May’s Birthstone: Exquisite Emeralds

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Emeralds couldn’t be more fitting as the birthstone of May, a month that occurs during the peak of the beautiful, verdant Spring season. Emeralds share the same brilliant color as freshly unfolded leaves, ranging in shades from rich blue-green to dark, vivid green. These beautiful gems are members of the beryl family, the same category that Aquamarine falls under.

Emerald has been a treasured gem since the Ancient times. Earning its name from smaragdus, the Greek word for “green,” emerald was thought to heal the eyes and soul, and to protect the wearer from evil spirits and disease. It was also widely believed that emerald could increase a person’s prophetic abilities, allowing them foresight into events of the future.  Cleopatra was particularly fond of emeralds, and used it frequently in her adornments and accessories. The ancient emerald mines of Egypt have been dated back to 300 B.C. with certainty and were producing emeralds until close to 1700; that’s about 2000 years worth of emeralds! Some sources point to even earlier use of Egyptian emerald mines as far back as 3500 B.C.

There are also vast stores of emeralds in Colombia, which the Inca tapped into 500 years before the first Spanish exploration of the New World in the sixteenth century. The Spanish conquistadors confiscated the Incan emeralds and traded them for precious metals, like silver or gold. These trades are what introduced Europe and Asia to the emerald on a larger scale. However, a fair quantity of some of the most valuable emeralds in recorded history are currently at the bottom of the ocean, lost in sunken Spanish ships that never made it back to Europe.

Modern day emeralds come from a variety of locations around the world, including Zambia, Zimbabwe, Russia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Madagascar, Canada and Afghanistan. The most elite, high quality emeralds still come out of South American mines, namely from Colombia and Brazil. Emeralds are a hard stone when in pure form, that are made weaker by many inclusions and surface reaching cracks. It is incredibly rare to find a naturally occurring emerald without any cracks or inclusions.

Emeralds remain one of the most highly coveted gemstones in modern times. Screen sirens like Marlene Dietrich and Elizabeth Taylor were famous for their splendid emerald jewelry. As the gemstone for the 20th and 35th anniversaries, a symbol of prosperity, and the birthstone of May, it’s no wonder they’re so special! Happy birthday, May babies; we hope you have a brilliant year ahead of you!

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