A variety of the mineral beryl (Be3Al2(SiO3)6) colored green by trace amounts of chromium and sometimes vanadium. Beryl has a hardness of 7.5–8 on the 10-point Mohs scale of mineral hardness. The name comes from the old French “esmeralde”, that was derived from the Greek word “smaragdos” meaning “green stone”.
Innumerable fantastic stories have grown up around this magnificent gem. The Incas and Aztecs of South America, where the best emeralds are still found today, regarded the emerald as a holy gemstone. However, probably the oldest known finds were made near the Red Sea in Egypt. These gemstone mines, exploited by Egyptian pharaohs between 3000 and 1500 B.C. and later referred to as “Cleopatra’s Mines”, had already been exhausted by the time they were rediscovered in the early 19th century.
Written many centuries ago, the Vedas, the holy scriptures of the Hindus, say the following of the precious green gems and their healing properties: ‘Emeralds promise good luck’ and ‘the emerald enhances the well-being’. No wonder the treasure chests of Indian maharajas and maharanis contained wonderful emeralds. Emerald is the official birthstone for May and the official anniversary gemstone for commemorating the 20th and 35th year of marriage.
Precious emerald is sensitive to pressure and vulnerable to household chemicals. Although emerald is one of the harder gemstones, it does still require careful handling, due to its naturally included and flawed formation. Extra care should be taken when handling emeralds as they are more fragile than other forms of beryl. Avoid wearing emerald jewelry when working with harsh chemicals or household cleaners, such as bleach or acid. When cleaning, you can use warm soapy water and a tissue or a soft cloth. Be sure to rinse the stones well to remove all soapy residue.
Avoid ultrasonic cleaners and steamers when cleaning your emeralds as these can remove the oils that are used to enhance the emeralds. Traditional oiling for emeralds is stable but not permanent, which means that most emeralds will need re-oiling every so often to return some of their lost color and luster. Always remove any emerald jewelry before exercising, cleaning, playing sports or engaging in vigorous physical activities. Emeralds can easily scratch other gems, and they can easily be scratched by harder gems such as topaz and sapphires. To prevent scratches, store emeralds away from other gemstones and gemstone jewelry. Store your gemstones by wrapping them in soft cloth and placing them in a fabric-lined box.