Emerald is the traditional birthstone for the month of May.
Emerald is a grass-green gem variety of beryl highly sought after as a precious gemstone. Other colors of beryl are aquamarine, morganite, goshenite, and heliodor. Emerald's color reflects new spring growth, which makes it the perfect choice of a birthstone for the month of May. Emerald is also the mystical birthstone for the month of January.
Its name originates from the Greek word smaragdos, which seems to have been given to a number of green stones besides emerald. The "emerald" of the Scriptures probably meant carbuncle (a garnet), and smaragdus, (referred to by Pliny) almost certainly included several species. Thus, historical references to "emerald" cannot be assumed to indicate the modern mineral.
The color of emerald is caused by trace amounts of a chromophore such as trivalent chromium or trivalent vanadium.
Formula: Al2(Si6O18) and it has a hexagonal crystal system.
Crystal form: often perfect hexagonal prisms
Note: most emeralds used in jewelry have been cut and polished to produce faceted and other shaped cabochons.
Emerald has priority over beryl as a mineral name. In the 1790s, Louis Nicolas Vauquelin, the discoverer of chromium, demonstrated that emerald and beryl were essentially the same chemical compound and that emeralds, sensu strictu, contained chromium. Nonetheless, emerald continued to be listed as the preferred species name for many decades and emerald finally began to be used as a variety name for beryl by the 1830s. New emerald reports referring to ordinary green or even blue beryl persisted in the amateur literature into the twentieth century. In the latter twentieth century, it was discovered that some emeralds contain more vanadium than chromium.
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 what is now Colombia (the majority of the world's gem-quality emeralds come from the Muzo area of 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.
To the Egyptians, emeralds were a symbol of fertility and life. The Aztecs called Emerald quetzalitzil and associated it with the quetzal, a bird with long green plumage--a symbol of seasonal renewal. In Europe, alchemists regarded the emerald as the stone of Mercury (Hermes)--messenger of the gods and conductor of the souls of the dead. When held in the mouth, emerald was believed to be a cure for dysentery and was worn as a preventative for epilepsy. It was also said to assist women in childbirth, drive away evil spirits, and protect the chastity of the wearer. It was held to have great medicinal value if administered internally, and in particular, it was said to be good for the eyesight. In the 17th century, Anselmus de Boot, physician to the Holy Roman Emperor, recommended an amulet of Emerald to prevent panic, cure fever, and stop bleeding. Unfortunately, emerald was also considered to be an enemy of sexual passion. Albertus Magnus, writing in the 13th century, noted that when King Bela of Hungary embraced his wife, his magnificent emerald broke into three peices!
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.