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    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 "garden").

A Colorful History

    Colombia, South 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 began mining.