Emeralds are the birthstone for May. I am a May baby and I love this stone above all other. Emerald jewelry is a favorite with many people because they love the color of the stone which suits so many complexions.
The color of a beautiful emerald is incomparable to anything else in nature that I can think of. It is the standard by which we measure brilliant green. Of course, there are emeralds and emeralds. We are talking the stones with deep green color, possibly a minute tinge of blue, but not yellow.
Emerald jewelry has a brightness and luminosity that no other gemstone can rival. Technically, emeralds may be graded by color, cut and clarity, but to me, when you see the great stones, it is simply a question of WOW! Avoid stones with muddy color and too many visible inclusions.
Emeralds have been enjoyed and valued by civilizations going back thousands of years - Egyptians, Ancient Greeks and Chinese. The Indian Mughals really loved their emeralds to the extent that we associate many of the world's best emerald jewelry with them. Interestingly, the beautiful stones in their jewelry that were raided by colonials centuries later came originally from Brazil and not India itself. We can see mind-boggling multi-strand emerald necklaces worn by Maharajas. Many of the jewels left to these once-fabulous princes found their way to companies like Cartier, who set them in some of the most exciting Art Deco jewelry.
The significance of emeralds has been as varied as were the cultures who admired these beauties. The Ancient Egyptians coveted their magical powers; the Sumerians wore them to ward off the Evil Eye. Others saw emeralds as a source of blessings in life, as well has beneficial to good health.
Today, most of the best emeralds in the world are mined in Colombia. I once saw an old 'photo of a gentleman gemologist who had gone emerald hunting in that country. Every one of the people in the picture wore multiple weapons. Clearly, the stakes were high. Another emerald dealer I met told me that he got out of the business when it simply became too dangerous. Are we seeing a pattern here? The message is that emeralds have been high in demand and the stakes were very, very high.
Emeralds are relatively soft when compared to other stones. One has to take very good care of them. I have a fabulous Victorian emerald ring, surrounded by diamonds, but if you look very carefully, you will see a chip on one corner. Yes, it can be smoothed over, but that would be compromising the integrity of its antique qualities.
Like almost all Georgian jewelry, emeralds were usually foiled in the old days. In this way, many of their faults were hidden. And emeralds do have faults. They are more often than not included (internal flaws). Foiling gives you a lot more bang for your buck, making use of gems that would not pass muster in a modern setting. When you look for antique emerald jewels, you should take this into account. When you are looking at modern jewels, you do have to consider the qualities of the gemstone. The 3 'c's do count here. It is said that almost all emeralds are oiled to improve their appearance. The question is how much oil? What will happen if you wash your emerald jewelry? Will all of the color come out?
There are other stones that are sometimes confused with emeralds.
Peridot is also green, but has more yellow and less brilliance and depth.
Demantoid garnets, mined in Russia during the end of the 19th century have a magnificent light green hue. The mines were depleted long ago and these stones are scarce. Usually, they will be found in antique, Art Nouveau jewelry.
Tourmalines come in beautiful shades of deep green.
Tsavorite garnets are magnificent, with a deep green that rivals all but the best emeralds. Remember that tsavorites were only discovered in the late 1960's and came onto the market from the 1970's, so if anyone tries to sell you an antique tsavorite, simply run the other way. The lesson is probably to train your eye to differentiate between these beautiful gemstones.
While this is not a scientific fact, it is true that emeralds are my personal favorite stones. I’m passionate about looking for great, antique emerald jewelry and when I find it, I go out of my way to make it mine.