What is your first thought when you hear someone say: "Look at this magnificent emerald gemstone!" I can guarantee that what you visualize in your mind is its royal green color, which is so authentic for this precious gem. It is referred to as aristocratic green”, because any collection of royal jewelry includes the natural emerald beauty. Color is the most important feature for evaluating quality emeralds, which is done based on its hue, tone and saturation. According to the standards, the color grading system ranges from “AAA” (highest quality) to “C” (lowest quality). In addition to the unique green appearance, emeralds are also admired for some of their inclusions that make them even more special.
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HISTORY & LORE
The name of this extremely rare colored stone is derived from the French word “esmeraude”, meaning “green stone”. Moreover, if we look back to the Latin roots of the word, we can see that the original term used for emerald was “smaragdus”, which over the history has become “emerald” - the official name that defines it as a distinctive gemstone variety.
Many stories throughout the history have been told about emeralds. For example, the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs who sourced their emerald treasuries from gemstone mines near the Red Sea, believed that emerald promotes fertility. Emerald is also known as Cleopatra’s favorite gemstone. The Incas and Aztecs, on the other hand, considered it a holy stone. In the Ancient Greek and Roman civilization, people believed that emeralds had the power to protect them from demons and dark spells. The tradition taught them that they should give emeralds as presents to their Gods if they wanted to be wealthy and prosperous. They even connected the emerald gemstone to Venus, the Goddess of beauty, also known in Greek mythology as Aphrodite.
In many cultures, even up to the present day, it is believed that wearing emerald jewelry brings good luck and enhances the well-being, by also promoting unconditional love.
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» The Mogul Mughal
Known as one of the world’s largest emerald discoveries, the “The Mogul Mughal” is a 217.80-carat specimen found in 1695. It is engraved with a Naskh-scripted prayer on one side and an intricate floral decoration on the other side. “The Mogul Mughal” was auctioned on September 28, 2001 in London, where it was sold to an unidentified buyer for 232 million dollars.
» The Chalk Emerald
Exposed in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, “The Chalk Emerald” is a 37.8-carat stone with Colombian origin. A legend says that it had belonged to Maharani of Baroda, India. Before it was brought to the Washington museum, it was reshaped and mounted on a ring setting surrounded by 60 clustered diamonds in pear shape.
Other significant emerald specimens are located in The American Museum of Natural History, where there is displayed a special cup made of emerald that features a total weight of 632 carats. The collections of The Iranian Crown Jewels include a diadem with unique emeralds of the former Empress Farah. In The Topkapı Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, there is a significant amount of emerald jewelry, which is considered an evidence that the Turkish sultans were especially drawn by the allure of the emerald gemstone.
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Emerald is one of the several beryl varieties, such as aquamarine, morganite, golden beryl, etc. The emerald gemstone is the most popular member of this group, hence, the most valuable. It is colored by trace amounts of chromium, so it is also known as “green beryl”. If you observe an emerald specimen with a Chelsea filter, you will see a red reaction and that is only a proof of the chromium content. One emerald is more expensive than another if it is clearer and it has less cracks. It is common for emeralds to have flaws, also called “fissures”, but there are some emeralds whose inclusions are not visible to the naked eye. Therefore, they are more expensive. Treating emeralds with natural oil can help hide some of the fissures.
If you want to learn more, especially if you are a science enthusiast, the chemical formula for emerald is Be3Al2(SiO3)6. Its natural form is hexagonal. According to the Mohs scale of hardness, emerald is rated 7.5-8, (*just for the record, diamond, which is recognized as the hardest mineral on Earth is rated 10, meaning that emerald is a relatively strong gem). This scale also measures how easily the gemstone can be scratched and the emerald’s density is rated from 2.67 to 2.78. Its refractive index is 1,577 to 1,583.
Today, the most productive mines of fine emeralds are located in Colombia, from where 70-95% of the overall emerald supply comes. Zambia is the world’s second largest producer of emeralds, followed by Brazil and Russia. Emeralds can be also found in other parts in the world, but in minor quantities. In South America, Brazilian emeralds specifically, are considered specimens of finest quality. They are mainly sourced from Minais Gerais, Nova Era and Santa Teresinha mines. Colombian emeralds, on the other hand, take up to 80% of the global emerald supply on the market.
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There is range of symbolic meanings related to the emerald gemstone. It is associated with the zodiac sign Cancer (people born in the period between June 21 and July 22). In China, it is believed that wearing an emerald gemstone on Thursdays brings good luck. Thanks to its color, emerald is often associated with youth, thus signifying growth and prosperity. Hence, the reason why this gemstone is largely used in jewelry, especially engagement rings, to denote a new, fresh start of the couple’s journey together that will last for eternity. Emerald makes a great anniversary gift too, especially when it comes to celebrating 20th, 35th or 55th wedding anniversary.
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