The name emerald comes from the ancient Greek word for green, “smaragdus.”
Emerald is a gemstone and a variety of the mineral beryl. Colored green by trace amounts of chromium and sometimes vanadium. Most emeralds are highly included, so their toughness (resistance to breakage) is classified as generally poor. Emerald is a cycloscilicate.
There are other green gems, like tourmaline and peridot, but emerald is the one that’s always associated with the lushest landscapes and the richest greens. Ireland is the Emerald Isle. Seattle, in the US state of Washington, is the Emerald City. Thailand’s most sacred religious icon is called the Emerald Buddha, even though it’s carved from green jadeite.
The first known emerald mines were in Egypt, dating from at least 330 BC into the 1700s. Cleopatra was known to have a passion for emerald, and used it in her royal adornments.
Emeralds from Colombia were part of the plunder when sixteenth-century Spanish explorers invaded the New World.
The Incas had already been using emeralds in their jewelry and religious ceremonies for 500 years.
The Spanish, who treasured gold and silver far more than gems, traded emeralds for precious metals. Their trades opened the eyes of European and Asian royalty to emerald’s majesty.
Emerald is the most famous member of the beryl family. Legends endowed the wearer with the ability to foresee the future when emerald was placed under the tongue, as well as to reveal truth and be protected against evil spells. Emerald was once also believed to cure diseases like cholera and malaria. Wearing an emerald was believed to reveal the truth or falseness of a lover’s oath as well as make one an eloquent speaker.
Legend also states that emerald was one of the four precious stones given by God to King Solomon. These four stones were said to have endowed the king with power over all creation.
Gem and mineral hardness is measured on the Mohs scale.
Emerald is 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale and has fair to good toughness, making it a stone that requires more care in wearing than ruby or sapphire.
Emerald can also scratch easily other gems and also be easily scratched by harder gems such as diamonds. Always store emeralds separately from other gemstones.
Heat can damage emeralds, especially by extending existing fractures.
Light and chemicals can cause the oils, resins, and polymers used to fill surface-reaching fractures to alter in appearance or deteriorate.
Caring for emerald jewelry starts with proper wear.
Always remove emerald jewelry before exercising, cleaning or engaging in vigorous physical activities.
Emerald jewelry should we worn after applying makeup, body lotions, perfume and hairspray. Avoid touching emeralds or precious stones directly with your hands because skin oils dull their appearance.
Remove your emerald jewelry if you are going to practice sports or do any manual labor, such as gardening, painting or chores at home. Rings or bracelets can be easily broken or bent if they catch or hook on fabric.
Emeralds and even diamonds can chip or crack if they’re knocked against a hard surface. If you wear earrings, it’s usually best to remove them while sleeping or when having your hair styled.
If your emerald jewelry is the victim of a hard knock, take it to a jeweller or goldsmith immediately and ask to have it checked under magnification for loose stones. If you wear your emeralds regularly, periodic checkups are important in order to make certain the stones continue to sit securely in their mountings.
Avoid storing emeralds in a container or bag with other gemstones. Place them separately in a soft fabric bag or lay them separately in a flat compartment to guard against scratching softer, more easily damaged gems or polished gold items.
An occasional cleaning and minimal maintenance will keep your emeralds bright and sparkling for years.
Emerald is the birthstone of the month May.
It is also the gemstone for twentieth and thirty-fifth wedding anniversaries.
Emeralds can best be cleaned with a soft cloth and warm and gentle soapy water. Be sure to rinse well to remove all soapy residue.
Do not use ultrasonic cleaners or steam. Some estimates state that 90 percent or more of emeralds are fracture-filled. Since the great majority of fashioned natural emeralds contain filled fractures, it’s risky to clean them ultrasonically or with steam. Ultrasonic vibrations can weaken already-fractured stones, and hot steam can cause oil or unhardened resin to sweat out of fractures.
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