May Birthstone – Emerald/Beryl


#7.5 to #8 on Mohs scale, poor to good toughness. Sources are Colombia, Afghanistan, Brazil, Pakistan, Russia, Zambia. Colombia is one of the largest commercial producers of emeralds. Fine Colombian emeralds are highly regarded for their excellent color. Zambia, a major commercial source, as well. Zambian emeralds tend to have good clarity. Zimbabwe, the Sandawana Valley to be more specific, is also a famous source.

An emerald’s lush green color has soothed souls and excited imaginations since antiquity. Its name comes from the ancient Greek word for green, “smaragdus”. Rome’s Pliny the Elder, described emerald in his early encyclopedia, Natural History, which was published in the 1st century AD. His personal verdict reads “…nothing greens greener.” He described the use of emerald by lapidaries, who “have no better method of restoring their eyes than by looking at the emerald, its soft, green color comforts and removes their weariness and latitude.” Even today the color green is known to relieve stress and eye strain.

The first known emerald mines were in Egypt, dating back from at early 330 BC into the 1700’s. Emeralds, from what is now Colombia, were part of the plunder when 16th century Spanish explorers invaded the New World. Emerald is often mined and sold under peril—this natural resource, which Colombians cherish, is also coveted by underworld drug traders. The availability of fine quality emerald is limited. Emeralds were plagued in the late 1990s by negative publicity which stated that treatments were commonly used to improve its clarity. Emeralds are the most famous member of the beryl family. It was once believed to cure diseases like cholera and malaria. Its color reflects new spring growth, which makes it the perfect choice of a birthstone for the month of May. Its also the gemstone for the twentieth and thirtieth wedding anniversaries.