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The Significance of Birthstones: May and Emerald

Emerald is May’s birthstone, a stunning gem prized by civilisations throughout history. Assigned to the month of May, it carries the green colour of spring and is a symbol of rebirth and love. At 7.5 – 8 on the Mohs hardness scale, it’s suitable for careful everyday wear.

Where is emerald found?

Emeralds are mined all over the world, but the finest stones are found in Colombia. The colour of emeralds vary dependent on the level of chromium or vanadium in the stone. In Colombia, the darker, pure green emeralds come from the mine at Muzo. Emeralds lighter in tone and bluish green are associated with Chivor, and yellowish green emeralds are found in Coscuez.

History of the emerald

Emeralds have enchanted the rich and aristocratic for thousands of years. Legend has it that emerald was Cleopatra’s favourite gemstone. In what is now South America, the Atahualpa emerald was stolen from the last Incan emperor, Atahualpa, by Francisco Pizarro, a conquistador. The stone was set in the Crown of the Andes, considered one of the most important examples of goldsmith work from the colonial Americas. It is housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Emerald jewellery, though it never went out of fashion, surged in popularity in the mid 20th century and was especially popular on brooches or cocktail rings that showed off larger stones. Celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor were particularly famed for their ostentatious wearing of the jewels – displaying their wealth and opulence.

Antique emerald jewellery

As a prominent gemstone used in jewellery, emeralds are commonly seen in rings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches, and more. Antique emerald rings primarily feature emerald cut, round cut, and cushion cut gemstones, often set alongside diamonds or another gemstone. This 5.2 carat emerald and diamond ring circa 1955 perfectly demonstrates how emerald and diamond can complement each other in a ring.

Emerald earrings are also popular antique items, prized for their bold and colourful appearance. These 0.90 carat emerald stud earrings set in 18k gold are a great example of how even smaller emeralds have been used to beautiful effect in jewellery.

How to look after emeralds

Graded at 7.5-8 on the Mohs scale of hardness, an emerald is hard enough for everyday wear but is still susceptible to damage. It is common for emeralds to be dyed or fracture filled to enhance their colour or stabilise cracks or breakages.

Emeralds should avoid exposure to heat, changes in air pressure, and harsh chemicals. Also be wary of using an ultrasonic cleaner as it could cause damage. To safely clean an emerald, gently use a cloth and warm soapy water.