Emeralds have been revered for their radiant green color since ancient times. Indeed, one of the most influential women in history, the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, is said to have had a particular fondness for these green gems.
Emerald is also the birthstone for all born in May and the traditional gemstone for the 20th wedding anniversary. In addition, emerald comprises one of the “Big Four” gemstones, along with diamond, ruby, and sapphire. Together, these gems generate more economic activity than all the other gemstones combined and often fetch premium prices.
Read on to find out more about emeralds, their properties and uses in jewelry, as well as emerald treatments, cleaning, and care.
Emeralds are a variety of the beryl mineral family characterized by their verdant green hue. Chromium and vanadium are the elements responsible for coloring these stones but note that only gems that exhibit a rich shade of green can be labeled emeralds. Gems that are pale green in color are termed “green beryls” and differ enormously in terms of price. Some emeralds also exhibit secondary yellow or blue tones due to trace amounts of iron, but specimens with a blue-green hue are generally the more sought-after color variety in this case.
With a rating of 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale for mineral hardness, emerald is fairly scratch resistant and will hold up well in a pair of earrings, pendant, or brooch. That being said, emeralds are notoriously brittle gemstones due to their numerous inclusions, which sometimes include surface-reaching fractures. Thus, emeralds make poor gemstones for rings and bracelets since these are more likely to come into contact with hard surfaces and are prone to abrasion.
While you will be hard-pressed to find an emerald without inclusions since these are a natural characteristic of these precious stones, you will find that most emeralds are typically oil-treated to improve their clarity.
However, although the oil treatment might enhance the gemstone’s appearance, it usually does not improve its durability, and fracture-filled emeralds should be treated with care.
Cleaning emeralds requires some extra care and should only be done when necessary. Commercial jewelry cleaners, such as steam and ultrasonic cleaners, are not recommended for these precious gemstones since these can remove oils and other fracture fillings. Instead, a gentle wash in warm water with a mild soap is the safest way to clean emerald jewelry. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to do this:
The best method for cleaning loose emeralds and emerald jewelry is to use warm soapy water and a soft cloth to remove built-up oils and grime. You can also use a soft toothbrush to gently scrub those hard-to-reach areas in a jewelry setting where dirt accumulated. Afterward, rinse the stones with lukewarm water and gently pat dry with a microfiber cloth.
An ultrasonic cleaner is not recommended for cleaning emerald jewelry. The chemicals and vibrations of these commercial jewelry cleaners can dilute or remove the oil treatment of the emerald and may even cause the stone to crack.
Emerald has a hardness rating of 7.5 to 8, 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 Mohs hardness scale, emerald is a relatively hard gemstone. However, a gem’s hardness only refers to its resistance to scratching and not its ability to withstand blows. Unfortunately, natural emeralds usually possess a large number of inclusions, making them rather fragile in this regard. They, therefore, make poor stones for engagement rings, which are generally exposed to a lot of wear.
That being said, you could always opt for a synthetic emerald. Synthetic emeralds are still real emeralds but tend to have fewer inclusions and are generally more affordable, making them more practical for an emerald engagement ring.
The chemicals and vibrations of a commercial jewelry cleaner can dissolve or remove the oil used in fracture filling emeralds. As such, it is not advisable to clean your emerald jewelry with one of these cleaners. In addition, the high-frequency vibrations of ultrasonic devices can cause jewelry settings to loosen.
The safest way to clean emerald rings and other jewelry is with a solution of warm soapy water and a soft toothbrush or cloth.
Emerald rings can get wet, but they should not be fully submerged in water for prolonged periods. Therefore, avoid wearing your emerald ring during bathing, swimming, or washing dishes. It is also advisable to remove your ring when performing various physical activities such as exercising or lifting weights.
It is not generally recommended to shower with gemstone jewelry; emerald engagement rings included.
Most emeralds typically receive oil treatments that enhance their natural beauty by reducing the appearance of visible inclusions. However, the oil can evaporate, dissolve or leach out of the stone, so emeralds need to be re-oiled every so often to maintain their beauty.
Cedarwood oil is the most commonly used oil for treating emeralds because it is a natural colorless substance with a refractive ratio similar to the stone itself.
Emerald is softer than the other precious gemstones typically used in making fine jewelry: diamond, sapphire, and ruby. However, it is still a relatively scratch-resistant stone, with a hardness of 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale. Nevertheless, emeralds are fragile gemstones due to their many internal defects and require proper care to keep them looking their best.
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