Six Intriguing Facts About Emeralds
Emerald jewelry has long had special significance for persons with May birthdays. But the gemstone is also known for other special associations.
The deeply saturated green of emeralds has made them a prized gemstone for almost four thousand years. The beauty of emerald rings and emerald necklaces has traversed the globe, enriched by cultural, historical, and legendary connections that continue to inspire our affinity for them. Everybody knows about emeralds, one of the four major precious gemstones and one that is prominent in royal jewelry and jewelry for special occasions. But not everybody knows these six fascinating facts about them.
1. Emeralds were first mined in ancient Egypt.
Queen Cleopatra had a well-documented passion for emeralds, which she sometimes gave to foreign dignitaries in an apparent display of wealth and power. Emeralds were mined in Egypt as early as 2000 BC, but of course they've been around much longer. The oldest known examples are believed to be almost three billion years old. By exchanging them for precious metals, Spanish traders helped emeralds grow in popularity throughout Asia, Europe, and eventually the rest of the world. You can now find emeralds in just about any kind of luxury piece, including our evil eye protector ring and Louisiana-inspired designs.
2. Emeralds have been used to relieve eye strain.
Lapidaries, the specialists who cut and polish precious stones, perform tedious work that requires intense and lengthy concentration on a single object. Believing that the green color of emeralds was refreshing, early lapidaries would give their eyes a rest by contemplating emeralds placed near their workstation. Emeralds are still considered soothing by some.
3. Emeralds are hard to set.
The green stone is between 7.5 and 8 on the Mohs Scale, a measurement of the hardness of a mineral on a scale from 1 to 10. Relatively hard, emeralds are durable but nonetheless susceptible to chips and scratches. So setting them within a jewelry design is a bit risky. The difficulty involved increases their value and cost.
4. Emeralds are formed from the mineral beryl.
Beryl is present in many stones, including aquamarine and morganite. Beryl provides the basis for emerald when beryl comes into contact with chromium, iron, and vanadium, the elements that give emeralds their signature hue.
5. The jewel of kings has had many famous wearers, including a modern queen.
Cleopatra is not the only notable personality to have been captivated by the emerald. American icons like Elizabeth Taylor and Angelina Jolie have worn the stone to major industry events. One of the most well-known tiaras of Queen Elizabeth II, the Vladimir Tiara, has been variously set with diamonds, pearls, and emeralds.
6. Even the flaws of emeralds are valuable.
Streaks embedded in the mineral are called inclusions. Emeralds are special in that their clarity can be seen with the naked eye. (Other gemstones require a tool.) Collectors regard inclusions as part of the unique makeup of a stone. Because these flaws can resemble moss or gardens in the eyes of connoisseurs, inclusions are often called jardin, the French word for "garden." A fitting name given the fact that, in many cultural contexts, emeralds have come to symbolize hope and rebirth.