Emerald, the birthstone for May, has been beloved for millennia, inducing rebirth and renewal. Widely observed as the definition of green, emerald is the perfect colour for spring. From the poetic description of Ireland as “the Emerald Isle” to the vibrant green of the famed gemstone itself—the May birthstone emerald has captured hearts and minds through the ages.
Variations of this rich green colour suggest soothing, lush gardens. Legend has it that emerald has the power to make its wearer more intelligent and quick-witted, and it was once believed to cure diseases like cholera and malaria. Today, it's the gemstone given for the 20th and 35th wedding anniversaries.
EMERALD BIRTHSTONE MEANING & HISTORY
From Egyptian pharaohs to Inca emperors, emerald has enchanted royalty. Cleopatra was known to have a passion for emerald and used it in her royal adornments. The legendary Crown of the Andes, fashioned in colonial South America, is one example of how the Spanish revered the May birthstone. According to lore, its largest stone—now called the Atahualpa emerald—was taken from the last Inca emperor, Atahualpa, by conquistador Francisco Pizarro. The emerald and gold treasures recovered from the sunken 17th century Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha represent a small fraction of the colonial riches sent to Spain from the New World.
EMERALD BIRTHSTONE CARE & CLEANING
Emerald is a 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness, so it is more susceptible to scratching than a diamond, which ranks 10 on the scale. The May birthstone is often treated to improve its color or clarity. Common treatment methods include:
1. Dyeing: Paler emeralds with multiple fractures may be dyed green to enhance their color.
2. Fracture Filling: Oils, waxes, and artificial resins are often used to fill surface-reaching fractures in emeralds. The goal is to reduce the visibility of the fractures and improve the apparent clarity. The volume of filler material present can range from minor to significant; the different substances have varying degrees of stability.
The emerald birthstone requires some special care: Avoid exposure to heat, changes in air pressure (such as in an airline cabin) and harsh chemicals. Never put an emerald in an ultrasonic cleaner, as the vibrations and heat can cause the filler to sweat out of fractures. Filled emeralds can also be damaged by exposure to hot water used for washing dishes. The safest way to clean emeralds is to gently scrub them with a soft brush and warm, soapy water.