Birthstone Guide: Emerald for Those Born in May

For those born in May, emerald is their birthstone. Here Gem-A gemmology tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG explores the history and qualities of this beautiful beryl.

The emerald is arguably the most well-known and desired member of the beryl family with its brilliantly verdant colour. Green stones have been called emeralds for thousands of years since 4000 BC, regardless of whether they actually were what we know as emeralds today.

Lore
At one time, emeralds were believed to give one the ability to predict the future, especially when held underneath the tongue. They were also believed to confer riches upon the wearer and used as protection against poison and demonic possession. Used as a symbol of immortality and wealth, emeralds have been valued for centuries for both their appearance and symbolism.  Finally, it is said that emeralds are beneficial for the eye and it is reported that some lapidaries keep an emerald on their bench to look at, giving relief to their tired eyes after a long day of cutting gems.

READ MORE:  Jurassic Jet

Localities
Emeralds have been mined for thousands of years, stretching back to Egypt near the Red Sea around 2000 BC in what were known as Cleopatra’s emerald mines.  While Egyptian emeralds were some of the first to be mined and traded, it was the discoveries of Colombian emeralds by 16th century Spanish conquistadors like Pizarro that brought strikingly saturated green crystals to the European market-- particularly to the Spanish court and beyond. It is still thought that emeralds from the Colombian mines such as Chivor, Muzo and Cozquez are the finest in the world.
Other localities that produce emeralds are Brazil, Russia, India, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and North Carolina, USA. 

Crystals and inclusions
Emeralds typically form as hexagonal prisms with a flat pinacoid top and base. Sometimes, they can have rectangular etch pits on the prism faces and hexagonal etch pits on the top of the crystal.

Pyrite Inclusion in Emerald. Image Credit: Gem-A.

READ MORE: Two Incredible 50ct Diamonds up to Auction at Sotherby's

Due to their brittle nature, these gemstones often have internal fractures along with many different types of inclusions. Emeralds are routinely oiled or even resin-filled, to reduce the appearance of these internal fractures. It is possible to see a blue or yellow flash within the stone if it has been filled with a resin, but careful observation is needed. 
Also found in Colombia are trapiche emeralds, in which an emerald forms with a central, hexagonal crystal from which radiate six emerald segments that are separated by a fine-grained mixture of colourless beryl and nearly black albite.

Emerald Trapiche. Photo by Pat Daly

Inclusions are numerous and varied, and sometimes one can tell where the emerald was mined based on what lies inside the gemstone. Colombian emeralds, for example, typically have three-phase inclusions, which consist of a liquid, a solid mineral inclusion and a gas bubble contained in a jagged cavity. Other inclusions typical of their localities are comma-shaped two-phase inclusions found in Indian emeralds, and long, curved tremolite inclusions in emeralds from Zimbabwe. There are many other inclusions such as bamboo-like actinolite, pyrite and colourless rhomb-shaped crystals.

READ MORE: Gold of the Scythians

 
Three Phase Inclusion in Emerald. Image Credit: Gem-A. 

Cut and use in jewellery
There is a type of square or rectangular step-cut with truncated corners that is so often used for this gemstone that it is more commonly known as the emerald cut. The corners are removed so as to protect the brittle stone from unwanted chipping and breakage at the stone’s most vulnerable points. Claw settings are used, particularly at the corners and along the sides, but a more practical setting would be the bezel or rub-over setting in order to form a barrier around the entire stone.

 Emerald Cut Emerald and Diamond Ring. Image Credit: Pixabay. 

Whether you love emeralds or prefer another type of beryl, there is no arguing that its deep green colour and lore make it a gemstone to be admired.

Interested in finding out more about gemmology? Sign-up to one of Gem-A's courses or workshops.

If you would like to subscribe to Gems&Jewellery and The Journal of Gemmology please visit Membership.

Cover image: Emerald with Two Phase Inclusions. Image Credit Pat Daly.

 


Understanding Selenite

Understanding Selenite

The Gem-A Gemstone & Mineral Collection contains this fantastic selenite specimen with grass-like green blades that shoot-out from the host rock. Assistant gemmology tutor, Dr Juliette Hibou FGA, explains more about the origins and properties of this striking gem material. 

Read more


What Makes A Gemstone Rare?

What Makes A Gemstone Rare?

The term 'rare' is thrown around alot online, but what gemstones actually deserve the term and do diamonds fall into this category at all? Gem-A tutor manager, Rona Bierrum FGA DGA, explores some of the rarest gemstones known to man and considers how rarity is measured in the gem and jewellery trade. 

Read more


What is the Link Between an Emerald and the Emerald-Cut?

What is the Link Between an Emerald and the Emerald-Cut?

Sometimes, we come across terms in gemmology that cause confusion. We all recognise the beautiful green colour of an emerald, but there is also an emerald-cut that has nothing to do with the green gem itself… or does it? Here, we explain the story behind the twisted terminology.

Read more


The Most Underappreciated Gemstone? Why We Love Rock Crystal

The Most Underappreciated Gemstone? Why We Love Rock Crystal

Everyone knows that lucky April-born souls have been blessed with one of the most prestigious birthstones: diamond. However, there is an alternative birthstone for the month and it's a 'hidden gem'... so to speak! Gem-A Member, Julia Griffith FGA DGA EG explains why rock crystal is worth your time and attention. 

Read more


Birthstones Guide: Diamond for Those Born in April

Birthstones Guide: Diamond for Those Born in April

Those born in the month of April can count the illustrious and historically significant diamond as their birthstone. Here, Gem-A tutor Lily Faber FGA DGA EG delves into the past to uncover why diamonds are so valued... and so valuable. 

Read more


Understanding Fossils as Decorative Materials

Understanding Fossils as Decorative Materials

Inspired by a fantastic specimen in the Gem-A Gemstone & Mineral Collection, tutor Pat Daly FGA DGA explores the use of fossils as decorative objects and describes some collectible specimens, like ammonites, trilobites and peanut wood.

Read more


Gem-A Offers Scholarships to Trio of GCDC Award Winners

Gem-A Offers Scholarships to Trio of GCDC Award Winners

Inspired by the level of jewellery design talent on display at the recent Goldsmiths’ Craft & Design Council Awards, Gem-A opted to present not one, but three scholarships to worthy entrants. Discover the designers who have been offered a place on the Gem-A Diamond Grading and Identification course here... 

Read more


Beginner's Guide: What Are the Different Types of Opal?

Beginner's Guide: What Are the Different Types of Opal?

Are you fascinated by the beautiful colours of opal? Do you wish you knew more? Gem-A assistant gemmology tutor, Charlie Bexfield FGA EG presents his beginner's guide to opal types, including common and precious varieties. 

Read more


Top 10 Luxury Brands: The Jewellery Connoisseur's Wish List

Top 10 Luxury Brands: The Jewellery Connoisseur's Wish List

Do you dream about a sparkling high jewellery collection from world-leading brands? Christa Van Eerde MA MLitt FGA DGA discovers the quintessential pieces from the top 10 houses leading the luxury jewellery sector.

Read more


Read the Spring 2019 Issue of Gems&Jewellery

Read the Spring 2019 Issue of Gems&Jewellery

We are pleased to introduce the Spring 2019 edition of Gems&Jewellery magazine, packed full of interesting and informative features for Gem-A Members and current students. Find out how to read the issue online here... 

Read more


Bloodstone: The Alternative March Birthstone

Bloodstone: The Alternative March Birthstone

Perhaps because of its gothic colour palette and unusual history, bloodstone has long been considered the more 'traditional' choice for the month of March. Here, Gem-A gemmology tutor Lily Faber FGA EG delves into the properties of bloodstone, which is sometimes known as heliotrope or 'blood jasper'. 

Read more


Birthstone Guide: Aquamarine for Those Born in March

Birthstone Guide: Aquamarine for Those Born in March

Those born in March are lucky enough to have two birthstones: the beautiful blue of aquamarine and the mysterious red-spotted bloodstone. Here, we delve into the gemmological and mystical properties of aquamarine and why this sky blue gem is said to be a talisman of good luck, fearlessness and protection. 

Read more


Questions To Ask When Buying A Piece Of Gemstone Jewellery

Questions To Ask When Buying A Piece Of Gemstone Jewellery

What are the essential questions to ask a high street store or designer brand when buying a piece of gemstone jewellery? How can you be sure you'll get what you really want? Continue reading to see our checklist of essential conversation starters. 

Read more


Understanding Dioptase

Understanding Dioptase

Did you think this might be emerald? You certainly wouldn't be the first to confuse the vibrant green of dioptase with the more recognisable, jewellery-lover's gemstone. Here, Gem-A assistant gemmology tutor, Dr Juliette Hibou FGA, explains more about the history, properties and origins of dioptase, an unusual collector's gem. 

Read more