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 mythical jewels to contemporary red carpets, it has always captured our hearts and imaginations.

Ancient South American legend and lore

Throughout history, civilizations have treasured the vivid green glow of emeralds. The Incas and the Aztecs believed the gem was sacred.

In fact, the areas where these ancient cultures discovered emeralds are still some of the best mining locations for these beautiful stones.

The Crown of the Andes, pictured below, was crafted for a statue of the Virgin Mary in Colombia. It contains 450 emeralds, including some that were allegedly taken from Atahualpa, the captured Emperor of the Incas.

The Crown of the Andes, Colombia, by Metropolitan Museum of Art, image licenses under CC0

Emeralds in Egypt

The emeralds are also legendary in Egyptian culture. Thousands of years ago, the pharaohs discovered emeralds.

Queen Cleopatra dressed from head to toe in them, and copious emeralds have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs.

The “Emerald Isle”

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.

Powerful symbolism

The emerald is May’s birthstone for a reason. Its green colour evokes the freshness of new growth in the springtime. It symbolises vitality, health and prosperity.

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.

Emerald May's Birthstone Meaning

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 is also the official anniversary gem gift for two anniversaries, the 20th and the 55th. The latter is, in fact, called the ‘Emerald Anniversary’.

Emerald May's Birthstone Meaning

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.

Emeralds could benefit 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.

Emerald May's Birthstone Meaning
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.

Emerald May's Birthstone Meaning
Muzo, Colombia, source of the world’s best emeralds. Image credit Wikimedia Commons

Emerald jewellery gifts

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.

Emerald May's Birthstone Meaning