The stunning green emerald is the official birthstone for May. In addition to this, emeralds also commemorate both 20th and 55th wedding anniversaries which are actually referred to as Emerald Anniversaries. The May birthstone has for thousands of years been associated with renewal and rebirth.
Regarded by most people as the perfect example of the colour “green”, emeralds are the ideal colour of spring. The gem comes in various shades of green, all of which conjure up images of lush and soothing green gardens. Emeralds have since ancient times, captured the minds and hearts of people, from the beautiful gemstone itself to the poetic referral of Ireland, as the “Emerald Isle.”
History, legend, and folklore surrounding the May birthstone
History agrees that there is something spellbinding about emeralds. Take Cleopatra, for example, who wore the gems from head to toe, because according to the Egyptians, emeralds held the secret to eternal youth. It is for this reason that so many emeralds have been discovered inside pharaoh’s tombs.
Emeralds also featured prominently in South American folklore, with the ancient Incas worshipping the gemstones as gods!
Just one example of how Spanish people venerated the emerald, is the legendary Crown of the Andes, created in colonial South America. Legend has it that the largest gemstone in the crown, referred to these days as the “Atahualpa Emerald,” was stolen from Atahualpa, the last Inca emperor, by Francisco Pizzaro, a conquistador of the time.
The gold and emerald treasures salvaged from the sunken Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a 17th-century Spanish galleon, is just a mere fraction of the colonial riches that were sent from the New World to Spain.
As mentioned earlier, emeralds are also associated with Ireland, because of the lush green, rolling hills throughout the country. Even though the stones are not mined there, thanks to their bright green colour, they have profound meaning in the jewellery created in Ireland.
What does the emerald symbolise?
The emerald is a symbol of health, wealth, and vitality. It characterizes the colour green perfectly, and it is because of that, that it is the ideal gemstone for springtime. It is also a gem that has captured the imagination and hearts of people for thousands of years.
The ancient Romans believed that the colour green was the symbol of fertility and would give it as gifts to their young wives. This belief is still practiced today, with new mothers often being given gifts in the form of emeralds. It is for these reasons that the gemstone symbolizes all those things that support vitality, such as health, prosperity, and love.
One ancient belief that has actually had scientists proving that it is true, is that emeralds can benefit the eyesight!
According to Pliny the Elder, a Roman naturalist, there is nothing greener than the May birthstone and claimed that staring at an emerald was the best way to rest and restore tired eyes. Scientific studies in modern times have shown this to be true – staring at the colour green, does give relief to eye strain!
It makes perfect sense then, that if your eyes are tired from staring at your computer screen for hours, to take a break and give your eyes rest too, by gazing at something green for a short while.
There are several peculiar beliefs from long ago that are not that easy to prove.
For instance, in Europe, during medieval times, it was believed that if a person put an emerald under their tongue, it would give them the ability to foresee the future! Others again were convinced that if the green colour of an emerald changed at all, it was a sign that your lover was telling the truth or lying to you!
Where do emeralds come from?
The best emeralds come from Colombia, which is why many gemmologists use them as the standard for which they rate all other emeralds.
Coscuez, Chivor, and Muzo are the most well-known mining sites in Colombia, and all of these produce emeralds in a variety of colours. The emeralds produced at the Muzo mine tend to be a bit darker than the others, the stones from Coscuez again, are yellowish-green in colour, and Chivor produced emeralds are bluish-green.
Another of the main sources of emeralds in the world is the Minas Gerais mine in Brazil, which is also famous for its production of aquamarine gemstones, a close cousin of emeralds in the beryl mineral family.
Emeralds are also produced in other countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Zambia.
Emerald gemstone care and cleaning
Emeralds are between 7.5 and 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness, so there is more risk of them becoming scratched, unlike diamonds, which rank 10. May birthstones are frequently treated to enhance their colour and/or clarity. For instance:
- Fracture filling – artificial resins, waxes, and oils are used many times, to fill the fractures on the surface of emeralds. This procedure helps to improve the clarity of the stone by reducing the visibility of fractures. The amount of filler material used ranges from considerable to minor, with the different substances also varying in levels of stability.
- Dyeing – emeralds that have multiple fractures and are paler in colour, are sometimes dyed green to improve their colour.
Emeralds require a certain amount of special care, such as:
- Avoiding exposure to heat
- Avoiding air pressure changes, such as when travelling by plane
- Harsh chemicals
- Emeralds should never be put into an ultrasonic cleaner because the heat and vibrations could result in the filler coming out of fractures.
- Emerald jewellery should be removed before washing dishes, as exposure to hot water can cause damage to filled stones.
As far as cleaning goes, the best and safest way to clean the May birthstone is to scrub it gently with a soft brush and hand-warm, soapy water.
Best way to store emeralds
Storing your emeralds properly is equally as important and cleaning them correctly. Emerald jewellery should always be wrapped individually in soft cloth or tissue paper, in separate compartments in your jewellery box. Keeping them away from other fine jewellery will prevent your beautiful May birthstones from getting scratched.
You can view our fine range of May birthstone jewellery by clicking here - Emerald Jewellery -The Birthstone For May