The Emerald

by : Ian Maher



The emerald has captivated people throughout ancient history, and remains a treasured jewel today. Like many valuable gems, emeralds have been surrounded by folklore and mysticism and believed to possess supernatural powers throughout history. This vibrantly colored gemstone has been historically thought to bestow good luck on its owner, and instill virtues such as mental clarity, wisdom and youth. Egyptians even buried emeralds with their dead under the belief that they would grant perpetual youth. The emerald was a subject of high regard, even worship, by ancient Incas and Aztecs. The belief that emeralds aid in eyesight has been examined consistently across numerous cultures over time, as has the notion that emeralds can grant insight into the future.

The emerald is a variety of Beryl, a mineral occurring in a range of colors from colorless to pink to green to red. The most widely known forms of beryl are its blue variety, aquamarine, and its green variety, the emerald. The term "emerald" is thought to stem from an Old French word that translates to "green gemstone." A deep, vibrant green is the characteristic color of the most valued emeralds, a hue attributed to traces of chromium present in the gems. Unlike many other gems, inclusions in emeralds are tolerated as a natural feature, and vibrant, intense green color attributes more to an emerald's value than the presence or absence of flaws within it.

Colombia is the origin of some of the most beautiful and valuable emeralds in the world. Colombian emeralds are renowned for their deep green hue absent a devaluing blue tint. A majority of the world's emerald supply today comes from Colombia, with much of it originating in the same areas mined by ancient civilizations. Emeralds are also mined in other areas throughout the world including Brazil, Zimbabwe, India, Pakistan, and Russia, to name a few.

Emeralds are set in all styles of jewelry. A single emerald makes a beautiful solitaire ring, or multiple smaller emeralds may be set surrounding a larger stone, a popular design for diamond rings. Because of the presence of inclusions in natural emerald, cutting emeralds is challenging and requires utmost precision and skill. The emerald cut, now also a popular cut for diamonds, was created to alleviate some of the challenges associated with emerald cutting and emphasize the beauty of the stone. It is common today for emeralds used in jewelry to be treated with special oil, wax or resin to enhance their appearance.