As the birthstone for May, the emerald, a symbol of rebirth, is believed to grant the owner foresight, good fortune, and youth. Emerald, derived from the word “smaragdus,” means, quite literally, “green” in Greek. Like aquamarine, emerald is a variety of beryl, a mineral that grows with six sides and up to a foot in length. Emerald color can range from light green (though there is some argument whether these very light beryls are truly emeralds) to a deep, rich green. Emeralds are also like aquamarine in that the way the color is presents itself in jewelry depends on a good cut by a skilled gemologist. The deeper or more green an emerald, the more valuable it is. The rarest emeralds will appear to be an intense green-blue. Emeralds are found all over the world, including Colombia, Brazil, Afghanistan and Zambia. The availability of high-quality emerald is limited; consequently, treatments to improve clarity are performed regularly.
The emerald was mined in Egypt as early as 330 BC, but some estimate that the oldest emeralds are 2.97 billion years old. Cleopatra is perhaps the most famous historical figure to cherish emeralds. She even claimed ownership of all emerald mines in Egypt during her reign. The Egyptians used emeralds both in jewelry, and in their elaborate burials, often burying emeralds with monarchs as symbols of protection. On the other side of the world, the Muzo Indians of Colombia had well-hidden and prized emerald mines. These mines were so hidden, it took the Spanish conquistadors nearly twenty years to find them. Like other gemstones, the emerald was believed to have many mystical powers that accompanied its beauty. There were those who thought the emerald could cure stomach problems, control epilepsy and stop bleeding. Maybe due to its soothing green color, it was also thought to be able to ward off panic and keep the wearer relaxed and serene. Today, emerald is a symbol of loyalty, new beginnings, peace and security, making it not only a beautiful gem to wear, but also a meaningful gift to be treasured by the receiver. It is still widely prized by the rich and famous, with Elizabeth Taylor’s famous emerald pendant selling for $6.5 million in 2011.
Like the diamond and other gemstones, emeralds can be judged according to the 4Cs: color, cut, clarity and carat weight. These gems are highly prized and intensely colored ones can be quite rare, so make sure that you visit a trusted AGS jeweler who can help you make an informed investment. Most gemologists agree that it all comes down to color when purchasing an emerald. Color should be evenly distributed and not too dark. Rare emeralds will appear as a deep green-blue, while lighter colored gems are more common (and therefore, often more reasonably priced). Like other beryls, emeralds often have inclusions that are visible without a microscope. Most gemologists readily accept this about these gemstones and don’t detract too much from the overall value of the stone when inclusions are present. Again, it’s all about the hue and saturation of the gem! Cut is very important on an emerald because it helps to maximize that desirable green color. Many emeralds are cut into an emerald shape, which helps to make a bright stone with sparkle while minimizing inclusions or fissures. Unlike some gemstones, which can maintain a relatively standard price range no matter the size, you will see a wide price range between smaller emeralds and larger ones. Some of the most famous emeralds in private collections or museums today are literally hundreds of carats and are considered to be priceless. Angelina Jolie, Elizabeth Taylor, and the British monarchy all have worn famously large and beautiful emerald jewelry.