The bright green gem of the beryl mineral family.Author: Hobart M. King, Ph.D., GIA Graduate Gemologist
Emeralds are gem-quality specimens of the beryl mineral family with a rich, distinctly green color. They are found in igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks in a small number of locations worldwide.For over 5000 years, emeralds have been one of the most desirable and valuable colored stones. Ancient civilizations in Africa, Asia, and South America independently discovered emeralds and made them a gemstone of highest esteem. In the United States and many other countries, emerald serves as the birthstone for people who were born in the month of May.Today emerald, together with ruby and sapphire, form the “big three” of colored stones. The “big three” generate more economic activity than all other colored stones combined. In 2015 the value of emeralds imported into the United States exceeded the value of all colored stones outside of the “big three” combined.
Emerald is the green to greenish blue gemstone of the mineral species beryl, the green is caused by the presence of chromium, vanadium or iron (or any combination of those three elements) and includes aquamarine and other colored beryl.
To be a true emerald, the gemstone has to be dark enough and saturated enough to be called emerald, if the color is considered too light then it will simply be a green beryl. The degree of greenness has led to a number of differing opinions of whether a stone can truly be called an emerald.
The most prized emeralds have a pure green color with a vivid color saturation that is evenly distributed throughout the stone with no visible color variations.
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We, therefore, commend noblemen that it be hanged about the necks of their children that they fall not into this Many cultures throughout time have believed the emerald to be an enormously powerful stone in different ways. The Chaldeans believed the stone contained a goddess. And in the Islamic faith, an amulet of an emerald might be engraved with a verse from the Koran. The ancient Egyptians believed the emerald stood for fertility and rebirth. In Ancient Rome, Nero supposedly watched gladiator fights through a large transparent emerald as he found the color to be calming. In some legends of King Arthur, the Holy Grail is described as being fashioned from an emerald. In China, Thursday was the day for wearing green and emeralds for good luck. However, various countries in the East and West varied in opinion on which day the emerald would bring good luck. The Romans once considered light-colored Emeralds to be unripe, and believed that an Emerald becomes a darker shade of green as it matures.
A variety of Beryl, Emerald is a precious gemstone. Emerald is a 20th Anniversary gemstone and a 55th Anniversary gemstone.If the hue tends to be too blue or too yellow it will not be an emerald but a different variety of beryl and will devalue.Emeralds have been valued highly in antiquity with ancient Egyptians, Romans, Indians, Aztecs and Incas venerating this wonderful gemstone.
The name comes to us from the Greek word ‘smaragdos’ and the Latin ‘smaragdus’ meaning green gem and goes back further to the Sanskrit ‘maragdam’ and Persian ‘zumurrad’ meaning emerald. It was known that Emerald was a favorite gem of Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, and the Emerald mine in Upper Egypt, rediscovered a hundred years ago near the Red Sea, was one of the earliest Emerald occurrences in the human history.
This color definition is a source of confusion. Which hue, tone, and saturation combinations are the dividing lines between “green beryl” and “emerald”? Professionals in the gem and jewelry trade can disagree on where the lines should be drawn. Some believe that the name “emerald” should be used when chromium is the cause of the green color, and that stones colored by vanadium should be called “green beryl.”
Calling a gem an “emerald” instead of a “green beryl” can have a significant impact upon its price and marketability. This “color confusion” exists within the United States. In some other countries, any beryl with a green color – no matter how faint – is called an “emerald.”
Clarity, Treatments, and Durability
Emerald has a Mohs hardness of 7.5 to 8, which is normally a very good hardness for jewelry use. However, most emeralds contain numerous inclusions or surface-reaching fractures. These can weaken the gem, cause it to be brittle, and make it subject to breakage.
These are expected characteristics of emerald. It is rare to find an emerald that does not have inclusions and surface-reaching fractures that can be seen with the unaided eye. Under low magnification, most emeralds are said to have a “garden” of inclusions.
To improve appearance, most cut emeralds are treated with oils, waxes, polymers, or other substances that enter the fractures and make them less obvious. Although these treatments might improve appearance, they often do not improve the durability of the gem and they may discolor or deteriorate over time.
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