Emeralds, with their rich history and captivating hue, are the birthstones for May and mark the 25th and 30th wedding anniversaries. They belong to the beryl family, holding the title as its most esteemed member.
Etymology and Historical Significance
The term “Emerald” has its roots in the Greek word ‘smaragdos’, which translates to ‘green gemstone’. This name journeyed through the Old French term ‘esmeralde’ before settling into its modern form. Throughout history, emeralds have been the gem of choice for royalty, gracing crowns and ancient Egyptian artifacts. The Incas, valuing the gemstone’s significance, offered emeralds to their deities. They fiercely guarded its source, even at the cost of their lives, from the Spanish conquistadors. However, once the Spanish discovered these treasures, they introduced the European market to the allure of South American emeralds.
Classification and Color
While the beryl species boasts other gems like aquamarine, morganite, and heliodor, for a beryl to be classified as an emerald, it must possess a specific hue and saturation. If it’s too pale, it’s simply termed green beryl. The green in emeralds arises from the presence of chromium. Some rare emeralds might also have traces of vanadium.
Emeralds with a bluish-green to pure green shade, exhibiting strong to vivid saturation and a medium to medium-dark tone, are the most sought after. Even if an emerald has inclusions, a top-tier color can still make it highly valuable.
Emerald mines are scattered across the globe, with notable sources in:
- Australia (New South Wales, Western Australia)
- United States (North Carolina)
Properties and Enhancements
Emeralds score a 7.5-8 on the Mohs hardness scale. To augment their appearance, many undergo an oil treatment. This not only enhances their look by masking inclusions but also necessitates meticulous care during setting and cleaning. Some treatments even employ green oils or hard epoxy-like resins.
Lab-Created vs. Natural
While lab-created emeralds share the same composition as their natural counterparts, there are also simulants crafted from glass and other substances. These imitations might mimic the vibrant color of genuine emeralds but differ in their chemical makeup.