22 Apr Meaning of Emerald, May’s Birthstone
Emerald, May’s birthstone, symbolises vitality, health and wealth. It’s the very definition of the colour green, and because of that, it is the perfect gem for springtime. From exotic, mythical jewels to contemporary red carpet glamour, it’s a gemstone that has always captured our hearts and imaginations. Today, it’s the official birthstone for those born in May.
A gem of history, legend and lore
History will agree that the emerald has something bewitching about it. Cleopatra dressed in emeralds from head to toe because the Egyptians believed the gem to contain the secret to eternal youth. That’s why so many have also been found inside the tombs of pharaohs.
It’s also very prominent gem in South American lore – the ancient civilization of the Incas used to worship emeralds as gods.
Ireland is known as ‘The Emerald Isle’ thanks to its lush green rolling hills. While emeralds are not mined in Ireland, they have a deep meaning in Irish jewellery, thanks to their vivid green colour.
The Crown of the Andes, made for a statue of the Virgin Mary in the Cathedral of Popayán, Colombia. It contains 450 emeralds, including some that are said to have been taken from the captured Inca Emperor Atahualpa. Image courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
The emerald is May’s birthstone for a reason. Its green colour evokes the freshness of new growth in the springtime.
Green is also the symbolic colour of fertility. It’s no coincidence that early Romans gave emeralds as gifts to young wives. Even today, the emerald is a popular push present given to new mothers.
For these reasons, the emerald stands for all things that promote vitality – including love, health and prosperity.
Mysterious inner glow
An emerald’s beauty is quite hard to imagine unless you’ve actually held one in your hand.
When you observe naturally mined emeralds side by side, you’ll notice that each one is unique. Their green colour may look strikingly vivid or soft pastel green, depending on the different concentrations on trace minerals inside each crystal, as well as the lighting conditions.
However, it’s not just their colour that’s so eye-catching. Emeralds also seem to glow with a light that comes from deep within.
Watch this short video to see the unique emerald lightplay:
Official anniversaries and occasions
Emerald is the official May birthstone. It is also the gem that astrologists align with the star sign of Taurus.
What’s more, the emerald also commemorates 20th and 55th anniversaries of marriage. The latter is, in fact, called the ‘Emerald Anniversary’.
The modern celebrity jewel
During the last century alone, Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and Queen Elizabeth II have all been known for their love of emerald jewellery.
In recent years, Lady Gaga flaunted a large pear-shaped emerald pendant and matching earrings at the Grammys, while Angelina Jolie caused a sensation at the Oscars by wearing emerald earrings that cost 2 million US dollars. Beyoncé made fashion waves by wearing a spectacular pair of emerald earrings to President Obama’s second inauguration.
Emerald, May’s birthstone, benefits your eyesight!
There is an ancient belief about emeralds that has, in fact, been proven true by scientists.
Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder, wrote in his encyclopedia Natural History that ‘nothing green is greener’ than the May birthstone, and claimed there was no better way of resting and restoring the eyes than by gazing at an emerald.
Today, scientific studies have proven this to be true. Gazing at the colour green really does relieve eye strain. So next time you’re working at the computer, try taking a break by looking at something green for a while!
Some quirkier beliefs
There are other emerald myths that are perhaps a little harder to prove true. In medieval times in Europe, some thought that emeralds placed under the tongue could help you see into the future.
Others believed that a change in the shade of an emerald gemstone could reveal whether your lover was lying to you or telling the truth.
A Colombian emerald, just mined and still attached to the rock
Where are emeralds found?
Colombia is the main source of the best emeralds. As a consequence, many gemmologists consider them to be the standard against which they measure all other emeralds.
Muzo, Chivor and Coscuez are the most famous mining sites in Colombia. They all produce emeralds in a range of hues. However, as a general rule, the emeralds from the Muzo mine are slightly darker than others, while Chivor producer bluish-green stones and Cozcuez offers yellowish-green gems.
The Minas Gerais mine in Brazil is also one of the main world sources of emeralds. This site is also known for aquamarine, a close cousin of the emerald in the beryl mineral family. Other countries that produce emeralds include Zambia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Muzo in Colombia, a source of the world’s best emeralds. Image credit Wikimedia Commons
Emerald jewellery gifts and amulets
Emerald, May’s birthstone, is a perfect gift to celebrate any big life occasion, from birthdays and anniversaries in May, to new babies, engagements, graduations and weddings.
A gift of emerald jewellery is guaranteed to be well received. No one, who gets to see an authentic emerald gem up close, fails to fall under its spell.
If you’ve decided to treat yourself or a loved one to emerald jewellery, learn more about how to choose the perfect item in our Emerald Gem Guide.