Emerald: Birthstone for May
Epitomizing the color green, emeralds have been sought after for millennia. Said to be the favorite gemstone of Cleopatra, emerald was actively mined by the Egyptians as early as the fourth century B.C. The word emerald has an etymology which can be traced back to the Greek σμάραγδος, meaning “green”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, σμάραγδος was probably a Sanskrit loanword based on markata or marakta, both of which can be translated as “emerald”. The Romans continued using the Greek word as smaragdus, which in turn appeared in the Romance languages as smeraldo (Italian) and esmeralda (Spanish). Esmeralda formerly was a popular girl’s name; the name appears in Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831).
Emerald is a variety of beryl, which is composed of beryllium, aluminum, silicon and oxygen. Another variety of beryl is aquamarine, which has a greenish-blue to blue coloration. The deep green color of emerald is caused by the presence of three impurities in beryl: chromium, vanadium and iron.
Color is considered the number one factor used in determining the quality of an emerald. The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) states that the best quality emeralds are “bluish green to pure green, with vivid color saturation.” If the color is too light, the beryl will not be considered an emerald, and it will simply be classified as green beryl. Emeralds commonly have inclusions, so the presence of internal defects is considered an acceptable characteristic for emeralds. These defects, which can resemble moss, are often referred to as jardin ─ the French word for “garden”.
Emerald is widely distributed, with the main sources being Afghanistan, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Madagascar, Pakistan, Russia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The gemstone of the twentieth and thirty-fifth wedding anniversaries, emerald is also the birthstone for May.
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