Vibrant green emerald is the birthstone for those born in May. This famous gem has been worn for thousands of years; it was a favourite of the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Cleopatra. The bright green variety of the mineral beryl, emerald has a unique appearance and charm and has long been regarded as one of the most precious of all gemstones.
Most emeralds receive their green colour from trace elements of chromium within their composition; this gives a particularly vivid green hue. Colour is the principal factor to consider when choosing an emerald and an even, intense green is the most desirable. As with most gemstones, those that are lighter or darker than the optimum colour are usually more affordable, all other factors being equal.
Generally a very included gemstone, emerald’s characteristic pattern of mineral inclusions and internal fractures is sometimes referred to as the ‘jardin’ or ‘garden’. This means that emerald is usually less transparent than many other gemstones and has a less sparkling appearance. Whereas a stone like diamond is famous for its lively brilliance and fire, emerald is desired for its colour and it is acceptable for even very expensive stones to have visible inclusions.
Although inclusions are sometimes regarded as a negative feature, they are often able to tell us lots of information about a gemstone. This is particularly the case with emeralds, where the inclusions can tell us much about how the emerald formed, allowing us to differentiate between natural and man-made stones and even sometimes to form an opinion on where the emerald was sourced. This can be very important as synthetic emeralds are distinguished from natural stones primarily by their inclusions and natural emeralds from certain locations can be perceived as more desirable and therefore more valuable.
Colombia is the location usually most associated with fine emeralds. The mines were known to the ancient civilizations of South America and were then ‘rediscovered’ by Spanish settlers in the sixteenth century. While Colombian stones remain popular, much of the emerald available in the market today is sourced from Brazil and Zambia, where beautiful gems are also produced. As with other gemstones where particular locations have an association with fine material, it is important to assess a stone for its individual merits as the locality does not guarantee quality.
Emeralds are routinely treated with oil to improve their apparent clarity by filling fractures to reduce their visual impact. It is generally safe to assume that an emerald has received this treatment unless it has a reputable laboratory certificate stating otherwise. Emerald is a particularly brittle gemstone and this property, in combination with the oiling, means that you should avoid using an ultrasonic cleaner with emerald jewellery and should take extra care when wearing emerald rings. To provide additional protection against breakage, emeralds are commonly cut into a rectangular shape with truncated corners; a style so synonymous with the gem that it is known as the emerald cut. This shape also shows off the beautiful colour of the gem perfectly.
Our showroom is staffed by highly qualified gemmologists who are always happy to answer any questions you have regarding emeralds and other gemstones. We also have a beautiful selection of emerald pieces in stock to suit a range of tastes and budgets, some of which you can browse on our website.