By: Diane Nicole Go, GIA Graduate Gemologist
When we’re talking about green stones, the first thing that comes to mind is an Emerald. It is a popular choice for those who love its rich hue, to the point that the word “emerald” is used to describe anything that is verdant.
Emerald is the birthstone for those who are born in May and serves as the perfect gift for those celebrating their twentieth and thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. Bright and vibrant like a spring day come to life, Emeralds come in a green color that ranges from a yellowish green hue to a lush forest green.
The word “Emerald” originated from the Greek word smaragdos, which means green gem. It was described by Roman author Pliny the Elder as “nothing greens greener” in his encyclopedic Natural History. It was also mentioned in his writings that emerald has therapeutic properties—pleasing to the eyes, comforting and capable of removing weariness. And it rings true. Modern Science has proven that green is a calming color that helps with eye strain.
Just like Ruby and Sapphire, Emerald is part of the Big Three: popular gemstones that have been revered for thousands of years. Emeralds have caught the eye of royals— from Inca emperors to Egyptian pharaohs like Cleopatra, who often used it in her adornments and jewelry. Even the Spanish have set their eyes on this green gem during their conquests. The Crown of the Andes, which was fashioned in colonial South America, serves as testament to their love for Emeralds. Even the Atahualpa emerald, which was taken from the last Inca emperor, and the treasures recovered from sunken Spanish galleon ships show just how many Emeralds and gold were sent to Spain.
Emerald is the green variant of the Beryl family, and one of the more popular stones. However, not all green beryl gems are considered as Emeralds—they need to have a specific color to qualify. Stones that are too light don’t usually count. In order to qualify as an Emerald, the stone needs to have a yellowish green to bluish green hue, although a saturated pure green color is often prized.
Emerald ranges from a 7.5 to an 8 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, but its abundance of fractures makes it susceptible to damage when not handled properly. As such, this stone is often treated, either through dyeing to enhance its color, or via fracture filling with the use of resins or oils. This help improve its overall appearance, and while minor treatments do not affect its value, significant treatment to the stone may lower its value.
This green gem can form in two ways: hydrothermal veins from hot water that escaped from magma deep in the Earth’s crust, or in pegmatite deposits, which originated from molten rock. Due to the rough formation, Emeralds often come with many inclusions or patterns— known as an Emerald’s jardine (French for “garden”) because of its mossy appearance.
Colombia is known as a source of the finest Emeralds, making it the standard by which all other stones are measured. Muzo, Chivor and Coscuez are the three noteworthy Colombian mines that produce a wide range of colors. In general, darker green stones come from Muzo, while slightly bluish green ones come from Chivor, and slightly yellowish green ones come from Coscuez. Emeralds can also be found in Africa, particularly in Zambia, or in Middle Eastern countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Emeralds were once believed to help foresee the future when placed under the tongue, and can even reveal truths and protect the wearer from evil spells. It was even believed to help you become an eloquent speaker.
Emerald is a protective stone of the heart, which gives you the courage to love and be loved. It connects with the heart chakra and gives you strength to express your love to those who understand and appreciate you. Its rich shade of green also symbolizes rebirth and renewal, making it a good stone for those who want to start over or transition into something new. This makes it ideal for reviving passions, be it for a person or job. To attract romantic love, wear an Emerald as a necklace or brooch near the heart.
In terms of emotions, Emerald is nurturing and calming, especially when it comes to your emotions. It helps activate artistic creativity and stimulating understanding within a group of people. It is a great support stone to carry around in your workplace, as it helps increase mental awareness, strengthens memory and helps you become more eloquent and expressive when talking. This inspires truthfulness, which is key in establishing a trust and love within people.
Crystal Vaults (https://www.crystalvaults.com/crystal-encyclopedia/emerald) Energy Muse (https://www.energymuse.com/emerald-stone.html)
CARE AND CLEANING
Emerald requires special care, since it comes with many fractures and inclusions. In any circumstance, never expose it to harsh chemicals and solvents. Do NOT clean it with an ultrasonic cleaner, since the heat and vibrations may dislodge the filling or make the fractures bigger. The safest way to clean an Emerald is with warm (NOT hot), soapy water and a soft brush.
If you plan on wearing your Emerald as a ring or bracelet, it is important to be very careful with it. Don’t knock it into things a lot, otherwise you risk damaging your stone. Make sure to store it separately from diamond jewelry, since that can scratch your stone. It is recommended to wear Emeralds as earrings or necklaces, since it isn’t constantly subjected to movement.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT EMERALD
An Emerald with an evenly distributed color that is bluish green to pure green, vividly saturated and with a mid-range tone are often sought-after. The more vivid the color, and the purer the green, the higher the value. Choose more transparent the stones too, since it is of better quality than the cloudy ones.
Emeralds are often cut in a step-cut (Emerald Cut) to follow its original shape. This allows the cutter to maximize the stone and showcase its unique pattern. The result is lively and bright stone. But note that Emeralds can also be cut in many fancy shapes. Here, you can choose based on your preference, but make sure to note the symmetry of the stone. The more proportional and symmetrical, the better.
Emeralds often contain inclusions, some of which are very noticeable even to the unaided eye. But these are acceptable, as they are a result of its formation. Eye-clean Emeralds, however, fetch high prices because they’re rare. When choosing an Emerald, you will always find one with liquid inclusions that look like swirling patterns, or those with crystals in them. And that’s all right. Just make sure your stone doesn’t have any large chips and cracks, since this affects the durability of the stone.
Emeralds come in many sizes, from melees used to accentuate pieces, or even large center stones. Some rare ones weigh hundreds of carats, and are displayed in museums, or kept by collectors. With all other factors constant, the larger the size, the higher the price. In choosing the right size, it is important to consider your budget and where you will use the stone: as a pendant, brooch, ring or earring.
Emeralds may come with a wealth of history, but they are far from being old-fashioned pieces. With the right design and setting, you can own a modern Emerald piece that will make you the center of attention. Whether you choose to mount it in vibrant yellow gold, or in subtle white gold, Emeralds add a pop of color to your outfit, much like spring in bloom.