It’s perhaps fitting that the best-known green gemstone should be the birthstone for May, which is right in the middle of spring. A variety of beryl, a mineral that grows with six sides and up to a foot in length, the emerald is a symbol of rebirth. This much sought-after stone’s colour is where its name comes from. “Smaragdus” means “green” in Greek.
Loved through history
The Egyptians mined emeralds as early as 330 BC, but it’s estimated that the oldest emeralds are nearly 3 billion years old. In Egypt they were used in jewellery and were also part of the culture’s burial rites, placed in the burial chambers of Pharaohs as a form of protection in the afterlife. Cleopatra herself is known to have prized emeralds and during her reign claimed ownership of all the emerald mines in Egypt. Another culture that cherished the stone was the Muzo Indians of Colombia, who hid their mines so well the Spanish conquistadors took nearly twenty years to find them.
As with other gemstones, people through the centuries invested emeralds with mystical powers. Many believed the gemstone could cure stomach problems, control epilepsy and stop bleeding. Perhaps due to its soothing green colour, it was also thought to be able to ward off panic and keep the wearer relaxed and calm. Nowadays the emerald is a symbol of loyalty, new beginnings, peace and security, making it not only a thing of beauty to wear, but also a meaningful gift to be treasured by the receiver.