No wonder, May’s birthstone, the emerald is refreshing to the eyes as the oncoming spring it heralds! A metamorphic beryl, emeralds grow very slowly, as it takes years and years of constant pressure to produce them, and larger ones are extremely rare and therefore, costly.
Ancient Eygptians mined emeralds in the eastern desert region some 2000 years before Cleopatra’s birth, though how they were originally discovered is unclear. We do know that they braved harsh desert conditions, scorpions, adders and heat to search for her favorite gem, and she claimed the emerald mines of Egypt as her own, bestowing visiting dignitaries of emeralds carved with her likeness! Cleopatra believed that the vibrant green color symbolized eternal youth, and in alignment with Egyptian’s penchant for preparing for the afterlife, emeralds engraved with symbols of foliage were often buried with their dead.
Spanish conquistadors in South America encountered Native peoples wearing emeralds the size of which never previously seen…these came from a mining operation owned by the Muzo Indians of what is now Columbia. It took the Spaniards 20 years to find the mines and another 30 to conquer the Muzos and claim these mines as their own! The finest emeralds in the world still hail from these mines, though other sources are Brazil, Russia, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, and Madagascar. Though emeralds are quite hard, they can harbor many inclusions or fissures called “jardins” which make them fragile to blows or shocks and should not be placed in an ultrasonic cleaner or subject to rough handling. I am not a follower of ‘movie stars’ but Angelina Jolie wore a pair of HUGE emerald earrings to the Academy awards that were the buzz of the fine jewellery/fashion industry…they were said to be valued at a million dollars, but interestingly enough, they did not sparkle anywhere NEARLY as much as lab grown emeralds would, as real emeralds are so full of inclusions that they don’t refract light the same way!
The wearing of an emerald is believed to bring about increased wisdom, patience, and of course, growth…a gift of emerald in a relationship is considered to be symbolic of love and fidelity!