The birthstone of May is the emerald. With its distinct green color, emeralds have long been held as symbols of rebirth and linked to the spring season. In addition to being one of the “precious four” gemstones, here are 5 fascinating facts about emeralds:
Cleopatra, or Isis Reincarnated
Ancient Egypt is home to the first known emerald mines, and Cleopatra is the OG emerald fanatic. Claiming to be the reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess, Isis (Caesar would later erect a golden statue of Cleopatra as Isis in a Roman temple), Cleopatra’s passion for emeralds wasn’t just skin deep: she believed emeralds had healing powers, as well as properties of fertility and rebirth (Photo above Courtesy MyDomaine).
Before Green Juice
While Egyptians linked emeralds with healing abilities and fertility, Ottoman sultans believed they imparted faithfulness and unchanging love on its wearer. The green gemstone was also thought to invigorate the body, calm the mind, imbue wisdom upon its wearer, and even bestow the ability to see the future. In a way, the mystical fascination with Cleopatra parallels a historical fascination of emeralds (Photo above Courtesy Gemologue).
The Color of Money
The “Mogul Mughal Emerald,” a rectangular-cut, 217.80 carat emerald is one of the largest emeralds known. Originally mined in Columbia and then sold in India to the rulers of the Mughal Empire in 1107, the “Mogul Mughal Emerald” was sold by auction house Christie’s for £1,543,750 in 2001. In 2008, it was housed in the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar (Photo of 20 Ct. Cushion-cut Emeralds Courtesy Emerald Mine).
More than Narcos
Columbia is the world’s largest provider of emeralds, contributing to more than half of all emerald production. As early as 1568, Spanish Conquistadors were mining emeralds at the Muzo mine, the largest known emerald deposit to this day. The Columbian government took over the Muzo mine in the 1940’s. In the 1970’s, the Muzo mine and other large emerald deposits were privatized with 25-year mining contracts (Photo Courtesy GIA).
A Gemstone with Character
Inclusions, or imperfections that lower the clarity grade of an emerald, are a natural part of the character of emeralds and to be expected. When shopping for emeralds, look for inclusions that are well below the surface to avoid fractures when worn. An emerald without inclusions is instantly suspect to being unnatural or materially enhanced.