Presenting the third article in our meet the gemstone series.
Today we are exploring one of Cleopatra’s favourite gems: the beautiful emerald.
One of the world’s most loved and valuable coloured stones, the emerald is one of only four classified precious gemstones — alongside diamond, ruby and sapphire.
Emerald is a variety of the mineral, beryl — much like aquamarine — and it gains its colour from trace amounts of chromium and vanadium.
If you’d like to learn more about this enchanting gemstone, this article dives into the emerald’s colour and strength, the biggest emerald ever found, and much more.
Why is the stone called emerald?
The emerald was first known as “marakata” which had been translated from Sanskrit and meant “the green of growing things.”
Later, the gem was known as “smaragdus” after the Egyptian mines it was found in, and then “esmeralde” in French. Over time, the word then morphed into “emerald”.
What colour is emerald?
Emerald is always green and can range from a blueish green to a yellowish green.
However, only those stones that have a high saturation and dark tone should be labelled emerald; the rest being green beryl.
Despite its rich colour, emerald is usually transparent or translucent.
How strong is emerald?
While emerald boasts a Mohs hardness of 7.5 to 8, which is strong, the stone is usually found to have many inclusions and surface-reaching fractures, which weaken it significantly.
While these inclusions are common, many people are often unaware of them as it has been common practice for hundreds of years to fill these imperfections with a material such as oil or wax.
Untreated, emerald inclusions can be seen with the naked eye, and many more can be seen under magnification. An emerald without such inclusions and fractures would be incredibly rare.
Who does emerald bring luck for?
Emerald is the birthstone for May and is therefore said to bring luck to all who are born in that month.
The precious gem is also said to offer benefit to those born under the star sign of Cancer.
Where is emerald found?
There are four countries at the forefront of the world’s commercial emerald production and they are Colombia, Zambia, Brazil and Zimbabwe. Colombia alone supplies 50 per cent of all mined emerald.
Other countries that supply smaller amounts of the gem include Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Madagascar, Canada and Russia.
How big was the largest emerald ever found?
One of the world’s largest emeralds is the Bahia emerald, which is many crystals of emerald embedded in a large host rock. Found in the Carnaiba Mine in Bahia, Brazil, the rock contains the largest single shard of emerald ever found.
The rock, found in 2001, weighs approximately 341 kg (around 180,000 carats) and is said to be worth $400 million.
Ownership of the Bahia emerald is a complicated affair, with many claiming they own it. Interestingly, it was once listed on eBay at a ‘Buy It Now’ price of $75 million!
What is emerald used for?
Due to the fragility of emerald, it is best used in jewellery settings that protect it rather than present it to situations that could cause it damage.
For this reason, emerald pendants and earrings are popular, as are engagement rings with bezel settings. Emeralds also make excellent accent stones on ring shoulders, if not the main attraction.
Due to the stone’s low density, a 1-carat emerald looks far larger than its true weight, making it a good choice for those who like their jewellery to pop. It also goes without saying that the colour is truly breathtaking.
What are the properties and symbolism of emerald?
Throughout the years, the emerald has symbolised a lot to many.
The Ancient Egyptians believed that the emerald represented love, fertility and rebirth.
It has been said that, in Ancient Rome, Nero watched gladiator fights through a large emerald stone as he found the colour to be calming. Many people today still find the gemstone’s colour to have a calming influence on them.
Many have believed the stone to protect the wearer from illness. The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, said:
“An emerald hung from the neck or worn in a ring will prevent the falling sickness [epilepsy]. We, therefore, commend noblemen that it be hanged about the necks of their children that they fall not into this complaint.”
Ancient folklore suggested that placing an emerald under your tongue would help you to see into the future, and it has long been thought to enhance the wearer’s intuition.
Protection against memory loss is another long-suspected benefit.
A modern perspective is that the emerald offers the wearer wisdom, growth and patience.
You can explore our selection of beautiful emerald jewellery here.