The word “emerald” comes to English from the Old French “esmeralde,” which is derived from the Greek “smaragdos.” It simply means “green stone.” Emerald is a variety of the mineral beryl, or beryllium aluminum silicate, and is a 7.5-8 on Mohs scale of hardness. Emeralds are colored green by the presence of trace quantities of chromium, or since the 1960s in the US, by vanadium. The UK and Europe call vanadium colored beryl “green beryl” and do not consider these stones true emeralds. Blue beryls are called aquamarine and pink ones are morganite. Emerald crystals are hexagonal in nature and are typically associated with igneous rock. Natural emeralds have patterns of inclusions that are like fingerprints and can help determine their geographic origin. These inclusions are known as "jardin," or "garden" because they look like the vein patterns in leaves. They are considered beautiful and do not detract from the value of the emerald, which is based more on color, with the deep greens being the most valuable and the more yellowish, paler greens being less valuable. Likewise, transparent emeralds are more desirable and valuable than opaque ones.


Where are Emeralds Found?

Emeralds are found in many places around the world, but experts agree that the best ones are from Colombia, where there are around 150 known deposits. The most important mine today is at Coscuez, which produces approximately three quarters of Colombia's emeralds. Colombian emeralds have an especially fine emerald green color with no bluish tint that is highly esteemed in the international emerald trade. Trapiche emeralds, which have six rays emanating from the center, can also be found in Colombia.Emeralds from elsewhere are always compared to those from Colombia.


Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Brazil also have excellent emeralds. Zambian emeralds are typically darker than Colombian emeralds and often have a bluish undertone due to trace amounts of iron. Zimbabwe emeralds are usually smaller than Colombian emeralds but have an intense green color with a yellowish undertone. Brazil produces emeralds that are very comparable to the Colombian ones as their mines share a border. Brazilian mines sometimes also produce rare emerald cat's eyes and six-ray stars. However, Brazilian emeralds are more likely to get their color from trace amounts of vanadium rather than the chromium found in Colombian emeralds.


Emeralds can also be found in countries such as Madagascar, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, and Russia. The oldest known mines are “Cleopatra’s Mines” near the Red Sea in Egypt. These were exploited by Egyptian pharaohsas long ago as 1500 BCE but saw their peak production during the Ptolemaic period from 330 BCE to 30 BCE.


There are a number of famous emeralds in the world. One of the largest is the “Mogul Emerald,” which weighs 217.80 carats and is ten centimeters tall. This emerald is inscribed with prayer texts and floral ornaments, and it was auctioned by Christie's of London to an unidentified buyer for 2.2 million US Dollars on September 28th 2001.Queen Elizabeth II has a famous set of emerald jewelry in her private collection known as the "Cambridge and Delhi Dunbar Parure"that includes an emerald diadem. The collection of the New York Museum of Natural History includes “Patricia,” one of the largest Colombian emerald crystals, which weighs 632 carats. The Iranian National Treasury includes the diadem of the former Empress Farah which is adorned with emeralds. Istanbul's Topkapi Palace also includes some fabulous exhibits of emerald jewelry.


Emeralds are usually cut with the signature “emerald cut,” which features a rectangular or square shape with beveled corners. This cut is specifically designed to maximize the beauty and color of the stone, and simultaneously protect it from mechanical strain and internal stress. Emeralds can also be cut into shapes such as pear, oval, and round or cut into round cabochon or beads. Highly transparent and clear materials are sometimes cut in brilliant-style.


Caring for Emerald Jewelry


Because of the presence of inclusions in emeralds, nearly all natural stones are treated with colorless oils or resins. Ultrasonic cleaning will remove these oils, so it is better to clean emeralds simply with soap and warm water. Regardless of how you clean them, emeralds will need to be re-oiled on occasion to maintain luster. Synthetic emeralds will not have these inclusions and fractures, so amplifying them under artificial light will help you determine whether or not you are looking at a natural stone. Heat treatments could actually cause the color of the stone to go from green to blue, or actually change it from emerald into aquamarine.


Healing Properties of Emeralds


Emerald is the official birthstone for May and the official anniversary gemstone for commemorating the 20th and 35th year of marriage. Emeralds are green, the color of life, vitality, and nature. They represent youth and symbolize hope and the future renewal and growth. Emeralds open and nurture the heart and provide vitality to the spirit. Their soothing energy provides healing to all levels of beings and infinite patience, which embodies unity and unconditional love. Emeralds promote friendship, balance between partners, and domestic bliss, contentment, and loyalty. These are stones of great vision, and can enhance memory and increase clarity and focus. Additionally, emeralds are revealers of truth and inspiring in their wearers an ongoing search for meaning and justice, compassion and harmony. These are stones of successful and constant love, and were recognized as such as far back as ancient Rome, when green was the color of Venus, the goddess of beauty and love.


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