May Birthstone: Emerald . May Birthstone Color is Green
By Devorah Isenberg
, Thursday, August 25, 2011
By Devorah Isenberg
, August 25, 2011
Emerald engagement ring set
Q: What is the birthstone for May?
After a long, cold winter and a rainy early spring, the first few days of May usually bring the welcome sight of grass, leaves, and flowers emerging from winter hibernation and blooming once again. May is the month of rebirth and new growth, so it is only fitting that the May birthstone is the emerald, the renowned stone of a deep, verdant green.
Not only is the birthstone of May the same lush green hue as a spring garden, but emeralds often have tiny fractures and inclusions that resemble a field of leaves or grass, which is what gives them the French name of “jardin”, or garden. In ancient Egypt, emeralds were engraved with leaves and buried with the dead to represent the eternal youth of the afterlife. Emeralds were so important to the Egyptians that they were mined in the Egyptian desert for thousands of years, despite heat, scorpions and snakes. Cleopatra was well-known for her love of emeralds, as she wore incredible emerald jewelry and gave visiting royals from other nations large emeralds engraved with her own image.
When the Spanish conquistadors reached the shores of the New World in the sixteenth century, they found Native Americans wearing the most magnificent emeralds the world had ever seen. The conquistadors returned to Spain with treasures from the American emerald mines, although the most abundant mines were carefully guarded by the Muzo Indian tribes for thirty years. Today, that Muzo mine, located in present-day Columbia, is one of the world’s most prized emerald mines, producing one of the most sought-after varieties of the birthstone for May.
Like the aquamarine, the emerald is a form of the mineral beryl. Emerald crystals grow inside metamorphic rocks, making large emeralds exceedingly rare. Although the gemstone is hard enough for use in jewelry, it needs to be protected from direct blows because of the delicate network of inclusions usually found in the stone.
Q: What is the May birthstone said to symbolize?
The Ancient Romans connected the emerald to Venus, the goddess of love, and attributed to it the features of rebirth and new growth. More recently, people have believed that the emerald brings wisdom, growth, and patience—making it a favorite gift among long-married couples. The gift of an emerald is said to symbolize love and faithfulness.
Emerald is the Modern and Traditional birthstone for May. It is also listed as a birthstone for the Zodiac signs for Taurus and Cancer, as the Planetary stone for Taurus and the Talismanic stone for Gemini. Emerald is the only stone, besides Topaz, that is listed as in all of the ancient birthstone tables. This gem is suggested as an anniversary gift for the 20th and 35th anniversaries and as an alternate stone for the 55th wedding anniversary.
Emerald is the name given the green variety of beryl and ranges between 7.5 and 8 on the Mohs scale. The name Emerald is derived from the French "esmeraude” and the Greek root "smaragdos” which means 'green gemstone'. Top quality emeralds are a deep grass green with a slightly bluish cast, but many lesser quality stones are lighter shades of green and can have a more yellowish tone. Emeralds are found in many countries, but Columbia and Brazil are the major producers and Columbia is recognized as the source for the finest stones. They are also found in Pakistan, Russia, Australia, South Africa, India, Norway, and the United States.
Because emeralds usually contain many cracks, fissures, and inclusions, the majority of these stones are "oiled". This means that they are immersed in oil which reduces the visibility of the inclusions, and also improves the clarity. Oiling is almost universal and because it is so common today, it is not considered necessary to disclose this fact Emeralds are brittle stones and care should be taken when wearing or cleaning them. They should never be immersed in an ultrasonic or subjected to steam cleaning.
Emeralds were used as amulets to ward off epilepsy in children and thought to cure diseases of the eye. Folklore suggests that these stones will improve memory, intelligence, and enhance clairvoyance thus helping to predict future events. They are also worn to enhance love and contentment. Cleopatra prized emeralds above all other gems.
Additional information about emeralds can be found on the IGA (International Gemstone Association) website.