The famous grass green colour has given this member of the beryl family its name to the distinctive hue we now refer to as emerald green. The colour of the stone is due to the presence of chromium and vanadium. The name comes from the Greek word “smaragdos”, meaning again, green stone. The beautiful green colour of emerald is only occasionally equalled by some of the precious jades. The stones are rarely flawless to the extent that inclusions are often considered proof of an emerald’s genuineness. (referred to as its “jardin”, French for garden). Large emerald crystals can be found though these are rarely of faceting quality.
The main sources of emerald today are Colombia and Brazil. Other sources are India, Australia, Russia, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.
The first emeralds used in the old world would probably have come from Cleopatra’s famous mines in Upper Egypt and the Red Sea coast. These are now of poor quality and with the discovery of emeralds in Colombia in the 15th century, a glut of emeralds in Europe ensued, triggering a brisk trade of the stones to India and the Middle East. To the Ancient Egyptians, emeralds were a symbol of fertility and life. In Europe, alchemists regarded emerald as the stone of Mercury the messenger of the gods and conductor of the souls of the dead. The Aztecs called the stone Quetzi, as in bright green Quetzacoatl bird, itself a symbol of seasonal renewal. In the Middle Ages it was considered a cure for epilepsy and an aid for childbirth. Emerald is the birthstone for May.