May Birthstone – Emerald

Dedicated to the goddess Venus, emerald is symbolic for immortality and faith. Emerald represented resurrection to the early Christians.  In the eleventh century Marbode wrote that emerald improves memory, eloquence and can bring joy to its wearer . Pilny described that emeralds were recommended for bringing rest and relief to the eyes.

The name emerald is from the Greek “smaragdos” meaning green.  The first recorded history of the gemstone emerald dates back to the earliest known gem market in Babylon in the year 2000 B.C.  It was under Cleopatra in Egypt later that emerald mining began, supplying most of the ancient world with the gemstone. The Egyptians treasured emeralds as they represented fertility and life.

Emerald and aquamarines are two colors of the mineral known as beryl.  Emerald is one of the most precious gemstones. The verdant green color is due to traces of chromium and vanadium in the beryl crystals. The ideal color is a deep uniform green with no or few inclusions.

Emerald inclusions are known as jardins (gardens).  These inclusions appear as white or black specks resembling leaves and branches.  Emeralds are often oiled to camouflage the inclusions so the emerald may look more valuable initially.  The oil however will often seep out of the stone over a period of time and the emerald will begin to lose its deep green, even color, also making the inclusions will be more visible. Flawless emeralds of a large size are extremely rare. Intensity of color and clarity are the most essential considerations in evaluating emeralds.

The value of an emerald increases (per carat) dramatically with weight because large crystals are rare.  Beryl crystals are six sided prisms with the hardness of 7.5-8.0 on Mohs’ scale, making emerald a harder mineral.  However, because of multiple inclusions and fissures in the crystal growth, emeralds are prone to breaking and chipping easily.  The more inclusions, or cracks in the crystal, the easier it is for the stone to break.  For this reason emeralds should never be cleaned in ultra sonic cleaners and should be worn with care.

The most common cut for an emerald is the elongated octagonal outline with corners cut at diagonals.  This trap-cut style became known as the famous emerald cut.  The emerald cut shows the deep green color the best given the few plane facets.

Some of the most beautiful emeralds are found in the Andes of Colombia, in the Muzo and Chivor mines.  The natives knew the value of these beautiful green stones because they used them for barter for trading with neighboring tribes which extended as far North as Mexico and South as Peru.

When Pizarro conquered Peru he sent four trunks full of emeralds back to the Queen of Spain.  Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada conquered Colombia in 1537 and was presented with nine large incredible green stones in the town of Cuacheta.  The locals kept the location of the mines secret from the invaders until a youngster gave the invaders the whereabouts Chivor mine.

This mine then became the first known emerald mine in Columbia.  In addition to South America, emeralds have been located in Austria, Russia, Zambia, Pakastan, Brazil and the United States.


When the French Government put the Crown Jewels up for auction in May of 1887 Tiffany purchased this emerald, diamond and pearl brooch.. Originally made in 1864 by Freres in Paris, this brooch is a small part of a large jeweled belt created and worn by the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III.

The Hooker Emerald is an exceptional emerald both in color and size and remarkably free from internal inclusions.  This 75.57 carat emerald measures 1.06 inches on each edge.  The stone originated from Columbia and was shipped to Europe by the Spanish conquistadores in the sixteenth century.  Abdul Hamid II, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire wore the emerald in his belt buckle until 1909.  It was later acquired by Tiffany and exhibited in 1940 at the New York World’s Fair.  The emerald was put on display in a tiara with 901 diamonds and an additional five detachable emerald brooches.  Tiffany’s Christmas catalogue featured the emerald in 1950.  In 1955 Mrs. Janet Annenberg Hooker purchased the brooch and wore it until 1977 when she donated it to the Smithsonian Institution.


Cartier created some of the most famous emerald jewelry, mostly in the Art Deco style, for the Indian Royalty during the 1920’s.  This Sautoir (1925) has fifty carved emerald beads weighing an estimated 517 carats, with platinum/diamonds and natural pearls.

This turban ornament was commissioned in 1926 by Jagatjit Singh, Maharaja of Kapurthala.  The nineteen emeralds total 432.24 carats, with diamonds and pearls surrounding the emeralds.

The famous Italian Jeweler Bulgari became known for their use of colorful gemstones and mixing them together to create bold, important jeweled pieces brought emeralds back into vogue in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Elizabeth Taylor’s emerald and diamond necklace with detachable pendant-brooch was created by Bulgari in 1962.  She first received the pendant from her fiance Richard Burton as an engagement gift and then later he gave her the necklace for their wedding.  The piece became one of the actress’ favorite jewels, wearing it on numerous significant occasions.  Richard Burton could be seen visiting the famed jeweler in Rome during the filming of “Cleopatra.”  He joked that the only word Taylor knew in Italian was Bulgari.

I’ve created a necklace and earring set with emerald beads and Tahitian pearls.  The pearls have small diamonds bezel set in them, which adds just enough sparkle for evening wear, all are set in 18k yellow gold. One of a kind, exclusive design.

Janet Deleuse designes, cabachon cut emeralds with Tahitian Pearls, capped with diamonds,  http://www.deleuse.com

Article written by Janet Deleuse, all rights reserved

About the Author