Emerald – May’s Birthstone

Now that we are almost to the end of May, I thought I would do a write-up on this month’s birthstone, emerald.

Emeralds come from the mineral beryl, a colorless stone which has impurities in it to give it the green color we associate with emeralds. I have previously discussed aquamarine, which is also from the beryl family.

Although they are a hard stone (7.5–8 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness), emeralds have many inclusions in them, which cause them to lack in toughness. An inclusion is anything that is enclosed within a gemstone. These inclusions can often be air pockets and small fractures, which can cause the gemstone to break more easily therefore reducing its toughness. (Please note hardness and toughness are not the same.)

The inclusions in the stones are generally filled with oils and/or polymers to help make them stronger. These treatments are regarded as standard practice for emeralds; however, there are different amounts by which a stone may be treated and it is always good to ask your jeweler for a treatment report. Knowing how your stone is treated will save you headaches in the long run. Because most emeralds have inclusions, if you put them into an ultrasonic cleaner, they will break or fracture at the inclusions.

According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), “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.” Today, Colombia is one of the largest sources of emeralds and Colombian emeralds are also highly sought after for their beautiful color.

If you are interested in the metaphysical properties of the emerald, it is thought to make its wearer more intelligent. It was also once believed to cure illnesses and the green color is thought to reduce stress and relieve eye strain.

I keep thinking about working an emerald piece into the Gretchen Smith Jewelry lineup, but I haven’t decided what I want to do yet. Do you have any ideas?

Thanks for reading!