Emerald is one of the 4 stones though of as precious stones for centuries, alongside Diamond, Ruby and Sapphire. Emerald is the green gem variety of the mineral Beryl, whose other forms include Aquamarine, when it is blue, and Morganite when it is pink. It gets it's green colour from trace elements in the crystal such as Chromium or Vanadium (although Beryl coloured green by Vanadium is generally not regarded as a "true" Emerald). It is the birthstone for the month of May, and for the sign of Cancer.
The name Emerald derives from the Greek smaragdos, which means "green stone", although it is probable that this name which was given to many green stones in ancient times that were thought to be Emerald were probably something else. They are very rarely transparent, and often full of inclusions, which are referred to as jardin, French for "garden". They are brittle and difficult to cut, and are often oiled to hide imperfections, and as such synthetic Emeralds are widely popular on the market.
Trapiche Emeralds are a very rare crystal growth formation that appears as a six spoked wheel when cut through. They are found in only a few mines in Columbia.
The first Emerald mines were active in Egypt from around 330BC, and it was a popular gemstone for the Egyptian Pharohs. The Hebrew Bible tells that Emeralds were one of the four gemstones that King Solomon was given by God, these gems enabled him to rule over all of creation. Other civilisations and tribes throughout history have also prized emeralds, believing that an emerald under the tongue helped to see the future and see truth. In ancient Peru, the city of Manta worshipped a giant Emerald the size of an ostrich egg, which they named Umina, and they honoured the “mother” Emerald by encouraging worshippers to bring smaller “daughter” Emeralds to her.
There is a story about the tomb of a prince of a Cypriot Island called Hermias, which had a statue of a marble lion to guard it. This statue had eyes of Emerald, which were said to flash so brightly that they scared away all the fish from the water, causing the nearby fishery to suffer. Nobody could figure out what was causing this problem, until the eyes were removed.
Emeralds were also believed to be very beneficial to the sight. Roman Emperor Nero, who was extremely short sighted, would use an emerald that had been hollowed out to view the gladiator fights through. It is more probable that the concave lens carving was more helpful than the direct gem viewing aid, but lens and glasses were not well known then. Gem carvers and engravers would gaze upon an emerald to rest and refresh their tired eyes, and they kept the gem explicitly for this purpose.
Famous Emeralds include the Medusa Emerald, the Chalk Emerald, the Emerald Unguentarium in the Viennese treasure and an Emerald watch from a buried collection. The Medusa Emerald is a cluster of elongated slender crystals that was encased in a quartz rock, and took months to carefully cut away the matrix to reveal the breathtaking specimen. It is now on display in the London Natural History Museum. The Chalk Emerald is regarded as one of the world's finest Emeralds, a deep green Columbian beauty. It weighs 37.8 carats and is set in a ring alongside 60 pear cut diamonds, and is on display in Washington's Natural History Museum. The Emerald Watch is part of the Cheapside Hoard discovered in Cheapside, London in 1912. It is thought to date from around 1600, and is made from a single hollowed out crystal. The Emerald Unguentarium is another example of a carving from a single crystal - only this Columbian beauty is 2,680 carats in weight - or an incredible 536g! It is an irregularly shaped vase commissioned in 1641 that is stored in the Viennese treasury, the crystal it was carved from was possibly the largest in the world at that time.
Even ancient civilisations had problems with fake gemstones though – the Sacro Catino which was used at The Last Supper was thought to be made out of a single giant emerald of unimaginable value, but the French more recently proved it to be glass. The Sinhalese also created “emeralds” by cutting out the bottom of wine bottles and faceting them to sell to sailors.
Emerald Metaphysical Properties include:
- Promotes harmony, truthfulness and trust
- Helps with successful love
- Promotes focus, loyalty and sensitivity
- Eliminates negativity
- Improves memory and patience
- Encourages honesty
- Boosts vitality
- Helps calm bad tempers
Find our Emerald collection here.