Emerald is, without a doubt, the best known of the green gemstones, and the only green gemstone considered “precious”. Peridot, tourmaline and tsavorite are all green too, but are considered semi-precious gems and emerald is, of course, May’s birthstone.
What makes emerald special? And what should you look out for if you’re buying emeralds?
Emeralds are part of the beryl family, a mineral family that also includes semi-precious gems like aquamarine and morganite.
The prized green colour in emeralds is a result of trace amounts of chromium and vanadium incorporated into the crystal structure. South Africa is home to the oldest emeralds in the world, with some samples having been dated at 2.97billion years old!
The first emerald mines can be traced back to Egypt in approximately 330BC and Cleopatra didn’t just cherish diamonds, but even went as far as to claim ownership of all emerald mines in Egypt during her reign.
For years Colombia has been one of the most notable sources of emeralds, but Zambia has become one of the most important sources lately, with Madagascar and Zimbabwe also producing gem quality emeralds in Africa.
Emeralds can range in colours from a pale light green (although some would dispute these are emeralds) to a deep rich green. Experts are divided as to which shades of green are more valuable, but typically emeralds exhibiting an intense green-blue colour are considered the most prized.
Natural inclusions and imperfections are common in emeralds and this naturally influences the toughness of the stone. According to Moh’s Hardness Scale, emeralds have a hardness of 7.5 to 8 but they are considered fragile and if you own any emerald jewellery, extra care should be taken when wearing it.
When purchasing emeralds, look for emeralds that have even colour distribution (no obvious lighter or darker patches) and, if you can afford it, stones that are “eye clean” (no inclusions visible to the naked eye). The more included or imperfect an emerald is, the more susceptible it will be to breaking or cracking.
Like most coloured gemstones, emeralds are typically laboratory treated to enhance their appearance. Oiling is a common technique used to fill fractures and improve the apparent clarity of the gem.
Not only is emerald May’s birthstone, but it’s also the gem of the 20th and 35th wedding anniversaries and has also been popular as an engagement ring gem. So, if your birthday is in May or you’re celebrating a big wedding anniversary, why not contact us and have a celebratory piece of jewellery manufactured especially for you, or select a piece from our pre-made range (examples in article picture above)?