What is Emerald?

Emerald is a green gemstone in the Beryl group. The colour ranges from light to dark green and can be transparent or translucent. The Emerald is predominately found in Columbia, Brazil, India, and South Africa. It is considered one of the most valuable gemstones and the most precious stone in the Beryl group.

The Greek word ‘Smaragdos’ means ‘green stone’ and is the derivative of the word Emerald.

Emeralds are formed by rising magma and are mined from rock where the Emerald has grown into the cavities. The colour varies according to the site of the mine – e.g.

•    Columbian Muzo mine produces deep green Emeralds
•    Brazilian mines produce yellow green stones, often without inclusions

Several well known and particularly large Emeralds are housed the Natural History Museum in London, American Museum of Natural History in New York, in the Persian Crown jewels and in the Viennese treasury which shows a jug weighing 2205ct cut from a single emerald crystal.


Emeralds are recorded as far back as three thousand years ago in Egypt at the site now known as Cleopatra’s mines and were one of the first gems which people tried to obtain.

At the end of the 13th century, Marco Polo returned from China with Emeralds.

Emeralds are mentioned both in Exodus and in Revelations.

Engraved Emeralds were used by the Ancient Egyptians as ring stones.

In the Seventeenth Century Emeralds were considered amongst the forefront of precious stones and this continued during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when they were used in necklaces together with diamonds.

In the nineteenth century, Napoleon decreed green to be the ‘imperial colour’ This resulted in soaring demand for emeralds in France and between 1872 and 1935, Emeralds were more expensive per cart than any other gemstone.


The Romans dedicated the Emerald to Venus and thought it was connected to reproduction. Guido Gregorietti wrote “the emerald … accelerated or retarded the delivery, if attached to the thigh or laid onto the womb of the woman in labour”

The Emerald was also connected by the Romans to healing tired eyes. For this reason green is considered to be the most restful colour for eyes. Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 A.D) wrote “they are the only gemstones which fill the eyes without saturating them…eyes will be refreshed and restored by looking at emeralds It is said that Nero watched the gladiators using a sliced emerald to improve his sight.

Emerald is also associated with strengthening the heart, kidneys and liver and calming the mind.

Sailors wear an emerald around their neck in order to protect themselves from drowning.

As Emeralds are supposed to be symbolic of faith, they are often used in ecclesiastical settings, and are to be seen as part of altars and vestments.

The Emerald is associated with the qualities of love, success, fidelity and goodness.

The birthstone for May is the Emerald. “Sweet Child of May, you’ll taste the caress of Emeralds promised happiness” (unknown source)

The Emerald is the stone associated with the 55th Wedding Anniversary.


The Emerald should be cleaned in warm, soapy water with a soft damp cloth and a soft brush.

Care should be taken when wearing Emerald jewellery and it should not be worn if heavy work is to be undertaken as it can fracture. Heat should also be avoided.

Voids in the Emerald are filled with oily fillers and so it is inadvisable to store Emeralds in dry conditions such as a safe deposit box as the fillers can evaporate. Emeralds should be stored in jewel boxes or individual plastic bags and should be stored away from other gems such as diamonds, in order to prevent scratching.

Emeralds should be re treated professionally by a jeweller every few years in order to maintain the stone.

Caring for Emerald (Summary)

•    Wash in warm soapy water with soft cloth and soft brush
•    Keep in jewel box or plastic bag away from other jewellery
•    Do not wear when undertaking heavy work
•    Do not keep in dry conditions such as safe deposit box
•    Obtain professional re treating every few years.


Emerald is one of the hardest gemstones. It measures 7.5 – 8 on the Mohs hardness scale. However, the inclusions which are almost always present, makes Emerald quite brittle and susceptible to breaking.

The colouring agent is usually chrome or vanadium.

Emeralds have a specific gravity of 2.72.

Emeralds are often ‘emerald cut’ i.e. oblong in shape with cut corners.

The crystal structure is hexagonal.