Gem of the month: March’s emerald and its properties
The rich green hues of the emerald have fascinated humankind since antiquity. For centuries, the stone has been revered for its beauty, value and even metaphysical properties, and the gems are still highly esteemed today. As the official gemstone for the month of March, the emerald makes an excellent gift for birthdays or anniversaries occurring during this month.
Emeralds are the green variety of the mineral beryl and are the most valuable stones that come from the mineral. The gems can range in colour from pale to deep, rich green, with the darker hues being more valuable. The stones are very durable, on account of their hardness, but they are also quite brittle. While very few stones are considered flawless – in fact, most are flawed – this usually does not detract greatly from the overall value of the stone.
History and lore
The history of emerald use goes back centuries, with mines in Egypt believed to date from 330BC. In fact, Cleopatra was said to be quite fond of emeralds, and she used them often in her royal jewelry. Outside Egypt, emeralds were also a favourite of the Incas, who incorporated them into jewelry and religious icons. When the Spanish arrived in the New World in the 1500s, they traded emeralds for gold and silver, as they valued these precious metals more than the gems.
Emeralds hold the highest value of all beryl-derived gemstones. Most of the stone’s value is determined by the coloring, with richer- hued stones fetching higher prices. Gems that have a colour ranging from bluish-green to pure green are considered the best, particularly those with vivid colour saturation. Transparency is another factor, and emeralds with evenly distributed colouring and no clear colour zoning are the most sought-after. Finally, other characteristics that help to determine a particular stone’s monetary value are the cut and carat weight of the gem.
Perhaps some of the most interesting features of the emerald are in terms of its reported metaphysical properties. These date back to ancient times, when the Egyptians, Incas, Romans and other ancient civilizations used the stones for reasons other than trading or adornment.
Emeralds were said to hold a number of mystical powers, including sharpening the wits, improving memory, and even predicting the future. Emeralds were also highly prized for their reputed truth-revealing properties, enabling the person wearing the stone to see through illusions and make clearer decisions. The gems also were believed to be endowed with healing powers. The stones were used as antidotes to poison and to clean wounds, and they were also used to help cure dysentery and other ailments. The stones were also thought to be calming and especially restful to the eyes.
March’s official gemstone has a past as colourful as itself, as evidenced by the myriad stories surrounding the stone. If time is any indication – and it likely is – emeralds will be treasured for centuries more as one the planet’s most valuable natural treasures.