Mimicking the green of spring, May’s birthstone emerald is one of the world’s few truly “precious” gemstones – a title held only by the emerald, sapphire, ruby, and diamond. In fact, the best emeralds are prized above diamonds. Emerald is the traditional gemstone for the 20th, 35th, and 55th anniversaries, and is also the most popular colored gemstone in engagement rings.
The emerald was originally prized by the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, who believed the god Thoth had bestowed the stone to them as a symbol of spring and had dedicated the gemstone to eternal youth. The brilliant green gem was placed on the throats of mummies to protect the souls of the dead. Emeralds were often carved with the image of the Egyptian goddess Isis and the scarab beetle for good luck. Emerald gemstones were later venerated by the Aztecs as a holy stone in 14th to 16th century Mexico. They were also worn in India as a talisman of good fortune and wellbeing.
According to biblical lore, an emerald fell from Lucifer’s brow when he was thrown out of heaven and was transformed into the Holy Grail. The Greek god Hermes is said to have recorded the laws of magic on a tablet made of pure emerald.
In mysticism and healing, the emerald symbolizes purity, truth, and immortality. The stone was believed to bring good luck and health, to calm the seas for travelers, and to bring vigor and renewal to the aged, the sick, and to despairing souls. The Medieval doctor Paracelsus recommended ground emeralds to be ingested as treatment for certain diseases and fevers, and to balance the heart and mind. Emeralds were worn to protect mothers and infants during childbirth. The emerald is also considered an emblem of nature’s beauty, embraced as a favorite by the Greek goddess.
According to one ancient legend, emeralds are a powerful token of true love and devotion. If lovers are true to one another, the stone will supposedly remain dark and vibrant. If the stone turns pale and lifeless, someone in the relationship has been unfaithful to the other.
Emeralds are found throughout the world: in Brazil, Zambia, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, India, Russia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, with the finest mined in Colombia, where emeralds have been found in over 150 locations. The most valuable emeralds are those with the darkest color.
Emeralds are the green form of the gemstone beryl, a mineral that appears in several colors. The stone can range from light to dark, from a pale, sea green to a deep, vivid hue. Emeralds sometimes show inclusions, which are called “jardin” by gemstone experts who value these signs of natural growth. A dark emerald with jardin is still more valuable than a clear, flawless stone of a paler color, although both serve as striking embellishments when set in a fine jewelry piece. For a gemstone that’s synonymous with hope and renewal, you simply can’t go wrong with the emerald.