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May Birthstone: Emerald
The highest quality emeralds display their beauty in a deep translucent green. Inclusions are common, but nevertheless, in top qualities emeralds are even more valuable than diamonds.

For the Incas and Aztecs in South America, where the finest emeralds are still being found today, it was a holy stone. The oldest sources of emerald known are located near the Red Sea. These mines were already being worked by Egyptian Pharaohs between 3000 and 1500 B.C., and gained fame under the name of "Cleopatra’s Mines,” but had already run out when they were rediscovered.

Many centuries ago in the Vedas, the ancient and sacred writings of Hinduism, stressed the value of the green gemstone and its healing power. It's no surprise then, that the treasure chests of Indian Maharajas and Maharanis contained most wonderful Emeralds.

Light emerald green is the color of life and of eternal spring. Even in ancient Rome green was the color dedicated to Venus, goddess of love and beauty. Today there are still many cultures and religions where green holds a special position.

Really good quality emeralds are rare, as inclusions frequently spoil the stone. Fine inclusions do not diminish the value: a deep, rich green emerald with inclusions is valued more highly than an inclusion-free stone of paler color.

Emeralds are beryllium aluminum silicates with a hardness of 7.5 to 8. They are related to aquamarine, pale pink morganite, golden heliodor and pale green beryl. Pure beryl is colorless. Trace elements add the color that makes these gemstones pleasing to the eye.

Colombia is still the main country of occurrence for fine Emeralds but emeralds are also found in other places like Zambia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan or Russia.

Their hardness protects emeralds from scratches to some extent, but their brittle structure and many fissures can make cutting, setting and cleaning the stone difficult. Cutting emeralds is always a challenge, even for experienced cutters. Many emeralds today are treated with oils or natural resins. This is customary in the trade, but it means also that the stones can be damaged or dulled through carelessness. For example, they should not be cleaned ultrasonically, and contact with soaps or solvents (even dish soap) should be avoided.

(This article written by Mike McGinnis and published originally on indiasilver.com. We encourage republication but stipulate the piece be copied in its entirety with links and attribution.)

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Updated 2/14/06
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