Thursday, May 6, 2010

Emeralds for Good Luck and Well Being

The traditional birthstone for May is the emerald. Emeralds are a variety of the mineral beryl, colored green by trace amounts of chromium and sometimes vanadium. Their beautiful green color as well as their durability and rarity make them one of the most valuable gemstones.

Emeralds are graded on four basic parameters: Color, Cut, Clarity and Crystal (transparency). Color is normally the most important criterion in grading colored gemstones. When grading emeralds, crystal is a close second. A fine emerald must not only be a pure luxuriant green hue, but also have a high degree of transparency to be classified as a top gem.

Color is divided into three components: hue, saturation and tone. Yellow and blue, the colors found next to green on the color wheel, are the normal secondary hues found in emerald. Emeralds range in color from yellow-green to blue-green with the primary hue being green. Only stones that are medium to dark in tone are considered emerald. Light toned gems are called green beryl.

Emeralds tend to have numerous inclusions and surface breaking fissures and are graded by eye. If an emerald has no visible inclusions to the eye it is considered flawless. Stones that lack surface breaking fissures are extremely rare. Most all emeralds are treated (oiled) to enhance the clarity. Treated emeralds should never be cleaned in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner or washed with soap as this will remove the oil and expose the hidden internal flaws. Emeralds are more likely than other gemstones to be cut into cabochons, rather than faceted shapes. Cutters love this unique gemstone and have developed a special cut – the “Emerald Cut”. The design of this rectangular or square cut with oblique corners brings out the beauty of the stone and protects it from mechanical strain. To improve clarity, most emeralds are treated with cedar oil. The use of oil is traditional and generally accepted by the gem trade.

Emeralds were originally mined in Egypt and Austria. Today they are found in many countries across the world including the United States where they have been found in Connecticut, Montana, Nevada, and North and South Carolina. Occasionally a rare type of emerald known as a trapiche is found in the mines of Colombia, the world center of emerald mining today. A trapiche emerald has star-shaped rays of dark carbon impurities that spread from its center and give the stone a six-pointed radial pattern.

The Hooker Emerald Brooch, containing a 75-carat square-cut emerald, also in the National Museum of Natural History.

The emerald is the traditional gift for the 55th wedding anniversary in some cultures and is also commonly used as the 20th and 35th anniversary stone.

Numerous myths and legends are told about emeralds. The South American Incas and Aztecs regarded emeralds as holy gemstones. The oldest known emerald mines were near the Red Sea in Egypt. These mines were exploited by Egyptian Pharaohs between 3000 and 1500 BC and were referred to as
“Cleopatra’s Mines”. By the time the mines were discovered in the early 19th century, all of the emeralds had been mined. The holy scriptures of the Indians say that emeralds promise good luck and enhance well-being. The treasure chests of the Indian Maharajas and Maharanis contained wonderful emeralds.

Emeralds are mentioned in the Bible (KJV) as one of the precious stones in the breastplate of the high priest of the Jews. (Exodus 28:18 and 39:11)
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