Color of the Year such was its immense popularity around the globe.
EMERALD GEMSTONE INFORMATION
Emerald is the birthstone for May and the anniversary gemstone for the 20th, 35th and 55th year of marriage. It is the ideal birthstone for May as its deep bright greens perfectly reflect the new life and regeneration of nature during springtime. Emeralds are a member of the Beryl family of gemstones, making them a close relative of Aquamarine, Morganite, Golden Beryl and Heliodor. Emeralds are colored green by impurities in the gem’s crystal structure – usually a mixture of chromium and vanadium and sometimes iron. Their color ranges from pure green to yellowish or bluish-green.
Emeralds displaying bluish overtones are generally sourced from Colombia. These are highly coveted and considered by connoisseurs to be some of the world’s finest. Unfortunately, these Emeralds are becoming increasingly rarer as mine owners are having to dig deeper and deeper – and with very little success. Other popular sources of Emerald include Brazil, Pakistan, Siberia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Emeralds can vary considerably in their tone too. Some, from areas such as Bahia in Brazil, can be as low as 50% in some instances, but some of the finest Emeralds we’ve ever seen tend to have a tone of around 70% to 75%.
To own an Emerald is to own a piece of history, a piece of nature and a work of art. Each one is truly individual. The most endearing characteristic of Emerald is that each stone has its own personality. Every Emerald pulled from the earth is undeniably unique and Emerald is one of the few gemstones where the array of inclusions and imperfections are not only welcomed but often serve as part of the beauty of each stone. These famous inclusions are often referred to as ‘jardin’ (the French word for garden) and they give each piece a distinctive fingerprint, adding to its beauty and making each gem truly one-of-a-kind. We like to think of them as the fingerprints of Mother Nature. Emerald’s color is also an important factor as an Emerald must have a perfectly balanced tone of green, not too light or too dark, or it risks falling into the category of Green Beryl.
The gem world is a strange place to reside if you are looking for logic and reason. With so many other green gems available with almost perfect clarity and in some cases greater rarity, it is not at all logical that Emerald is still viewed as the king of the green gems. Its price is often greater than that of Diamonds of similar carat weight, sometimes by a factor of three for the finest specimens. So when you own an Emerald, treat it as your own work of art, get to know its lines, its patches, its identity and don’t let anyone tell you it is anything other than gorgeous – after all beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some Emeralds have an almost velvety appearance, which along with the unique inclusions of each stone are considered to be part of the gem’s character. As a general rule, a vivid Emerald full of inclusions will normally demand a higher price than a flawless one that is paler in color.
Because of their brittle crystal structure and mass of inclusions, cutting the gem is a real challenge. Very few gem cutters will even attempt to cut larger Emeralds, and the likes of Tel Aviv in Israel and Jaipur in India (where the vast majority of Bijaar stones are cut) have produced many lapidarist’s who specialize in cutting Emeralds. Most Emeralds on the market are treated at the time of cutting with wax, oils or resins. Unlike nearly all other gemstones, most treatments applied to Emeralds are not permanent and to maintain the gem’s unrivaled beauty, need re-applying every five to 10 years. For Emeralds from Brazil and Colombia, if they are over one carat in size it’s safe to assume that the gem has undergone treatment. Historically the waxes and oils were added to increase Emerald’s brilliance by filling its fissures and cracks. Today these non-permanent treatments have been in the main replaced by modern polymers that feature a very similar refractive index to the Emerald. These treatments are so good that most gem laboratories are unable to spot them, so once again, unless your gem is supplied certified, it’s best to assume treatments have been applied. For more information on how to look after Emeralds, see below.
Most people prefer the hue of their Emerald to be a pure green, but most have a secondary color of either blue or yellow and, occasionally, both can be witnessed simultaneously. Many a gem expert will tell you that the most valuable Emeralds must not feature any blue or yellow secondary colors, however, both yellowish or bluish undertones have their advantages. Firstly, if an Emerald has a slightly yellowish tone in natural daylight it should look balanced under indoor or candlelight. If on the other hand, an Emerald has around 10% to 15% blue within its body color, then it often makes the Emerald appear warmer and livelier. To answer the question “How much are Emeralds worth?” is not at all straightforward, so click here for our separate article on Emerald valuations. At Bijaar we only source the finest Emeralds. They must showcase the textbook Emerald body color and the perfect balance of clarity with characteristic inclusions suspended within the stone to make each Emerald a unique treasure.
EMERALD CRYSTAL HEALING
Gemstones are as old as time and in the years since their first discovery they’ve picked up a lot more than adoring collectors and fascinated mineralogists. Many have gained stories regarding their legend, lore and healing properties, and whilst there’s no evidence to suggest that any of these properties are real, it’s still interesting to explore the esoteric side of Mother Nature’s miracles. It’s worth asking ourselves, “If you truly believe in something, does that mean it’s true”? Scientifically, the answer is no, but what about on a more personal, spiritual level? If you really truly believe that an item in your house is having an effect on you, are you more likely to feel that effect? It’s really not for us to say, but it’s a very interesting concept that deserves further research. Once again though, we must point out though that no studies have ever found any therapeutic effects or properties in gemstones, and the following is for your information only.
Emerald has long been thought of as the stone of compassion, unity and unconditional love. It has been used as a healing stone to bring a freshness and re-invigoration to the spirit. It has also been said to imbue its owner with the positive qualities of loyalty, patience, and friendship and has been linked with reviving passion, whether that be for a job, a hobby or a person. Countries from which the gem is sourced have their own local interpretations of the stone too. A Zambian man once said that wearing an Emerald was believed to reveal the truth or falseness of a lover’s oath and also served to make one an eloquent speaker. In Columbia, they say that the Emerald allows the wearer the ability to foresee the future as well as to reveal the truth and protect against evil. Emerald is also the zodiac gemstone associated with the sign Cancer.
WHERE IS EMERALD MINED?
- Carnaiba Brazilian Emerald
- Siberian Emerald
- Zambian Emerald
HOW TO CLEAN EMERALD
Emerald can be oiled to improve its appearance, a treatment that dates back many hundreds of years. Oiling is widely used for Emeralds across the industry, but this does make cleaning Emerald a more delicate operation. Never subject an Emerald to ultrasonic or steam cleaning. They can be cleaned with warm soapy water and a soft brush, although try not to submerge your Emeralds for long. If you feel your stone has lost some shine and character over the years, it may need to be re-oiled. This is a highly specialized process and will need to be done by a professional jewelry. Resist the temptation to use any “do it yourself” guides as any mistakes will be irreversible.
WHERE TO BUY EMERALD
You Emerald has been waiting to find you, its custodian, for an unfathomable amount of time. Its story only really starts when you first see your piece, and when you put the jewelry on and enjoy it for the first time. Whichever tone, whichever source and whichever size appeal to you, one thing is for certain – you will not be able to take your eyes of the mystical green glow of this treasure of the ages.