Glossary: Emerald Gem - What It Is & Where It Is From
Regal and elegant, emeralds are renowned for their exceptional beauty, rarity and striking deep green color. As one of the world's most cherished gems, the stone radiates a vivid hue, creating a striking visual impact that has made it a fixture in fine jewelry throughout recorded history.
What is an Emerald?
Known for its deep green color, emerald is a precious gemstone that belongs to the beryl family. Created through a slow crystallization process that occurs deep within the Earth's crust, the stone is formed from a combination of beryllium, aluminum, silicon and oxygen.
Emeralds can be found in several locations worldwide, including Colombia, Brazil, Zambia and Ethiopia. Known for their exceptional quality, Colombian emeralds are often considered the standard for high-quality for this gemstone. Brazilian emeralds are typically larger and have a lighter green color, while Zambian emeralds are known for their deep green hue. Relatively new to the market, Ethiopian emeralds are prized for their intense green color and unique crystal structure.
Emerald Gemstone Properties
A relatively durable gemstone, emerald has a hardness of 7.5-8 on the Mohs scale, which makes them well-suited for everyday wear — but not impervious to scratching and chipping. The refractive index of this gem ranges from 1.57 to 1.59, which gives them a moderate level of brilliance and fire.
Emerald gemstones come in a range of colors, from yellow-green to blue-green, but the most desirable shade is a pure green hue. Bear in mind that most gemologists and colored gemstone dealers will refer to a stone as a green beryl when its natural color is “too light” to qualify as an emerald.
In addition to color, the clarity of emeralds is an important factor in their value, with the most prized stones being free of visible inclusions. Some of these green gemstones have natural fractures, known as "jardin," which can add character and uniqueness to the stones, while also affecting their durability.
Cuts and Shapes
A versatile gemstone, emeralds can be cut into a variety of shapes to suit different jewelry designs. The most popular cut is the emerald cut, which is a rectangular shape with cut corners that highlight the stone's clarity and color. Another popular cut is the round cut, which maximizes the brilliance and sparkle of the stone.
Other unique shapes of emeralds include the pear cut, which resembles a teardrop and elongates the fingers when worn as a ring, and the cushion cut, which has a square or rectangular shape with rounded corners and a vintage feel. With its square shape and pointed corners, the princess cut is also a popular shape for this green gem. Each cut has its own unique features and can accentuate different aspects of the stone's beauty, allowing for a wide range of choices when it comes to selecting this stunning green stone for jewelry.
The birthstone for the month of May, emeralds have been highly regarded for their beauty and rarity since ancient times. In astrology, these green gems are believed to be associated with the planet Mercury and are thought to bring balance and harmony to one's life. In spirituality, these gems are considered a symbol of rebirth and renewal, with the power to promote healing and growth.
Emerald gemstones add meaningful beauty to jewelry gifts for people born in May. They’re also popular year-round among countless women who treasure the gem for its high value and glorious green hue.
In Jewelry Design
One of the world’s most coveted precious gemstones, emeralds hold a prominent place in modern jewelry design. Regal and sophisticated, the stones add eye-catching green color to the finger, especially when elevated by luxe diamond accents. The exquisite effect is amplified with an eye-catching pair of matching emerald earrings. Many modern fashionistas also love to wrap the wrist in May birthstone bracelets, while countless others accentuate their necklines in resplendent green hues with an elegant emerald necklace.
World-renowned for his creative designs and high-quality materials, John Atencio offers stunning jewelry pieces featuring exquisite emerald gemstones. His celebrated creations include custom jewelry with this stunning green gemstone, and he also incorporates the stone into many of his signature styles and designs.
These days, modern innovations allow scientists to duplicate the earth’s natural processes and create man-made emerald gemstones that are identical to natural emeralds mined from the earth. These gems are made from high-quality ingredients that simulate the conditions of the earth's mantle, where natural gemstones are formed. Stunning and environmentally friendly, they have the same chemical and physical properties as natural emeralds and are often more affordable.
Lab gemstones are a more sustainable option than their mined counterparts because they require less energy and fewer resources to produce. They also eliminate the social and environmental issues associated with traditional mining practices, such as the destruction of ecosystems and exploitation of local communities.
Committed to ethical and sustainable gemstone sourcing, John Atencio includes lab-grown emeralds in his celebrated Paloma collection, inspired by his paternal grandmother, a woman of great faith, who steadfastly envisioned a world as one.
Care and Maintenance
Since even the highest quality natural emeralds will contain a certain amount of filled fractures, it's risky to clean the stones with steam or ultrasonic devices. Hot steam can cause unhardened resin or oil to sweat out of fractures, and ultrasonic vibrations can weaken fractured stones. With this in mind, it’s best to use simple warm, soapy water to clean your gemstones.
Symbolism and History
Like many other gemstones, emeralds are associated with all sorts of legends and lore. Centuries ago, people believed the green gems endowed the wearer with the power to predict the future. When placed beneath the tongue, these colored stones were thought to help protect against evil spells. The gemstone was even thought to help cure serious diseases such as malaria and cholera.
By wearing this green gem, people also believed they could speak more eloquently and perceive the truth or falseness of a lover’s oath.
Since antiquity, emeralds have been a symbol of love, protection, spiritual awareness and wisdom. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed them to be the representative of Venus, the goddess of love. Hence, they perceived the stones as conveyors of hope and love.
Even the Egyptians and Incas had strong myths about these green gemstones, believing that they were a source of eternal life. Queen Cleopatra was known to favor emeralds, and the gemstones were commonly sold in the Babylon markets as long ago as 4000 BC.
Great historical figures such as Aristotle and Alexander carried these green gems as talismans. And in Indian astrology, the term “emerald" comes from the ancient Sanskrit word “Marakata,” which translates to "green of growing things."
The gem’s fascinating lore stretches all the way into the 1930s, when the Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII of England, commissioned an emerald necklace as a gift to his wife, the famous Duchess of Windsor. The necklace was a legendary piece of jewelry featuring a rare 19-carat emerald centerpiece surrounded by diamonds. Famously worn by the Duchess to many important events, the necklace cemented the emerald’s status as an iconic piece of jewelry.
Are Emeralds Expensive?
Emeralds can be quite expensive due to their relative scarcity. When it comes to rare, expensive gems, most people think of diamonds; but emeralds are more than 20 times rarer and, therefore, often command higher prices.
What is the Rarest Emerald?
The $400 million Bahia Emerald is the most expensive of these gemstones in the world. This massive gem weighs in at over 840 pounds and measures over three feet tall, making it one of the largest and most impressive gemstones ever discovered.
But in general, the rarest and most valuable of these gems are mined from Chivor, Coscuez and Muzo in the foothills of the Colombian Andes. These areas have been producing high-quality emeralds for centuries. The gems from these mines are prized for their deep green color and exceptional clarity, which is due to the unique geological conditions in the region.
Where Should You Buy Your Emerald Jewelry?
A legend in jewelry design, John Atencio crafts breathtaking jewelry pieces using the finest sustainable natural stones and highest-quality lab-grown gems. With a passion for creativity and ethical design, he provides a compelling collection of emerald gemstones that beautifully complement his artfully crafted jewelry pieces. Visit one of our convenient locations and let our knowledgeable jewelry experts guide you to the perfect jewelry piece.