Doesn’t hearing the word Emerald instantly make you think of The Wizard of Oz and the Emerald City? If it makes you think of Ireland (known as the ‘Emerald Isle’ due to its lush green countryside) or even Seattle in Washington State USA (also known as the Emerald City, not sure why?) that’s ok too. Emerald is also the traditional birthstone for the month of May, as well as the stone for 20th and 55th wedding anniversaries.
Emerald is a precious gem, and sits alongside diamond, ruby and sapphire in rarity and cost. Weight for weight, Emeralds are some of the most expensive of the precious gems, sometimes even beating diamonds on price. It is also of the few stones that isn’t expected to be completely clear and inclusion free. In fact, specks and cloudiness are considered part of its charm and do not affect the value negatively.
The word Emerald comes from a variety of sources; the Old French ‘Esmeraude’; Middle English ‘Emeraude’; from the Vulgar Latin; ‘Esmaralda/Esmaraldus’ and a variant of the Greek word ‘Smaragdos’ which means ‘green stone’.
In Ancient Egypt, Cleopatra was apparently fanatical about emeralds and claimed one of the earliest known emerald mines for her own. The Incas hoarded vast quantities of emeralds, as they were the stone of the goddess Esmeralda. The Romans thought it to be soothing for the eyes to look at an emerald and Emperor Nero is recorded as having an eye glass made of emerald for watching gladiatorial contests.
Using emerald in jewellery has continued to be popular, through the middle ages to Art Deco to modern day. Royalty such as Queen Elizabeth II has many emerald pieces including the Cambridge Emerald Choker.
Top image- crop of Mackay Emerald by Greyloch on flickr
Bottom image– still from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ 1936