Emerald: Gem of Eternal Spring
Cleopatra prized her emeralds more than any other gem. She may have dropped her pearls in her wine for Mark Anthony but she kept her emeralds for herself! Mummies in ancient Egypt were often buried with an emerald on their necks carved with the symbol for verdure, flourishing greenness, to symbolize eternal youth.
The Romans also loved emeralds because, as ancient scholar Pliny said, "nothing greens greener." Pliny said that emerald was the only gem which delighted the eye without fatiguing it. He said his eyes were restored when gazing at emerald. Emperor Nero wore emerald sunglasses to watch the gladiators.
The Moguls of India, including Shah Jahan, the builder of the Taj Mahal, loved emeralds so much they inscribed them with sacred text and wore the as talismans. Some of these sacred stones, called Mogul emeralds, can still be seen in museums and collections today.
Emerald is the birthstone for May, the month of springtime romance, and the anniversary gemstone for the twentieth year of marriage, the perfect emblem of an enduring love.
Choosing an emerald
Emerald connoisseurs today are lucky because a relatively new find in Zambia has made emeralds much more available on the market today. Zambian emeralds have captured a large portion of the market because they have a rich deep color and sometimes have very few inclusions. Zambian emeralds tend to be a slightly darker green than emeralds from Colombia and some have a bluish tone.
Long thought of as a producer of lower quality emerald, Brazil today now produces fine emeralds that rival those of its famous neighbor. A mine called Nova Era has produced some top gem quality emeralds that are changing Brazil's reputation. Brazil now produces more emeralds than any other country. Zimbabwe's famous Sandawana mine is known for producing top quality emeralds in small sizes. Other potentially important producers of emerald are Pakistan, Afghanistan, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Russia.
Emeralds are cut in Jaipur, India and Tel-Aviv, Israel as well as in the mining countries. Emerald is one of the most difficult gemstones to cut because of the high value of the rough stone and the many inclusions found in crystals. Small changes in orientation can make a large difference in the final appearance of the gem.
When choosing an emerald, the most important value factor to consider is color. The more vivid the green, the more valuable the emerald. There are also attractive bright stones with a lighter green color that often make a spectacular piece of jewelry. Darker green emeralds may also make up in rich color what they lose in brightness.
Because emeralds are so rare without inclusion, some inclusions are expected and do not detract from the value of the stone as much as with other gemstones. However, you should look to make sure that fissures and inclusions do not go too deep into the stone so that it might be weakened enough to break if it were hit accidentally. The fissures and fractures that are characteristic of emerald are traditionally filled with oil to minimize their impact. You should avoid cleaning emerald with hot soapy water or steam and never clean an emerald in an ultrasonic cleaner because this oil could be removed or damaged, making the fissures more visible.
Although many people consider Colombia to be the source of the best emeralds, country of origin is never a guarantee of quality. Even the best mine produces mostly low quality gemstones because good qualities are very rare! Fine emeralds also come from Zambia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Russia and other countries, so don't be afraid to choose the emerald that looks better to you.
Emerald is most often cut in a rectangular step-cut, which is now popularly known as the emerald cut. Smaller sizes are also found in rounds, ovals, pear shapes and marquise cuts. You may have to look a while for an unusual shape in a larger size. Due to their rich color, emeralds are also spectacular when cut in a smooth-domed cabochon cut.
Emeralds are durable gemstones with a hardness of 7.5 to 8. However, emeralds with many inclusions should be treated with some care and be protected from blows. With a little care, your emerald will do doubt be treasured by your descendants thousands of years in the future!