The Elegance of Emeralds: May's Birthstone
One of the most well-known gemstones in the world, the emerald has long been a symbol for life and rebirth. With its gorgeous green hues that reflect the fresh tones of spring, it is the perfect candidate to represent those whose birthdays fall in May.
If you are lucky enough to share a birth month with Audrey Hepburn and Queen Victoria, then your birthstone is the emerald! Representing loyalty, new beginnings, peace, and good fortune, it ranges in color from light green to deep green, with the rarest emeralds boasting striking blue-green undertones.
T H E H I S T O R Y O F E M E R A L D S
The etymology of the word emerald can be traced back to the Greek word, "smaragdus", which literally means "green gem". Later adapted for vulgar Latin, the word became "smaralda", and then evolved to "esmeraulde" in Old French, before reaching its final form in Middle English in the 14th century.
Beloved by the Egyptians, emeralds were mined in Egypt as early as 330 BC, with Cleopatra claiming ownership of all emerald mines in Egypt during her reign. They used the gem in a variety of different manners, from jewelry that symbolized fertility to burial stones that represented eternal youth.
The Roman author and philosopher, Pliny, also possessed an affinity for the gem, writing about its impressive qualities in his book, Natural History, where he goes into particular detail about its benefit to the eyes. According to Pliny, the Emperor Nero, who had notoriously bad eyesight, actually used a lens of emerald to improve his view of gladiatorial competitions.
"Indeed no stone has a color that is more delightful to the eye, for whereas the sight fixes itself with avidity upon the green grass and foliage of the trees, we have all the more pleasure in looking upon the emerald, there being no green in existence more intense than this." - Pliny, Natural History
F A M O U S E M E R A L D S
Queen Victoria's Tiara
A gift from her husband, Prince Albert, the beautiful tiara in Queen Victoria's emerald parure is one of the only crowns to have been designed by a consort for his queen, and thus remains a symbol of their romance and love to this very day. It is accompanied by a pair of emerald earrings, an emerald necklace, and an emerald brooch.
Elizabeth Taylor's Necklace
Similar to the jewels gifted to Queen Victoria by her husband, many of Elizabeth Taylor's emeralds were given to her by her husband, Richard Burton. She received the sixteen-stone emerald necklace pictured above at their wedding in 1964, before donning it two years later at the Oscars when she won best actress for the film, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe". Later, the necklace sold for over $6.1 million when sold at auction in 2011.
T H E I M P O R T A N C E O F T H E C U T
Similar to aquamarines, the way the color of an emerald presents itself is heavily dependent on the cut of the jewel, so it is crucial to purchase emeralds that have been cut by a skilled gemologist. If the cutter makes any mistakes, they will likely cause weight loss, which greatly reduces the value of a potentially valuable gem.
There are four qualities of emeralds that can make them difficult to cut:
Almost all emeralds have significant fractures, and the gemologist must design the cut to minimize the effect of those fractures on the finished stone.
Emeralds are more brittle than other gems, and are therefore more vulnerable to damage during cutting, polishing, and setting, or even during careless daily wear.
Because color is so important in establishing an emerald’s value, the cut must maximize the effect of hue, tone, and saturation.
The bluish green to yellowish green tones of many emerald crystals encourages the cutter to orient the table so it’s perpendicular to the crystal’s length. That way, the more apparent color in the cut gem is the bluish green that so many emerald lovers prize.
So if you are looking for a piece of emerald jewelry for someone born in May, be sure to visit an experienced jeweler, such as Dacels, to ensure that you receive only the best of the best.