Who first beholds the light of day
          In spring's sweet, flower month of May
          And wears an Emerald all her life
          Shall be a loved and a loving wife.
                   – Gregorian birthstone poem
                            ***

The History of the Emerald
The name Emerald is derived from the Greek word smaragdus which means ‘green’. The emerald was mined in Egypt as early as 330BC, although some scientists estimate the oldest emeralds are around 2.97 billion years old. The Egyptians used emeralds in jewellery as well as in their elaborate burials – they often buried royalty with emeralds as a symbol of protection and eternal youth. Cleopatra was said to have adored emeralds and claimed ownership of all the emerald mines in Egypt during her reign.

Where are Emeralds found?
Emeralds are found all over the world, but mostly in Colombia, Brazil, Afghanistan and Zambia. Part of the Beryl family, emeralds are made from four types of elements found deep in the Earth’s crust: berrylium, aluminium, silicon, and oxygen (Be3Al2(SiO3)6). These elements are found in veins filled with hot water called hydrothermal veins. Emerald crystals start to form when these veins start to cool down and the conditions are just right. Another way in which emeralds are formed is in magama rather than hydrothermal veins. Many of the emeralds we mine today are the result of processes that happened hundred of millions of years ago.

Emerald Properties
On the Moh´s hardness scale, the value for Emerald is 7.5 to 8.0. This compares favourably to Tanzanite (6.0 to 7.0) but less so to Sapphire and Ruby (9.0) or Diamond (10.0).

Although the emerald has very good hardness, its toughness and durability rating is not as ideal. Stones can chip quite easily under pressure, because they generally have lots of inclusions (small imperfections in the stone). Setting designs for emeralds usually take this into account, particularly ring designs: to protect the stone, particularly the corners, emeralds are usually set in a tube setting (with metal surrounding the entire edge of the stone), or with a claw holding the stone at every corner.

The colour (hue) of emeralds ranges from yellowish green to bluish green, with most Emeralds having a very slightly bluish green colour. This colour is very distinct and recognisable as “emerald green”. The tone (lightness or darkness) of this colour can range from very light to very dark. The clarity of Emeralds can range from transparent to opaque.

Things you might not have known

  • Emeralds are always green. Emeralds of a deep and vivid green colour are more valuable than paler ones. Stones are mostly given an emerald cut (a rectangular shape with the corners cut off), which is designed to maximise the colour of the stone. Many other gemstones, particularly coloured ones but also white diamonds, are also cut this way but it’s a particularly common cut for emeralds, hence the name. Emeralds are also readily available as cabochons (round or oval, flat on the bottom and smooth over the top, with no facets), which is a cut often used for opaque or not very clear stones.

  • Emerald is part of the Beryl family of stones, which also includes Aquamarine (blue) and Morganite (peachy pink)

  • The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) estimates that emeralds are usually (90% of the time) treated to improve its appearance: this involves using an oil under a vacuum to fill some of the cracks in the stones, which improves its clarity. This practice is quite acceptable and has been commonplace through the ages as emeralds often have scratches and damages on the surface, but it should be noted on the certificate for the stone (which you would get for a bigger stone, over 1ct) because oil-filled emeralds are less valuable than untreated ones.

  • Emeralds are one of the four precious globally recognised stones – the other three being rubies, sapphires and diamonds.

  • A 1 carat emerald will appear larger than a 1 carat diamond because it has a lower density.

  • Emeralds are a traditional gift for 20th or 35th wedding anniversaries.
    Found in 1967 in Colobia, the Gachalá Emerald is one of the most valuable and famous emeralds in the world. Today the emerald resides in the Smithsoniam Institution in the United States.

  • Emeralds always have some inclusions – if not, it’s likely to be synthetic.

  • An emerald pendant necklace owned by Elizabeth Taylor was sold in 2011 for $6.5 million (about $280,000 per carat).

Here are some beautiful emerald jewellery by Studio Loubser, some pieces are still available at Tinsel. Contact us for a quote, or visit our website for more information on having a custom piece made.