Spring is a time of rebirth and growth. The intense brilliant green of the Emerald, May’s birthstone, is as refreshing to the eyes as a new field of green or trees bursting with a spectrum of green life.
The emerald has been a gem of fascination in many cultures for over six thousand years. It is so prized, that carat for carat, a fine emerald may be two to three times as valuable as a diamond. According to Indian mythology, the name emerald was first translated from Sanskrit as “marakata,” meaning “lightning” or “shine.” The name we know it as now is believed to come from an ancient Persian word, translated to Latin as “smaragdus,” and eventually over time, corrupted to “emerald.” Records show that the stone was known and sold in markets in Babylon as early as 4000 BC. It is a stone that was worshiped by the Incas and mentioned in biblical information about the apocalypse. The earliest reference to emeralds in Western literature come from Aristotle. He was a great fan of the gemstone and wrote that owning an emerald increases the owner’s importance in presence and speech during business, gives victory in trials, helps settle litigation, and comforts and soothes eyesight. He also stated: “An emerald hung from the neck or worn in a ring will prevent the falling sickness (epilepsy). We, therefore, commend noblemen that it be hanged about the necks of their children that they fall not into this complaint.”
Emerald is regarded as the traditional birthstone for May, as well as the traditional gemstone for the astrological signs of Taurus, Cancer and sometimes Gemini. One of the quainter anecdotes on emeralds was by the 16th-century historian Brantôme, who referred to the many impressive emeralds the Spanish under Cortez had brought back to Europe from Latin America. On one of Cortez’s most notable emeralds he had the text engraved Inter Natos Mulierum non sur-rexit mayor (“Among those born of woman there hath not arisen a greater,” Matthew 11:11) which referred to John the Baptist. In the sixteenth century, the Spanish Conquistadors were amazed to find the native people wearing Emeralds larger and more magnificent than any they had ever seen. Although the natives attempted to hide their Emerald mines, the Spaniards soon discovered and conquered most of them. But it took twenty years before they found the abundant mining operation held by the Muzo Indians, and another thirty years to overtake this aggressive tribe. The Muzo mine was in the area known today as Colombia, and it remains the source of the most prized Emerald specimens. Other sources of Emeralds are Brazil, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Russia.
The Emerald is a member of the Beryl family of minerals. The green crystals grow slowly within metamorphic rocks and are restricted in size by the rock, making large Emeralds rare and costly. Although this gemstone is relatively hard and durable, it must be protected from blows because the inclusions found within make it susceptible to breaking.
For centuries, people believed that wearing an Emerald will bring wisdom, growth, and patience. Any couple that is in a long term relationship would agree, these qualities are important for a successful and eternal love. Perhaps this is why a gift of Emerald for an anniversary or any occasion is considered symbolic of love and fidelity.