Emeralds for May

Are you a fan of emeralds?  You’re in good company.  Cleopatra was an avid emerald collector, as were many Indian maharajas and maharanis.  The Aztec and the Inca managed to assemble collections of large size emeralds.   

Humans have been mining this green variety of beryl for approximately 5000 years.  Today, most emeralds are found in Columbia, Brazil and Zambia.  

Any May birthdays out there?  May babies (including myself) are fortunate to have this pretty green stone as our birthstone. 

The green colour of this gemstone is caused by small amounts of chromium and vanadium.  The highest quality emeralds are a deep grass green colour with a bluish cast and can be more valuable than diamonds.

Emerald in calcite and pyrite - photo by Rob Lavinsky

5 carat emerald - photo by Rob Lavinsky

Emeralds often contain inclusions, fissures and flaws.  As a result, many emeralds are oiled, a treatment that reduces the visibility of inclusions and improves the clarity of the stone. 

The emerald cut – a rectangular or square cut with bevelled corners – was developed to show this stone to best advantage.  Removing the corners helps protect this brittle stone from breakage. 

diagram of emerald cut

Special care must be taken with emeralds as they are frequently oiled.   

  • only clean with a soft, dry cloth; 
  • never use an ultrasonic cleaner on emeralds;
  • always remove any emerald rings before putting hands in soapy water;
  • emeralds which are oiled can dry out, so at times the stones will need to be re-oiled. 

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