Thursday, May 21, 2015

The May Birthstone - Emerald

Emeralds are the traditional birthstone for May and one of the most valuable of all gemstones. Although the word emerald derives from the Ancient Greek for "green gemstone", they are more than 20 times rarer than diamonds, and the best quality emeralds are more valuable than diamonds!

These fascinating gemstones are a member of the Beryl family, which includes blue aquamarine and pink morganite. Pure Beryl is colourless, but traces of chromium and vanadium in the Beryl produces the green colour of emeralds.

Emerald Crystals. Photo © globe-views.com


Only Beryl gems that are medium to dark green in tone are considered emerald, with the most prized stones being transparent and a vivid green with lots of depth. During the 1960s, the American jewellery industry redefined emeralds to include beryls with vanadium inclusions (confusingly often referred to as "Colombian Emeralds"), but these are not recognised as true emeralds in the UK or Europe.

Like other members of the Beryl family, emeralds feature large and perfect six sided crystals. But unlike other Beryls, which are hard and durable stones, emeralds are brittle and their resistance to breakage is poor. They also have a tendency to crack if subjected to extreme temperature fluctuations.

Emerald Crystals. Photo © fieldgemology.org


Unlike diamonds, emeralds are graded by eye. An emerald with no visible inclusions would be considered flawless - but it is extremely rare to find an emerald like this! Most emeralds contain inclusions and a cloudiness - known as jardin - that can be seen by the naked eye. Interestingly, it is the presence of these flaws that tell an expert where the emerald originated.

Because of the presence of flaws, emeralds are a difficult gemstone to cut - so much so that the bevelled edge "emerald cut" was specially developed. For centuries, emeralds have been oiled to improve their clarity, and some stones are dyed to improve their colour. As a result, emeralds should never be washed with soap or in an ultrasonic jewellery cleaner as this can remove the oil and reveal hidden flaws in the stone.

An "Emerald Cut" Emerald. Photo © Gemfields Mine, Zambia


Nowadays the best emeralds nowadays are mined in Colombia, Brazil and Zambia, before being sent to the emerald capital of the world, Jaipur, for cutting and polishing. But emeralds have a long history. They were first mined at least 4,000 years ago in Egypt, although "Cleopatra's Mines" had been exhausted long before they were rediscovered in the 19th century.

The Incas regarded the emerald as a holy gemstone, while the Mughal Emperors associated it with paradise (emerald green is the official colour of Islam). One of the largest emeralds ever found is the "Mogul Emerald", which was mined in Colombia and weighs a massive 217.80 carats. It was carved in around 1695, with a Shi'ite prayer on the front and a flower and leav design on the back. In 2001, this amazing emerald was sold by Christies in London for over $2million USD.

The Mogul Emerald © Christies.com


Judy

16 comments :

Mollie Ann said...

What a beautiful way to get an *Emerald* education! Always so much to learn, and this is the place to learn it!!!

Gemstones on My Mind said...

How gorgeous! I'm not sure why, but Emeralds are special to me... Wonderful post and informative too!

Jet Central said...

Awesome info, thank you Judy!

Jean Sandell said...

Facinating!!!

Gloria Flynn - EarthEnergyGemstones said...

I've always loved emeralds and had one in my wedding ring. They're so beautiful! Loved reading more about them and discovering so many things I didn't know.

Urban Pearl Studio said...

The color is captivating!
Thank you for sharing!!

mjsee said...

I learned a thing today! I'd not heard of the Moghul Emerald. Fascinating. Thank you!

Brooke said...

My birthstone, I had not really liked green but now I know how valuable Emerald is and can appreciate it, and green can be pretty too, thanks for the info!

Michele said...

Interesting facts about Emerald, gorgeous and precious!!!

SendingLoveGallery said...

Great post Judy! fascinating information about emerald which is one of my favorite gemstones~

Jennifer said...

That was a fascinating read! Thanks so much for sharing this.

Ida said...

Great information, Judy. Thank you!

LoveStoneArts said...

I'm so glad to learn more about emeralds. Also glad that I didn't know how brittle they are when I made a custom emerald ring! Thanks for an excellent piece.

Beadsme said...

Just love emeralds. Interesting post.

WanderingJewel said...

Beautiful green stones

TheBrassHussy said...

Can't imagine having a 217 carat emerald. Emeralds are such a gorgeous stone!