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May’s birthstone: Emerald

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

May’s birthstone, emerald, is synonymous with the lush, rich greens seen all around us at this lovely time of year, when Spring is at its best.  Perhaps you’re celebrating a twentieth or thirty fifth anniversary?  Emerald, the gemstone connected with these milestones, would make a wonderful token of long-lasting love. 

May Birthstone Emerald

The name ‘emerald’ comes from the old French ‘esmeraud’, which in turn comes from the Greek ‘smaragdos’, meaning ‘green stone’. But gemmologists’ opinions differ on what particular shades of green make a true emerald…

Emerald is a member of the beryl family, which includes many other pretty gemstones like aquamarine and morganite. But only beryl of a deep, blueish green is considered to be emerald. Not too blue, though! And anything of a lighter green is classified simply as green beryl, a pretty but less expensive gemstone. Whether a stone is considered too light to be an emerald depends on the individual gem lab, so the most valuable stones are those whose hue is beyond dispute.

The most sought-after emeralds are mined in Colombia. Colombian emeralds contain traces of chromium, which gives the stones a pure green colour. Brazil and Zambia are next on the list, and this time it’s elements vanadium and iron respectively that give rise to the colours of emeralds from these countries.

Natural emeralds almost always contain inclusions (flaws), so you should be suspicious if a so-called natural emerald appears flawless. The most common treatment for emerald is oiling, which reduces the appearance of surface fractures. As with any gemstone, appearance-enhancing treatments are not something to worry about – as long as they are correctly documented on your gemstone certification!

Emerald, at 7.5 on the Mohs scale, is a reasonably hard gemstone. However, the more included your emerald, the more susceptible it is to knocks and bumps. I’d advise that the more heavily included stones should not be used for jewellery like rings, or long necklaces that might dangle against hard surfaces.

Since ancient times, the deep green of an emerald was thought to be restorative and restful for mind and body. The ancient Egyptians believed that emeralds enhanced fertility and, as a symbol of birth and rebirth, emerald jewellery often adorned the dead to assist their journey into the afterlife.

And the last interesting fact about May’s birthstone…Pliny the Elder, a Roman natural historian, wrote that stone cutters used emeralds to rest their eyes. Maybe all those of us with a smartphone addiction should take a leaf out of their book!

Happy Birthday all you May babies!

Kim Rix GG (GIA)

Gemstone Detective

Be sure. Be smart, Buy with confidence

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