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Emerald-May Birthstone

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Emerald-May Birthstone

Emeralds – Identifying and caring for them

Emeralds are the birthstone for May. Just as spring is a time of renewal, emeralds are considered a stone of renewal. Emeralds have one of the most lustrously deep, green color of all the green gemstones. It is considered a “precious” gemstone. It has been prized for centuries and described as “nothing greens greener” by Pliny the Elder. Green has been shown to relax and sooth us and gazing a beautiful emerald is one of the most relaxing and calming experiences one can have.

History shows us the first mention of emerald mines in 300 BC but it is believed they were discovered and used long before that. Legend has it that an emerald was one of the four precious gemstones given to King Solomon by God. 

Emeralds are not as hard as the other 4 precious gemstones of diamond, sapphires, and rubies. It is 7.5 to 8 on the MOHS scale which is still very hard but, because emeralds are often heavily included with cracks and fissures, they can break easily. Care must be taken not to strike the stone directly. An un-included gemstone is stronger and better for use in rings that could be bumped more often.  However, an un-included emerald is more expensive. 

Emeralds are in the Beryl family of stones which also includes aquamarine. The presence of chromium is what turns the stone from blue to green and makes it an emerald. However, some Beryl stones are green due to the mineral vanadium and in Europe and the UK are not considered emeralds but the American jewelry industry changed the definition and included green Beryl from vandium as emeralds. If you are worried, make sure you obtain a gem certification certifying your gemstone as a “true” emerald. Most jewelers dealing with precious jewelry will have a certification from GIA, AGS, or EGl (IGI, EGL, GSI, etc.).If you are paying a hefty price for an emerald and the jeweler does not have a certification and won’t get one when asked, get one to protect yourself or don’t purchase it.

Recognizing a Fake Emerald

There are many synthetic emeralds being produced. Since emeralds are usually so heavily included (an un-included clear emerald can be $10,000 or more per carat), looking through a jeweler’s loop for inclusions can help you to distinguish a real from a synthetic emerald. Synthetics will have no inclusions at all and be very clear (see photo). Some types of synthetic emeralds that are harder to spot are called flux-melt emeralds. They will have the cloudy or “fractured” look of a natural emerald. However, look closely (especially on the back of the stone) for tiny flaws or irregular patterns which might be an indication that it is a real emerald.

Two easy ways to test, although not fool proof, is to rub oil on the stone. If it is fake, the clarity will not change but a real emerald will become clearer and a little deeper in color.

The second test is to use the “Breath Test” or “Fog Test.” Just breath on the stone for about 1 second. If it is real, it will fog up and then in about 2 seconds it will clear. Fake stones will take at least 5 seconds to start to clear and 7-8 total seconds to fully un-fog.

A gemstone that looks like an emerald is Chrome Diopside. As the name implies, it derives its rich green color from the mineral chromium, just like an emerald does. However, it is in the pyroxene family of minerals. It is a very clear and deep green with few inclusions. It is only mined in Siberia within a four month window and is quite rare and, thus, expensive, although not as expensive as a comparatively clear emerald would be. This stone is a good option if you want the look of an emerald at a lesser price. Reputable jewelers will identify the gemstone as Chrome Diopside.

Care of your emerald

As said earlier, try not to bump your stone into anything and crack it. To clean it: use a soft micro-fiber cloth to wipe your emerald off and remove oil and dirt. Occasionally, fill a bowl with lukewarm water and mild soap and use a soft bristle toothbrush to clean it. Next, immerse it in a bowl of lukewarm clean water to remove the soap and dry it with your micro-fiber cloth. Do not use harsh chemical jewelry cleaners on your emeralds.

If you have a prong-set ring with an emerald, make sure that you take it to a jeweler to have him or her tighten the prongs. How often depends on how much you wear the ring. When you are cleaning your stone, gently run you finger over the setting. If it feels in any way loose, take it to have the prongs adjusted. Prong-set necklaces should be checked for loose prongs as well but they usually do not come loose as quickly. Simply test your settings routinely to make sure you do not have a stone fall out. Replacing an emerald can be costly and you may not be able to get the same quality stone with a replacement.

Insure all precious jewelry with a reputable insurer. Take an appraisal of your jewelry to the insurer with a photo of your piece. Also, keep the appraisal and the photo in secure place, away from fire or floods. [Keep expensive jewelry in a safe away from theft.]

Meanings and symbolism of Emeralds:

Due to the lush green of emeralds, they have been seen as renewal, like in the renewal of spring. They are also associated with hope, truth, loyalty and growth. It has been called the “Stone of Successful Love” as it opens up your heart chakra and embodies compassion and unconditional love.  Buy one to revive your passion for life or for a loved one.

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