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May - Emerald

The Details:

Because the rich green color of emerald is the color of spring, the ancients prized it as the gemstone symbolizing love and rebirth. Treasured for at least 4,000 years by different cultures all around the world, emerald is said to quicken the intelligence as well as the heart. Legend gives its owner the gift of eloquence.

Cleopatra prized her emeralds more than any other gem. She may have dropped her pearls in her wine for Mark Anthony but she kept her emeralds for herself! The ancient emerald mines of Cleopatra, long a mystery, were discovered again a hundred years ago near the Red Sea. Some tools found in the mine were dated at 1650 B.C. but no quality emeralds were found: the mines were exhausted thousands of years ago. Mummies in ancient Egypt were often buried with an emerald on their necks carved with the symbol for verdure, flourishing greenness, to symbolize eternal youth. The Romans also loved emeralds because, as ancient scholar Pliny said, "nothing greens greener." Pliny said that emerald was the only gem which delighted the eye without fatiguing it. He said his eyes were restored when gazing at emerald. Emperor Nero wore emerald sunglasses to watch the gladiators.

One legend says that Satan lost the emerald from his crown when he fell. The emerald was shaped into a bowl which the Queen of Sheba sent to Nicodemus. Christ used the bowl at the last supper and Joseph of Arimathea used the bowl to catch blood from the cross, founding the order of the Holy Grail.

What is the source of the timeless appeal of emerald? Today scientists tell us that the human eye is more sensitive to the color green than to any other. Perhaps that is why green is so soothing to the eye, and why the color green seems to complement every other color: think of the beauty of a garden. Spring can also be seen in the network of inclusions in the depth of the emerald that the French call the "jardin," or "garden," because it resembles foliage. The inclusions are like a fingerprint, giving each emerald a distinct personality. The extreme rarity of transparent emerald is why emeralds can be more valuable than diamonds.

Emerald is a beryl, a mineral that is normally colorless. Emerald's rich green color is caused by minute traces of chromium. Chromium is the rare Midas element of gemstones: its presence also gives rubies their firey redness.

Crystals of emerald grew long before human history in metamorphic rocks, which usually restricts the size of emerald crystals, making them even rarer in large sizes. Other beryls, emerald's cousins, like pale blue aquamarine, pink morganite, golden heliodor, and pale green beryl, grow in pegmatites which allow larger crystals to form. There is even a bright red beryl found in Utah in the United States.

How to Care for Emeralds
Do not leave your emerald ring on while washing dishes or using soap as an emerald will attract grease and soap. After a while, these substances will accumulate on the bottom of the gemstone, causing it to lose its lively brilliance. Also do not wear your emerald when you might be engaging in physical activity that might scratch the stone. To clean your emerald, use room temperature running water and a soft toothbrush with mild soap like hand soap or Woolite. Brush repeatedly on the underside of the emerald to remove accumulations of dirt and grease. You will see the emerald begin to brighten. It should then be rinsed with warm water, and patted dry.

Do not clean an emerald in ultrasonic cleaners, steam cleaners or acetone. These may cause damage to the stone or the setting. An emerald should never be exposed to high heat. A good rule of thumb is that if the cleaning solution you use is too hot for you to put your hand in, you should not place your emerald in it. Avoid using strong soaps, jewelry cleaner liquids or other cleaners as most of these are not compatible with the oil treatment of Emeralds. Cleaning should be done no more frequently than is necessary, and never more than several times a year. After many years of wear, you may wish to have your Emerald re-oiled. Most local Jewelers can provide this service.

Mohs hardness: 8.0

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