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Birthstone of the Month for May: Emerald

Emerald

Last month, we talked about diamonds, and in the advent of May, it’s time for the emerald to shine.

This gem is the birthstone for May and a beautiful choice for spring with its vibrant and vivid green hues. Emeralds are a variety of the mineral beryl and form when chromium, vanadium and iron are present in it. Contrary to diamonds, some inclusions are expected in the emerald, as this stone is not as tough, but they do not detract from its value.

Why are emeralds held in such high regard and what makes them the special gems that they are?

Image: 18ct White Gold 0.84ct Emerald & Diamond Double Halo Dress Ring

History of the Emerald

The name ‘emerald’ comes from the vulgar Latin ‘esmaralda/esmaraldus’, a variant of the Latin ‘smaragdus’, a word that means ‘green’. Emeralds were once believed to give the ability to see the future and the truth, as well as to cure diseases and protect against evil forces.

We can trace the history of emerald mining to Ancient Egypt and Cleopatra, as the first known emerald mines date back from, at least, 300 BC in Egypt. Cleopatra was said to love these gemstones and often wore them in her royal adornments. Ancient Egyptians were also buried with an emerald, which was meant to symbolise protection and eternal youth.

In the 16th century, Conquistadores from Spain discovered the South American mines that were hidden by the Muzo Indians of Colombia, which sparked a supply of emeralds into Europe.

These bewitching gemstones can be found all over the world, from Colombia to Zambia. However, high-quality emeralds can be difficult to find, which is why some undergo treatments to improve their clarity.

Properties of the Emerald

The four Cs used to grade diamonds also apply to emeralds: colour, clarity, cut and carat weight.

Colour and Clarity

Typically, colour is the most important criterion when choosing an emerald. The more vivid and rich the green, the more valuable the gem is. The rarest of emeralds appear to have a bluish tint to them as well. However, clarity also matters, with the finest of emeralds possessing a high degree of transparency.

Cut

The cut is also an important property of this stone, as it helps to enhance the desirable green hue. The emerald cut is often the preferred choice since it can minimize inclusions while maximising sparkle.

Carat and Size

Often, emerald pricing will depend on the size of the stones as well, which is something not usually found in other gemstones. This means that there can be a considerable difference in price range, with bigger and, therefore, higher carat, emeralds being more expensive.

Inclusions

As we’ve mentioned, the internal fractures that emeralds possess do not necessarily diminish their value. On the contrary, if these inclusions form an aesthetically pleasing pattern, the value of the stone may rise. This pattern is called a jardin (garden, in French) and is as unique to each emerald as fingerprints are to each person. Inclusions can be anything, from hairline fissures to air bubbles.

Image: 18ct White Gold Rubelite, Emerald and Tanzanite Dress Ring with Diamond Halo

Famous Emeralds Around the World

Emeralds have been appreciated and prized throughout history for their beauty, and many of these gemstones have even gained incredible historic significance that we can see today. Some emeralds belong to a celebrity’s collection, others are in a museum, but what they all have in common is just how delicate and desirable they are.

Some of the most famous emeralds include:

  • Bvlgari Emerald and Diamond Suite – this collection was gifted to Elizabeth Taylor by her husband, Richard Burton, and included a necklace, a brooch, a ring, a bracelet and a pair of drop earrings, which totalled a value of approximately $100 million (or around £70 million).
  • ‘Elephant Diamond’ – named so because the jewel used to adorn one of Jagatjit Singh’s, the Raja of Kapurthala, royal elephants. When Spanish flamenco dancer Anita Delgado became his fifth wife, she was promised the crescent-shaped emerald if she learnt Urdu – she did and, on her 19th birthday, her husband gifted her with the stone, which she set as a brooch in Paris.
  • Imperial Crown of State – emeralds can be found in some of the most beautiful and famous pieces around the world, which includes the Imperial Crown of State. There are 11 emeralds in this stunning crown, alongside 5 rubies, 17 sapphires, 277 pearls and 2,783 diamonds.
  • Maximilian Emerald – this 21.04-carat Colombian emerald belonged to Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, Archduke of Austria, and possesses a grass-green colour and beautiful clarity. The stone was set in a ring and remounted in 1949 by Cartier into its current setting. This gorgeous piece has been donated to the Smithsonian Institute.

Emeralds at Banks Lyon

We stock many jewellery pieces at Banks Lyon that focus on this May birthstone, as you can find here. From rings to pendants and earrings, emeralds can add a touch of luxury, elegance and beauty to any piece. Perfect to be worn in engagement rings, during special occasions, or even as an everyday statement piece, the aesthetic appeal of the emerald is undeniable.

Worn by celebrities and royalty alike, what better gemstone than the emerald to complement your spring wardrobe this season?

Image: 18ct White Gold 0.77ct Emerald and Diamond Cluster Pendant

Contact us today to learn more about our beautiful jewellery ranges or pop into our Lancaster (01524 38 10 20) and Kendal (01539 73 03 00) stores to see our stunning emerald jewellery pieces for yourself. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay on top of our latest arrivals.