The rich green
emerald holds within it the promise of new life in
springtime. How appropriate that it should also be
considered the May birthstone.
Long ago the emerald was dedicated to
Venus, the goddess of love. Lovers where told that this
gemstone could reveal the faithfulness of their beloved.
Faithfulness was reflected in a fresh, bright green; a
cheating heart was betrayed by lifeless color.
Emeralds have always been highly prized
by royalty. Cleopatra, queen of Egypt wore emeralds from her
mine in Upper Egypt. Emeralds are heavily represented in the
Russian Crown Jewels
from the time of the czars. The Emperor Nero is said to have
gazed through a large emerald to soothe his eyes as he
watched the gladiator games in the Coliseum.
The ancients prized emerald highly and
believed it held many powers. They felt it could endow the
wearer with the ability to think clearly in the past,
present and future. It was supposed to improve one's memory,
promote eloquent speech, quicken intelligence and endow the
ability to foretell the future. It was also believed to
promote honesty and frugality. Powdered and taken as
medicine, it was considered a preventative of epilepsy and
other serious disorders.
Like many other gems, emerald had to
share its earliest fame with other green gems which had not
yet been recognized for their uniqueness. Also called
emerald by the ancient Romans were the green sapphire,
turquoise, smithsonite, malachite, jasper and glass.
According to the historian Pliny, the Romans believed that
emeralds ripened into their color, so gems with light
patches or consistent paleness were considered immature.
Emerald's exciting color has always been
its lure. Even uncut, unpolished crystals are
immediately recognized as something special. Indeed, when
evaluating emeralds, color is the most important quality
factor. Included crystals and cavities are not a hindrance
unless the weaken the stone or cause it to appear cloudy or
muddy. In fact, emerald inclusions often create a graceful,
branch like pattern known as a "jardin" (French for
America has always been the source of the finest emeralds.
When the Spaniards conquered the Incas in the the early 16th
century, they stole all the emeralds they could find.
However, the Incas refused to reveal the source of these
coveted gems, and, fortunately, the jungle quickly grew over
the paths to the mines. The precious treasure was safe from
the plunderers- at least temporarily. In 1655 one of the
mines of Muzo was discovered by accident, and the Spanish