The beautiful green color of emeralds has soothed souls and excited imaginations for thousands of years. Its name comes from the ancient Greek word for green, “smaragdus.” Ancient Roman author Pliny the Elder described emerald in his Natural History, published in the first century AD: “…nothing greens greener” than an emerald.
There are other green gems, like tourmaline and peridot, but emerald is the one that’s always associated with the lushest landscapes and the richest greens. Ireland is the Emerald Isle. Seattle, in the state of Washington, is the Emerald City. Thailand’s most sacred religious icon is called the Emerald Buddha, even though it’s carved from green jadeite.
The first known emerald mines were in Egypt, dating from at least 330 BC into the 1700s. Cleopatra was known to have a passion for emerald, and used it in her royal adornments. As well as using the stones for lavish jewelry, Cleopatra and the Ancient Egyptians believed Emeralds could be used to treat eye diseases and that the green color represented fertility and rebirth. The dead were often buried with Emeralds to symbolize eternal youth. When visiting dignitaries left Egypt, Cleopatra presented them with her likeness carved into large Emeralds.
Emeralds from Colombia were part of the plunder when sixteenth-century Spanish explorers invaded the New World. The Incas had already been using emeralds in their jewelry and religious ceremonies for 500 years. The Spanish, who treasured gold and silver far more than gems, traded emeralds for precious metals. Their trades opened the eyes of European and Asian royalty to emerald’s majesty.
Emerald is the most famous member of the beryl family of gemstones. Legends endowed the wearer with the ability to foresee the future when emerald was placed under the tongue, as well as to reveal truth and be protected against evil spells. Emerald was once also believed to cure diseases like cholera and malaria. Wearing an emerald was believed to reveal the truth or falseness of a lover’s oath as well as make one an eloquent speaker.
Legend also states that emerald was one of the four precious stones given by God to King Solomon. These four stones were said to have endowed the king with power over all creation.
Its color reflects new spring growth, which makes it the perfect choice of a birthstone for the month of May. It’s also the gemstone for twentieth and thirty-fifth wedding anniversaries. To this day, emeralds remain one of the most popular gemstones in the world. Their popularity and enduring style are only rivaled by the diamond. As the world turns towards a new decade, colored stones like emeralds and rubies, are increasing in popularity among newly engaged couples, and older couples alike. Emeralds have been around for thousands of years, and it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere soon.