Emeralds. They're one of the most precious gems and green beryl stones out there, and they're perfect for those who want to make a statement with their jewellery. An ancient symbol of successful love and renewal, the emerald stone belongs to the beryl family and has been prized for centuries.
What exactly are emerald crystals though, and how do they differ from other green stones such as chrysoberyl or green aventurine? What qualities should you be looking for in high-quality stones and where can you buy this gorgeous green beryl from? Well, that's just the tip of this iceberg! Get ready to read about everything you need to know about emeralds!
The Name Emerald
The name emerald comes from the ancient Persian word "smaragdos" which means green stone. The first known emerald mines were discovered in Egypt. The Ancient Egyptians began excavating these emerald mines and trading the mineral beryl stones over 4000 years ago! Cleopatra herself was known to be particularly partial to emeralds and loved the green colour. Connected to the heart chakra, emerald is said to be the stone of successful love and in ancient times was associated with the goddess Venus.
In recent times, the actress Elizabeth Taylor collected and wore fabulous pieces of fine emerald jewellery and would often combine emerald with diamonds. In 2011, her Bulgari emerald and diamond necklace sold at auction for over 6 million dollars!
Emerald's deep green-ray colour gives the lush land of Ireland its name the Emerald Isle, and Seattle is known as The Emerald City.
Where are Emeralds Sourced?
Emeralds have been discovered on every continent, but it is generally agreed that the best stones are mined in Columbia. Zambian emeralds are of very high quality. Brazil, Pakistan and the Panna district of Madhya Pradesh India also produce emeralds. Historically, in South America, emeralds were even used as currency and were accepted as payment by the Inca.
In the Bible, it is said that the emerald was one of the four precious stones given by God to King Solomon to award him power over creation. It is said that the emerald increases fortune but can also bring bad luck if it falls into another's hands, which explains why it's protected as much as it is in scripture. Its healing properties are still vastly speculated to this day and much has been studied with regard to emerald symbolism.
Alternatives to Emeralds
As with so much in this modern-day world, there is always an alternative to the natural true emerald. Hydrothermal synthetic emeralds are an example of this, as they provide an alternative to traditional untreated natural emeralds at a fraction of the price because they are grown in a lab. There are a variety of synthetic stones on the market today, so it is always best to check with the jeweller you are buying from.
The Green Stone
The emerald derives its beautiful green colour from elements such as chromium, iron or vanadium which are all found in the mineral known as 'beryl'. the family to which emeralds belong. It was from an emerald that the element beryllium was discovered. The French pharmacist, Nicholas Louis Vauquelin, was the first person to confirm the presence of beryllium in emerald. It wasn't until 1928, however, that this metal was isolated by the German chemist Friedrich Wöhler who extracted it from beryllium chloride (BeCl2) by reacting it with potassium.
How To Assess the Quality of Emeralds
The most important factor when choosing an emerald is the colour. With all the green hues ranging from blue-green to green being most desirable, with strong saturation and lightish tone. A gemstone's saturation refers to how strong and intense its colour is. The deep green ray colour and bright saturated stones come at a much higher price.
Pieces can vary in size, shape, and colour but it's important to remember that both natural and synthetic stones have been known to be treated with oil, wax, or resin to improve their appearance during cutting as well as make them more durable for daily wear.
These treatments should not harm your stone. That being said, some treatments may affect the value of your emerald. An emerald treated with solid epoxy-like resin will appear less bright and will lose some of its value compared to those treated with colourless oil.
There are some key factors to consider when choosing an emerald. Here is a list of what to look for when assessing the quality of an emerald:
Clarity: Most emeralds are naturally included stones, and these inclusions can vary in size and quantity. A good emerald will be mostly clear with slight hints of cloudiness or haziness throughout rather than being completely cloudy all over. If you see an emerald where you cannot distinguish any flaws, it's likely not real as nature does not produce perfection like this (at least not at a reasonable price).
Fluorescence: Emeralds may fluoresce red under both longwave UV (LW) light and shortwave UV (SW) light. Some gemstones may also show other colours such as white when exposed to SWUV because of the various ways that elements are arranged within the stone.
Tone: The tone is a measure of how dark or light green an emerald stone appears to be and it can affect its value quite considerably even if there are few inclusions.
Saturation: This refers to the intensity of the emerald's colour and is directly related to the measure of chromium and vanadium content.
Inclusions: Inclusions in a gemstone refer to any mineral or material present within the stone itself, such as other crystals or gemstones, liquid, gas or radioactive material. These can affect the clarity of the stone and therefore its value or purpose. That being said, we find some inclusions only add to the beauty of the gemstones. Emerald inclusions are referred to as the Jardin, the French word for garden, as the inclusions resemble mossy tendrils or grass. The Jardin is an attractive feature of emeralds and perfectly acceptable.
Cut: There are so many different types of cuts for emeralds, some more flattering than others depending on the shape but there is one thing they all have in common and that's their brilliance. A diamond may be brilliant but it can't hold a candle to the shine of an emerald when it catches the light.
What Is the 'Emerald Cut'?
The emerald cut is one of the most popular shapes for pieces of jewellery. It is a fabulous cut for large green stones to show off the amazing colour and shine.
The emerald cut is also used for other gemstones like sapphires, rubies and diamonds. The International Gem Society provides excellent information on different gemstone cuts.
The Ideal Cut for Coloured Precious Gemstones Will Have:
- A crown that consists mainly of near-perfect step cuts (or in the case of sapphires, a combination of step cuts with brilliant round faceting)
- An intense brilliance is created by a combination of facets and reflections.
- A table that is large enough to provide this effect, but not so near that it will look too large or 'fat' in proportion with the rest of the stone.
Metaphysical Properties of the Green Variety
You may be reading this with some level of scepticism or in total acceptance of emerald stone meaning. Either way, the reported metaphysical properties of this excellent stone are quite the read.
The green-ray energy reflected in emerald stimulates the heart chakra. Therefore, emerald healing properties are said to heal both the physical heart and emotional love (not too dissimilar to rose quartz, which purifies and opens the heart - what a powerful and complementary pair!).
Emerald stones as healing crystals have also been associated with various healing properties:
- Eternal life
- Infinite patience
- Domestic bliss
- Soothing energy
- Emotional healing
- Unconditional love
- Good health
- Psychic abilities
Maybe we should all run out to hunt down a large emerald and harness this excellent stone for its beautiful energy!
The International Gem Society is a recognised authority on gemstones that has a lot of information about emeralds and deems emeralds as one of the "most popular gems" in addition to saying that it is known as a symbol for hope and rebirth.
The 'Gemological Institute of America' (GIA) was founded in 1931 and has since become the world's foremost authority on gemstones, coloured stones and diamonds. The 'GIA' is the most widely recognised and therefore trusted organisation on the topic. They set the standard for evaluating and grading the quality of natural gemstones. It is through the work of the GIA that an emerald’s value is determined.
The emerald stone is said to provide mental clarity, beautiful energy, honesty and hope in the wearer. It is thought that they can help you gain self-confidence, love yourself for who you really are and bring out your spiritual side and thus make it easier to recognise the path of life that lies ahead of you.
The emerald is supposed to bring good health and emotional healing and is connected with the heart chakra.
The emerald stone is known as the birthstone for the month of May and many people associate emerald with 55th anniversaries. Emerald is also the zodiac stone for the sign Taurus and is connected with the planet Venus and planet Mercury.
The History of the Emerald Stone and Emerald Symbolism.
Emerald symbolism has long been associated with hope, love and health and this gemstone has a deep history behind it that can be traced back many centuries in numerous different cultures around the world.
The ancient Egyptians were some of the first people to use emeralds for adornment by using them as eyes for their gods who would watch over them protecting them from evil spirits while they slept. They also believed that wearing an emerald could help cure illness or even counteract poison if worn close enough to one's body.
Above all other stones, the emerald was considered beneficial against nightmares when sleeping. They also became popular for use during childbirth and women would wear these green stones during their pregnancy. An emerald would then also be placed in the birthing bed and close to them during their labour.
It was as recently as this year that a paper was published regarding emerald mining in the Mons Smaragdus region in the Egyptian Eastern desert. Ancient buildings were discovered that are believed to have been the operational centre for mining of the beryl mineral family, including emerald.
Research is still underway to determine the exact process the Egyptians used to mine emeralds. when more is known, this will shed light on a period that has long been shrouded in mystery and speculation and add tangible context of the civilisation as a whole.
How Best to Showcase Your Emerald?
To best showcase your emerald, you may consider any of the following:
- An emerald ring(a yellow gold setting is a good choice)
- A pendant necklace will display your emerald stone beautifully.
- Earrings are wonderful for showing off an emerald because of their positioning for catching the light.
This being said, however, you choose to wear your emerald jewellery - from the most delicately carved emeralds to one the size of an ostrich egg - one thing you cannot overlook is the setting. There are thousands of different settings for emerald jewellery and it can be overwhelming to try and find the perfect one for you.
The simplest trick in the book - find the one that will let in the most light! Emeralds are known for their vibrant green colour so show it off. You'll want to find a setting that allows the light to shine through your emerald and enhance its natural beauty!
Gold, Silver, Platinum - How to Choose?!
Yellow gold is often the metal of choice as the yellow-green combination really does complement the green crystals and make the emerald's green colour truly POP! Having said that, it really is a personal choice.
Our only advice, make sure you're setting your quality emerald stone in quality metal.
The hallmark is what you should be looking for! Why? The hallmark will tell you the metal purity and sometimes details of the maker. The hallmark will likely be stamped discreetly on the inside of your jewellery.
This is why it's important to choose a reputable retailer, as they will know what information you need and where to find it... otherwise, it's all just guesswork! It truly does come down to personal choice but we think platinum or 18ct gold is a great choice for setting quality emeralds.
Emerald Carat Weight
Emeralds, similarly to diamonds are weighed in carats. Generally, the higher the carat weight, the more expensive your emerald will be. A common range of carats for an engagement ring is 0.75-0.89 carats and a wedding band would be between .35-.45.
The price per carat for an emerald ranges widely as there are many factors involved, such as natural versus lab-created, the number of inclusions, colour and so on.
When NOT to Wear an Emerald
The emerald crystal structure makes them sensitive to heat, so avoid wearing it when you're exposed to high temperatures for long periods (like baking in the sun).
Emeralds can scratch so be careful when wearing them with other gems, especially those like diamond or sapphire, or when doing anything labour-intensive or involving hard surfaces. Emeralds are also prone to damage from exposure to harsh chemicals (like chlorine).
The last thing you want is your emeralds to scratch or chip, so avoid doing anything that could damage them! If something does happen, take it to a reputable jeweller immediately and get it checked out - they can hopefully re-polish any scratches and make your emerald stone look as good as new again!
The most important thing to remember is that an emerald is a relatively soft stone and therefore requires careful handling. Always treat your jewellery with love and care so it can stay beautiful forever.
Tips for Keeping Your Emerald Jewellery in Tip-top Condition:
- Don't wear your emerald jewellery to the gym or when doing any activities that require you to get sweaty.
- Don't wear emeralds where you might run a risk of getting them scratched.
- Be careful about what cleaning products you use on your emeralds, as some are much harsher than others and can cause damage if used too frequently. Stick to a soft cloth and warm water for the best effect
- Store your emeralds somewhere safe, preferably in their original boxes or wrapped up safely to avoid scratches if they are stored together.
Follow these simple tips for keeping your emerald gemstone looking as good as new and it will last an incredibly long time!
New or Vintage - Which is the Way to Go?
New emerald stones tend to cost more than antique or vintage emerald stones and you possibly have more options of choosing synthetic emerald or natural emeralds.
Buying vintage or antique jewellery containing emerald stones can be a wonderful way of finding beautiful pieces that have been passed down through generations for an incredibly affordable price, without having too much of an impact on the environment.
The joy and excitement with vintage or antique emerald jewellery is that although the complete piece of jewellery itself can usually be dated to a specific year or period, the stone itself... significantly more difficult. Although there will of course still be emeralds in the tombs of Egypt, due to their very nature and value, some from that time will possibly be in circulation today in the form of fine emerald vintage and antique jewellery.
The decision to buy new or vintage will depend entirely upon your personal preference, but you can't go wrong either way especially when you have a third option.
Antique or Vintage Style
You may wish to buy a new piece of emerald jewellery in all its green gem glory but in a design and setting that showcases the very best of antique or vintage design. This is known as 'Vintage or Antique Style'.
Many antique or vintage-style pieces have been beautifully designed by skilled craftsmen to resemble pieces of a bygone era. You can therefore have a brand new piece of jewellery that looks antique or vintage and have the best of both worlds!
Some jewellers can create custom and bespoke pieces that will fit your every need. This is a trend that seems to be on the rise, which can only mean good things for all parties involved! Look at different styles, shapes, cuts, settings and see what you like, then in consultation with your jeweller, you can create something truly personal.
The Largest Emeralds in the World!
The largest emerald in the world is the Bahia Emerald and is estimated to be worth around four hundred million dollars. It was discovered in Brazil back in 2001 but has since been seized by the US Government after a legal battle between the two mining companies who claim ownership of this magnificent emerald. This incredibly large emerald totals 1,700,000 carats and it contains one of the largest single shards and huge chunks of emerald ever found. This amazing green stone weighs approximately 341 kg.
The Emerald Unguentarium is a 2,860 carat (20.18 oz) emerald vase that was carved in 1641. This phenomenal emerald is housed in the Imperial Treasury in Vienna, Austria. Unfortunately, when I visited the treasury it was on loan for future events elsewhere. Needless to say, I was most disappointed!
The Guinness Emerald Crystal is a 1,759-ct (12.4 oz) uncut emerald from the Cosquez mines in Colombia. This amazing green stone is safely housed in the Bank of the Republic of Colombia.
The largest cut emerald in the world is called 'Mogok Green' and was auctioned by Christie's for an incredible thirty million dollars making it not only one of the most valuable gems in the world but also one of the most expensive jewels in history! All in all, emeralds are a magnificent gemstone that has a fascinating history, symbolic meaning and will, without doubt, continue to be prized and coveted across the world.