We don’t concern ourselves much with monthly birthstones and such, but it can be a bit of fun, and when it’s one of our favourite gemstones, we certainly don’t mind getting into the spirit of things and celebrating with all you darling buds of May out there, who are lucky enough to have as your birthstone the fabulous EMERALD. We think there are quite possibly a few who are green with envy that they weren’t hatched in the month of May, and get to call this brilliant bijou their birthstone. We dedicate this post to all you May babies, as we discuss everything emerald. From engagement rings to enigmatic gifts, read on to find out a whole lot more about the world’s most gorgeous green gemstone…
WHY ARE EMERALDS THE BIRTHSTONE FOR MAY?
Emeralds are amongst the oldest and most prized precious stones. The Ancient Egyptians mined emeralds and used them widely in their ornaments and jewellery. As did the Greeks and the Romans a little later on (the word emerald comes down to us from the Ancient Greek smaragdos, meaning ‘green stone’. The Incas in South America treasured their emeralds, and the rare rocks were one of the main riches plundered by the Spanish Conquistadors and brought back to Europe in the sixteenth century – along with hordes of silver and gold. Around the same time in the Mughal Empire in India, they were a highly venerated and cherished gemstone, and much elaborate and exquisite jewellery from that epoch features ravishing emeralds.
Emeralds have long been associated with Spring (which begins in May in the Northern Hemisphere) – the colour obviously alludes to verdant fecundity and new growth, like the season. Emeralds are linked with the goddess Venus, which in turn connects the gemstones with notions of romance. Emeralds are believed to be harbingers of passionate and unconditional love. They are said to have a strong link with the future; wearers may be able to see what lies ahead. Emeralds are the precious stone of truth and people used to believe that wearing emeralds could cure diseases and ward off evil spirits.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN SELECTING AN EMERALD:
Whereas choosing a diamond can be rather technical, with emeralds it should generally be a lot more straightforward, because it is all about colour. Emeralds are cherished and desired for the wonderful colour within and the chroma which emanates outwards. Paler emeralds are beautiful but more often the stones with deep and intense colour are considered the most special. Most emeralds these days originate in Columbia. These stones tend to have a very slight bluish tinge to them, which is the most desirable shade of green, as it brings that depth and intensity. Stones of a more yellowish form of green are generally not as sought after, though some can be wonderfully unique to look at. When we compare these aspects of the gem’s colour, we are talking about its hue.
The tone of the emerald’s colour is also an important characteristic. When we are discussing the tone of the stone, we are essentially talking about light versus dark. Dark does not necessarily mean more dramatic. If the tone is too dark, the richness of the green colour can be lost. Of most importance is the saturation of the colour in the stone. This involves both the tone and the hue. It’s often described in terms of dull ranging through to vivid. A stone with a dark tone can have a dull saturation and not look nearly as attractive as another emerald with a light tone yet vivid saturation of colour. Generally, Columbian emeralds with a darkish tone and high saturation will be the most spectacular, and the most valuable.
Colour saturation can be difficult to understand. Often people will use the word intensity when describing an emerald they like the look of, and they are most likely referring to the gem’s colour saturation. Just like clarity, cut, carat etc., saturation of colour is graded as well, with emeralds. Because colour is such a crucial criterion when choosing an emerald, it is definitely best to see it in person, and to discuss the stone’s saturation of colour with an expert. But you can get a good feel for an emerald with a very high quality close-up photograph also.
AN EMERALD GARDEN:
Clarity is not a foremost factor to consider when purchasing an emerald. Not like with diamonds. The characteristic of clarity is not graded when it comes to emeralds. With emeralds, it is expected that they will have inclusions. Nearly all emeralds have them, and it makes them look more interesting. If you see an emerald with no inclusions, it is probably not a natural stone. You do want to carefully study the type of inclusions you see in an individual emerald though. You do not want the sort which resemble bubbles. You do not want inclusions which are right up close to the stone’s surface either. These could lead to stress fractures when wearing the emerald. The inclusions in an emerald are part of its charm, and are known as its ‘jardin’, which is of course French for ‘garden’. Inclusions in an emerald may remind us of plants, roots or branches, and these are also what brings the beautiful green colouration, so the descriptive term is appropriate. Emeralds come from the mineral family ‘Beryl’. Stones from this clan are formed from various liquids and gasses, as well as molecules of chromium and vanadium. Felicitous inclusions are an important element in what makes each emerald unique, so embrace them! However, this is also part of the reason why emeralds are costly. Being heavily included means that producing a gemstone for using in jewellery is a more difficult task. Often around 90% of the rough rock must be cut back to reveal a suitable stone. So, there’s a small yield meaning a higher price per carat.
CUT, CARAT AND CERTIFICATES FOR EMERALDS:
An emerald’s cut is critical, and the best cut is generally agreed to be the emerald cut. This term which we use to describe the square or rectangular type of cut used on diamonds and other precious stones, hails from the fact that it is most typically the best shape in which to present an emerald. Round and oval cuts work well too, but the more fancy cuts are rather rare with emeralds.
Carat weight should not be a prime concern with emeralds, as it is with diamonds. A smaller emerald with fabulous colour is a far better option than a bigger one with average colour.
Certificates and related paperwork are also not as essential as they are when diamond shopping. Do make sure you deal only with absolutely reputable dealers though.
Apart from being May’s birthstone, emeralds are famous for being Cleopatra’s favourite and one of Elizabeth Taylor’s most beloved precious stones. Actually, Taylor was given one of her most prized items of jewellery by Richard Burton when they were making the movie about the Egyptian Queen in Rome.
Jackie Kennedy famously wore a striking and unusual emerald and diamond engagement ring. We often see the glamourous green stones rocking the red carpet on stars like Angelina Jolie and Halle Berry. Emeralds are well publicised in recent years, appearing in the Slytherin House Hourglass from Harry Potter and, also the emerald tiara which Princess Eugenie wore at her wedding – gifted to her grandmother Queen Elizabeth in 1942.
Emeralds were hugely popular in the Art Deco era, so vintage inspired designs are often chosen with emeralds – starring alongside diamonds – in spectacular architectural styles and shapes. Emeralds do look amazing set in yellow gold but platinum works wonderfully also. There are many superlative jewellery items featuring gorgeous emeralds for gifting May babies, and a magnificent emerald makes a fantastic centre stone for a unique and memorable engagement ring, especially if your fiancée is a darling bud of May.