Meet May’s birthstone: The Enchanting Emerald
At Orsini we are often asked: what is the birthstone for May? Well if you’re lucky enough to be born in the fifth month of the year, it’s a true icon: the emerald. The emerald’s name is derived from the Greek word ‘smaragdus’, meaning simply “green gem”, while Roman author Pliny the Elder, who died in the 79 CE eruption of Mount Vesuvius, wrote in his encyclopaedic Natural History that “nothing greens greener.”
Like aquamarine, emerald is a variety of beryl, a mineral that grows with six sides and up to a foot in length, and the vibrant stone has been loved by cultures throughout the world for centuries.
What is the history of the emerald?
Scientific evidence shows that emerald gemstones were mined in Egypt as early as 330 BC, but some estimate that the oldest emeralds are an incredible 2.97 billion years old.
Cleopatra is perhaps the most famous historical figure to cherish the stone, the great beauty even claiming ownership of all emerald mines in Egypt during her reign. The Egyptians most definitely loved emeralds, using them both in jewellery and in their elaborate burials, often burying emerald stones with monarchs as symbols of protection.
On the other side of the world, the Muzo Indians of Colombia also had prized emerald mines that they guarded heavily. These mines were so hidden, it took the Spanish conquistadors nearly twenty years to find them.
Today, the stunning stone is a symbol of loyalty, new beginnings, peace, and security, making it not only a beautiful gem to wear, but also a meaningful piece of jewellery to be given. It is still widely prized by the rich and famous, with Elizabeth Taylor’s famous emerald pendant selling for USD $6.5 million in 2011.
What colours do emeralds come in?
Although always green, an emerald’s colour can range from light green (though there is some argument whether these very light beryls are true emeralds) to a highly prized, deep, rich green. The deeper or more green an emerald is, the more valuable it is, and the rarest emerald gemstones often appear to be an intense green-blue colour.
And like aquamarine, the way in which the colour of an emerald presents itself in jewellery depends on a good cut by a skilled gemmologist.
Where are emeralds found?
Colombia has been the source of the finest emeralds for more than 500 years, and Colombian emeralds are still the standard by which all others are measured. Three mining sites in Colombia are particularly noteworthy: Muzo, Chivor and Coscuez. Each locality produces a range of colours but, generally speaking, darker tones of pure green emeralds come from mines near the town of Muzo.
What are the emerald’s spiritual qualities? What are the emerald’s spiritual qualities?
The green birthstone is thought by some cultures to have magical powers, and that by placing it under the tongue, one could see into the future.
Legend also has it that emerald has the power to make its wearer more intelligent and quick-witted, and it was once even believed to cure diseases like cholera and malaria. The aforementioned Pliny once wrote that the May birthstone had therapeutic properties for gem cutters, saying “(they) have no better method of restoring their eyes than by looking at the emerald, its soft, green colour comforting and removing their weariness and lassitude.” Today science even backs this up: proving the colour green really does relieve stress and eye strain!
How do I care for emerald jewellery?
The easiest way to clean your birthstone jewels is with mild soap and warm water. Soak them in the latter for 15-20 minutes, before gently scrubbing them with a soft-bristled brush. Never use harsh cleansers, which can cause damage to gemstones and even some precious metals, and demonstrate care when using ultrasonic jewellery cleaners, which are popular but may potentially loosen prongs. Try and opt for warm water and gentle soap when you can.
Emeralds and the 4Cs
Like the diamond, emeralds can be judged according to the 4Cs: colour, cut, clarity, and carat weight. These gems are highly prized, and intensely coloured ones can be quite rare, so make sure that you visit a trusted jeweller who can help you make an informed investment.
When it comes to emeralds cut is very important, as it helps to make the most of that desirable green colour. Many emerald gemstones are cut into an emerald shape—an elongated, rectangular shape with step-cut facets—which helps to make a bright stone with sparkle while minimising inclusions or fissures.
How can I find the emerald setting for me?
At Orsini we love the process of helping our clients to create their dream piece of custom jewellery, especially one with their precious birthstone at its heart. The process of building and shaping an idea, then turning that idea into a true masterpiece, is one that we relish at every step.
Please note that we do not recommend an emerald gemstone for an engagement ring as they tend to be less durable than sapphires, rubies and diamonds.
If you have an idea in mind for a piece of emerald jewellery that you just can’t find or don’t know where to start, we’d love to meet with you and give you an insight into our process and how it can work for you. The Orsini team consists of unabashedly creative and talented jewellery designers, premium emerald graders, gemmologists and master goldsmiths, all trained to create unique pieces of jewellery through every stage of the process, with great precision and finish. We are proud of our creations and team work, and we would love to work together with you to make your dreams a reality.
Feel free to contact us at any time, or visit us instore at our elegant Parnell atelier, where we invite you to relax while we discuss the seemingly endless possibilities for your bespoke emerald design.