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Emerald

Click HERE to shop emeralds, or scroll to the bottom of the article.

 

Emerald is the traditional birthstone for the month of May.

Emerald, the green variety of the mineral beryl, is the perfect choice for the May birthstone (in the northern hemisphere) as its color evokes new spring growth. It is also the mystical birthstone for the month of January. Due to the rarity and resulting high price of emerald, alternative green gemstones, in particular chrome diopside, are becoming popular for those born in May.

Mineral formula: Be3Al2(Si6O18)

Grouping: member of Beryl group

Crystal system: hexagonal

Crystal habit: columnar six-sided crystals

Cleavage: imperfect on {0001}

Fracture: conchoidal

Color: green

Luster: Vitreous, Sub-Vitreous, Waxy, Greasy

Diaphaneity: translucent to transparent

Moh’s scale hardness: 7 ½ to 8

Streak: white (no streak, harder than plate)

Specific gravity: 2.63 – 2.92

Geological occurrence: Igneous rocks (pegmatites)

Named after: “Emerald” derives from Latin esmalalda/esmaraldus, from the ancient Greek word smáragdos meaning “green gem.” Since 1500 BC emeralds were obtained from Mount Smaragdos in Egypt – probably named after the mineral. In ancient times, any green gemstone may have been called by this name, not just green beryl. The technical use of “emerald” for green beryl emerged in the 1830s.

Energetic properties: Called the “Stone of Successful Love,” emerald supports the heart chakra, healing at the physical, emotional/mental, and spiritual levels. In ancient times, emerald was associated with the goddess Venus, and was invoked to support security in love. It is a stone of truth, so working with emerald helps bring clarity with its cleansing and purifying energy. It has long been associated with intuition, foresight and prophecy. It encourages compassion and unconditional love.

Click HERE for more about working with emerald energy.

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Mineralogy and Geological Occurrence 

Emerald is the green variety of the mineral beryl. Other colors of this gemstone are known as aquamarine (light blue), morganite (pale pink), heliodor (yellow) and goshenite (clear). The color of emerald is caused by trace amounts of trivalent chromium or vanadium. Beryl is a cyclosilicate, meaning the silica tetrahedra are arranged in 6-membered rings. Typically natural beryl crystals are columnar with six-sides.

Emerald is one of the “big four” of jewelry, along with diamond, ruby, and sapphire. The quality of emerald is determined by color (depth of color and blue or yellow tones), and clarity (the fewer visual defects the more valuable the gemstone). Most emeralds used in jewelry are polished into cabochons or faceted and polished into gemstones. Because of numerous tiny cracks in emeralds, most have been treated with oil to fill in the cracks and provide more visual clarity.


 

                               

All forms of beryl are rare because the major cation, beryllium, is not abundant in Earth’s crust. Beryl occurs where beryllium has been sufficiently concentrated to bond with silicon, aluminum and oxygen. As rare as this might seem to be, emerald has been found in three very different types of deposit (click HERE to read more):

  • Igneous deposits: Pegmatite veins associated with intrusive silicic igneous activity, where the igneous rocks intruded Cr and/or V-rich mafic to ultramafic rocks (for example, North Carolina)
  • Metamorphic deposits: Shales, carbonates and ultramafic rocks rich in Be, V and Cr were metamorphosed (for example, Ethiopia)
  • Sedimentary deposits: where upper level crustal brines enriched in Be through evaporation interact with shales and other sedimentary rocks containing Cr and/or V (for example, Colombia)

Colombian emeralds were introduced to Europe in the 1500s. The Incas had worked with emerald for jewelry and ceremony for at least 500 years when the Spanish invaded South America. The Spanish considered the Colombian emeralds as even more valuable than the gold and silver they also plundered.

Today, most of the world’s emeralds come from Namibia, Columbia, and Brazil, although significant production now occurs in Ethiopia. Significant emerald deposits also occur in Madagascar, India, Russia and Pakistan.

In the United States, the only commercial production of emerald is from two mines in North Carolina. The Crabtree Emerald Mine, operated from the late 1800s, is a pegmatite-type emerald deposit. The Emerald Hollow Mine near the small town of Hiddenite produced over 20,000 carats of emerald from 1995-2010 (and is still open for collecting). One 1,869-carat stone is now in the Houston Museum of Natural Science and valued at $3.5 million.

Good quality synthetic emeralds were first produced in the 1930s with a new process developed by Carroll Chatham. Many synthetic emerald gemstones are on the market today as they have greater clarity and fewer fractures. Low-priced emerald jewelry may be green glass.

New Mexico Emerald

Beryl is reported from many New Mexico mining districts; most occurrences are colorless to white and pink in color. However, emeralds and have been reported from sediments near Santa Fe.

Emerald Trivia

- What are the ten most famous emeralds in the world? Click HERE for one site's take on this, their photographs are spectacular! 

- The single most famous piece of emerald jewelry is supposedly the Chalk Emerald, now in the Smithsonian.

Chalk emerald ring

- The most recently newsworthy piece of emerald jewelry is the Vladimir tiara, once the property of Russian royalty, after the Russian revolution sold to Great Britain's Queen Mary. Rumor had it that Meghan Markle wished to wear this at her wedding to Prince Harry in 2018.

Vladimir emerald tiara

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