May’s birthstone, emeralds are one of the world’s most beloved precious gemstones, not to mention one of the most enchanting. This striking green gem even captured the attention of Queen Cleopatra, who was known for her affinity for emerald jewelry.
Throughout the ages, emeralds have been regarded as symbols of love, growth, and rebirth, and remain one of the most valuable gemstones to this day. But there’s more than meets the eye to this enigmatic stone, which has its fair share of history, meanings, and uses.
In this guide, we cover everything there is to know about the emerald stone, from its history, meaning, and origins to its geological and healing properties.
Emerald is a precious gemstone belonging to the beryl mineral family. It is characterized by a striking bluish-green color, although it can also be found in various other shades of green. A versatile stone, emerald is featured in a range of modern jewelry settings, including bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and statement rings.
Emeralds have been coveted for their beauty and mystical powers as far back as the Bronze Age. In Ancient Egypt, emeralds were regarded as symbols of immortality and fertility, and pharaohs were often buried with emeralds to ward off evil spirits in the afterlife. The ancient Hindus, Greeks, and Romans were also known to cherish these precious stones.
Likewise, the Mayan, Toltec, Aztec, and Incan civilizations held emeralds in high regard, as did the indigenous people of Colombia, which is home to some of the most significant emerald mines in the world today.
Emeralds also gained popularity among the clergy in Medieval Europe, who used them in lithotherapy – the practice of using stones and crystals for healing. The fascination with emeralds continued into the modern era, showcased by the jewelry worn by Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Marlene Dietrich.
Emerald meaning encompasses honesty, love, inner peace, and personal growth. This makes it beneficial for all kinds of relationships since it enables the wearer both to give and receive unconditional love. Emerald has also long been heralded for its metaphysical properties and function as a life-affirming stone that promotes the good health of the wearer. Emeralds are also frequently given or carried as tokens of fortune.
Emerald color is associated with the Heart Chakra and is thought to balance the emotions. It dispels claustrophobia and rage and fortifies the spirit, providing the wearer with a sense of rejuvenation and well-being. When held over the Third-Eye Chakra, emerald is thought to increase psychic sensitivity and clairvoyance.
Creative and mental capacities are also enhanced with this stone as long as it is not opaque. It boosts concentration and perception and is a source of wisdom, patience, and inspiration. Because it drives out negative thoughts, promotes self-expression, and restores mental equilibrium, emerald can also contribute to positive action and change.
In terms of physical healing properties, emerald helps to eliminate free radicals in the body, strengthens the kidneys and heart, and promotes neurological and circulatory function.
Emerald crystals form when magma cools and hardens alongside beryllium. Occasionally, they form within the crust of layered magma. Both open-pit mining and terrace mining are used to unearth emeralds.
The main sources of emeralds include parts of Africa, South America, Ethiopia, Australia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States. However, most natural emeralds available today come from Colombia, Zambia, and Brazil. Among these, Colombian emeralds are the most highly sought-after variety and make up around two-thirds of all emeralds on the market.
Emeralds from Brazil tend to be lighter in color and more vibrant than other varieties. They are typically yellow-green and often free of inclusions. A good quality emerald stone from Brazil will exhibit a rich color, natural glow, and good transparency, which adds to the value of the gem. Brazil also produces the rare cat’s-eye emerald and the even rarer trapiche emerald.
Colombian emeralds are the most prized and expensive variety of this gem. The most famous emerald deposit in Colombia is the Muzo mine in the Andes Mountains, although the Chivor mine is also legendary for its gems. Colombian emerald color ranges from medium green to a bluish-green. Rough Colombian emerald is some of the highest quality in the world due to its intense pure green color, which is a rare occurrence in nature. Colombia was also once thought to be the only producer of the rare trapiche emerald until specimens were also found in Brazil.
Zambian emerald has a bluish-green appearance that’s similar to Colombian emerald, although it can be darker in tone. High-quality Zambian emerald also tends to have better clarity than Colombian emerald because of a lower incidence of eye-visible inclusions. Furthermore, Zambian emeralds typically have a higher concentration of iron than other emeralds, resulting in a stronger structure that makes them less prone to breakage.
A synthetic emerald refers to a gem that was grown in a lab. Technically speaking, it has the same physical, chemical, and optical properties as a natural emerald. However, synthetic emeralds are far less valuable by comparison, despite being one of the most expensive synthetic stones to produce.
Emeralds are a member of the beryl family of gems, which includes yellow beryl (also known as yellow emerald or heliodor), bixbite, goshenite, morganite, and aquamarine. Members of this species typically have hexagonal crystals that can be cut into a variety of shapes and their versatility means they are often featured in jewelry. Beryl gemstones are also known to display asterism and chatoyancy, or ‘star’ and ‘cat’s-eye’ effects. Needless to say, the beryl family is both popular and diverse.
Color is the most important indicator of quality when it comes to evaluating an emerald stone. It is graded based on three criteria, namely hue, tone, and saturation.
In terms of hue, emerald colors range from yellow-green to bluish-green, with the most highly sought-after gems being green with blue undertones. The hue of an emerald stone is determined by the amount of chromium, vanadium, and iron present in the rock when the emerald crystal is formed.
Tone describes the depth of the color of a gemstone, ranging from colorless to black. The most desirable tones for emeralds are medium green to dark green.
As for saturation, only stones that exhibit an intense green hue are considered emeralds. All other shades are called other types of beryl.
To summarize, the most expensive emeralds are those that demonstrate a bluish-green hue with vivid saturation and even color throughout.
Emeralds have a rating of 7.5 to 8 on the Moh’s Scale of Mineral Hardness. Although fairly durable and scratch-resistant, these gems tend to be brittle and prone to breakage due to the presence of tiny fractures or ‘inclusions’ on their interior.
In gemology, ‘clarity’ refers to the relative absence of internal and external imperfections that affect the structural integrity and appearance of a gem. Clarity is an important criterion for grading emeralds since these gems are known to contain ‘inclusions’ that are often visible to the naked eye. These inclusions are generally considered an integral part of the stone and, with proper cutting, won’t detract from its beauty. That being said, emeralds with fewer inclusions are typically more valuable, especially since they are extremely rare.
Given that it is rare to find an emerald in nature without any imperfections, 99 percent of emeralds on the market have been treated to enhance their appearance. The most common treatments for emeralds include:
Emeralds typically have fissures, that is, tiny fractures or cracks that form when the stone is still in the earth. The process of oiling fills these cracks, improving the clarity of the stone and, therefore, it’s color. Although effective at reducing the appearance of fissures, oiling is not a permanent treatment as the stone will eventually dry out. This means that emeralds will need to be re-oiled from time to time to keep them looking their best.
Much like oiling, these treatments involve filling an emerald stone with polymer or epoxy resins to improve the overall appearance and structural integrity of the gem.
A less common technique for enhancing emeralds, wax treatments involve heating wax and using it to fill the inclusions in an emerald stone. This type of treatment is typically less desirable than the previous two since it can result in a yellowish look.
Emerald meaning is multi-faceted and varies depending on which country you’re in. In some cultures, emerald symbolizes immortality and rebirth, while in others it represents wisdom, peace, and love. Emeralds are also thought to bring good health and are sometimes carried as good luck charms to protect the wearer against misfortune and disease.
Emerald is the birthstone for May, alongside agate. However, this mesmerizing green gem is associated with three zodiac signs, namely Cancer, Gemini, and Taurus.
Natural, untreated emeralds are rarer than diamonds, making them one of the most expensive gemstones on the market. However, the price of emeralds varies greatly, ranging from a few hundred dollars per carat to a little under $20,000 per carat, although the most expensive emeralds can cost up to $100,000 or more. Synthetic emeralds and stones of poor quality are generally more affordable.
Although anyone can wear emerald stone, they are said to be particularly advantageous for those born under the following signs: Taurus, Libra, Virgo, Gemini, Aquarius, and Capricorn.
Emeralds are thought to possess many advantages for the body, mind, and soul. They are believed to promote concentration and awareness, as well as a deeper understanding of oneself. Emeralds also bestow wisdom and work to improve memory. Some also believe that emeralds can be used to see into the future.
Emerald has a hardness rating of 7.5 to 8 on the Moh’s Scale, meaning it cannot be easily scratched. However, emerald tends to be brittle due to the natural imperfections in each gem. So, unless you plan on mounting the stone in a protective setting, emerald rings are not particularly suitable for everyday wear.
With a rating of 7.5 to 8 on the Moh’s Scale, emerald is a relatively hard gemstone. However, natural emeralds are notorious for having inclusions, which can make them prone to breakage. Emeralds are, therefore, a poor choice for engagement rings since they are more likely to get knocked about with daily wear.
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