“Who beholds the light of day

In spring’s sweet flowery month of May

And wears an emerald all her life

Shall be a loved and happy wife”


The Emerald

What a gem of history!!

“If the diamond is the king of gems, the emerald is the queen.”

Emeralds were said to be Mother Earth’s favorite stone because it symbolized the green clad earth. Now, most people expect this beautiful, green gem called an  emerald to be crystalline green. In fact it’s not. There is actually a joke among jewelers that “someone or something” can be as “flawless as an emerald” which is impossible. Because, like people, all emeralds are flawed. However, these flaws are seen by some jewelers as ‘flowers of a garden’ because they are exquisite under a microscope. It’s not only the natural flaws that are beautiful, but also the emerald’s fractured history – the longest history of all gems according to some jewelers.

Ancient Rome loved this gem and even dedicated it to Venus who wanted it worn on Friday. Pliny the Elder stated “nothing is more intensely green and refreshing to the eye.” Emperor Nero would have to agree because he used his emerald to watch the gladiator bouts more clearly. Maybe to have better odds when placing  his bets  since emeralds were  claimed to have psychic and clairvoyant abilities. However, emeralds  were also claimed to help mental illness, patience, and balance. Maybe Nero didn’t wear his often enough.

Early sources say that emeralds were first discovered in the emerald mines of  Cleopatra’s by the pharaohs between 3000 and 1500 BC. The Egyptian’s god Thoth  had a tablet of ‘uat’ or ‘matrix of emerald.’  On a talismanic emerald, weighing 78 carats and was a very deep green, was a Persian inscription saying, “He who possesses this charm shall enjoy the special protection of gods.” Even ancient writings in Hindu speak of this green gemstone granting healing powers, and good luck. Indian Maharajas adored and owned many of emeralds.

One of the largest emeralds on record, the “Mogul Emerald” weighing 217 carats and measuring 10 cms high, was found in 1695. On one side are inscribed prayers and on the other side are opulent flower ornaments. When auctioned off by Christie’s of London, it brought $2.2 million by an anonymous buyer.

Ancient Incas and Aztecs worshipped emeralds as holy stones. A huge emerald statue of Umina, the Emerald Goddess of Peru, was found during the Spanish Conquest of 1531 along with her daughters’ emerald statues that her priests revered.

The emerald is characteristically a fractured gemstone in many ways, including its history. A missionary priest to South America -Fray Reginaldo de Pedraza, claimed to the conquistadores with him that their emeralds would not shatter. And, if they did, they would be inhabited by devils and therefore only fit for destruction. So, he encouraged the soldiers to test their emeralds by smashing them. And shatter they did — because emeralds are incredibly soft gems. Interestingly however, Reginaldo did not smash his own emerald stash, but sold them for a huge amount of money in Panama.

What’s more, emeralds are more often opaque or semi-translucent, actually rather dull…until cut and polished. Over history, many things that were claimed to be emeralds simply turned out to be just green glass. Thus, there have been many counterfeit emeralds. A famous one was the Soude emerald that turned out to be layers of dark green glass sandwiched between an upper and lower layer of quartz. A grand fake was the Medieval Holy Grail revered in Genoa as the Sacro Catino. This grail, made from a huge ‘emerald’ was believed to have fallen from Satan’s crown during his decent from heaven. However, after close examination, under microscopes, it turned out to be ‘green glass.’ As was Charlemagne’s emerald that was gifted to Reichenau Abby.

Now, the earliest use of an emerald was by Theophrastus of the 3rd century B.C who prescribed the use for an emerald was to rest the eyes (see Nero). Ahemd Teifashi of the 13th century Arabia said it would ‘dissolve’ snake eyes. By this time, emeralds were said to cure dysentery, ophthalmia, hemorrhage, and intestinal trouble. During the 17th century, the list of emerald cures grew longer: promoting liver functions, stopping bleeding, strengthening memory, and curing venomous bites, malaria, blood poisoning and demonic possession.  Even today, some claim that emeralds cure colic, heartburn, a multitude of diseases and diabetes. Women were believed to develop occultic powers by wearing emeralds…after the age of menopause. Others claim it can improve eyesight, attract helium (Why is beyond me…to blow up balloons; so, you can talk funny?), and convert ordinary folk into descendants of royalty. (Yes, if you find one of those shards left by the conquistadors and sold it like the priest did, that may work.)

All that being said, and known, Emeralds are the ‘other’ wedding stone. If a  bride wishes to be as unique as Jackie Kennedy, she may choose the emerald and not the diamond.

This gemstone has been loved, adored, and cherished throughout history by everyone from kings to charlatans. Barbara G. Walker’s book THE BOOK OF SACRED STONES, shares so much more on this beautiful green gemstone.   However, you look at this beautiful, green gem, you discover that emeralds do have a crazy and wonderful history.


May gemstone Emerald

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ancient history

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