Published 09/23/2020 by Rebecca Nichols

When you think of emerald, you probably picture the green member of the Big 4 precious gemstones that has been a favorite of royalty for hundreds of years. In fact, emerald is so famous for its deep green that it is used to describe the lushest landscapes like those found in Seattle (the Emerald City) and Ireland (the Emerald Isle). Here are 9 more fascinating facts about May’s birthstone that will totally make your day:

1. Emerald literally means “green gem.”

Emerald’s name originates from the Greek word “smaragdos” which translates as “green gem.” Wondering how a word that sounds so different turned into emerald? This happened when smaragdos was translated into Latin becoming esmeraude or esmeralde. The latter was adopted into French in the 16th century and finally made its way into English as emerald.

2. All emerald is green beryl, but not all green beryl is emerald.

While emerald is green and a member of the beryl family, that does not mean all green beryl is emerald. Though pretty in its own way, light green beryl is much more common than the deep green of emerald (caused by intense saturation of chromium or vanadium) and this is reflected in the value, with green beryl being worth far less. Instead of being emerald, light green beryl is sometimes classified as a subset of heliodor, which also contains greenish-yellow beryl.

3. Carat for carat, emerald is bigger than diamond.

Emerald is less dense than diamond, so emerald provides a larger gem for the same amount of weight. This makes emerald a good option to explore if you want a larger gemstone while staying within your budget.

4. Almost all emerald is oil-treated.

As a type III clarity stone, almost all emeralds have inclusions, making the extremely rare flawless emerald more valuable than even diamond. Because imperfections are so common, almost every emerald is treated with oil to improve its clarity and hide flaws. 

5. Emerald's inclusions have a special name.

Imperfections in emerald can actually be desirable and is seen as an important part of its character. In emerald, inclusions have been given the special name “jardin” (French for garden) because of their resemblance to moss.

Emerald Earrings and Pendant

6. Columbia is the world’s top supplier of emerald.

Emerald is mined throughout the world including in Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Pakistan, Russia, Zambia and the United States, but Colombia is by far the world leader. Colombia alone is responsible for more than half of all emerald production in the world.

7. Lab-grown emerald is almost identical to mined emerald.

First created in 1935, synthetic emerald has progressed to the point of being almost impossible to distinguish from naturally occurring emerald. Lab-grown emerald has exactly the same chemical structure and trace elements of mined emerald for a portion of the cost. This makes emerald more accessible to budgets of all sizes.

8. Cleopatra was obsessed with emerald.

It is well documented that emerald was Cleopatra’s favorite gem, but did you know she loved it so much that she wanted to own every single piece of this beautiful green gem? To achieve this, she laid claim to every emerald mine in Egypt and even went so far as to retake the oldest known emerald mine in the world from the Greeks.

9. Emerald might have magical powers.

Ancient folklore says emerald has magical powers. You shouldn't try this at home, but it was once believed that putting an emerald under your tongue would show you the future, reveal if someone is lying and protect you from evil.

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