Spanning from bluish turquoise through to a deep, luxuriant green, the emerald’s hue has long served as a source of contention. Some award emerald status to any beryl coloured green by chromium. However, to most experts, there is a certain degree of green that separates the emeralds from the less-expensive green beryl. Most gemmologists, laboratories and dealers categorise a stone as green beryl when its hue is “too light”. In recent years, organisations like the GIA have minimised the potential for subjective variation by introducing lab-graded comparison stones to help determine if a stone’s green hue is dark and saturated enough for it to be dubbed an emerald.
It’s ironic that the emerald’s colour is today its most debated trait, given that greenness was once the very feature that defined it. The word ‘emerald’ itself derives from the Ancient Greek word for green,‘smaragdus’. Rome’s Pliney the Elder described emerald in his Natural History, published in the First Century AD - “Nothing greens greener” was his verdict. He went on to discuss the use of emerald by stone-cutters, who he believed to “have no better method of restoring their eyes than by looking at the emerald, its soft, green colour comforting and removing their weariness and lassitude.” Even today, the colour green is known to relieve stress and eye strain.
The world’s first known emerald mines were Egyptian, dating from at least 330 BC. Legend has it that Cleopatra was passionate about emeralds, using them to adorn herself and her palace and offering them as lavish gifts to foreign dignitaries. However, historians now believe that many of Cleopatra’s “emeralds” were in fact peridot, seeing as Egypt was one of the main providers of this gem at the time, alongside Burma.
Emeralds from what is now Colombia were used by Incas in jewellery and religious ceremonies since the 11th century, until the Spanish invaded the New World in the 16th century and plundered them to trade for precious metals. These trades introduced the emerald’s beauty to the people of Europe and Asia, driving a swift incline in global demand.
Today, the world’s most abundant emerald sources are Colombia, Brazil and Zambia – the latter being the primary source of our fantastic ethical emeralds.
Historically, the emerald is believed to endow people with the ability to foresee the future when placed under the tongue – as well as to reveal truths, give away marital betrayals and make one an eloquent speaker!
Though relatively durable, scoring a 7.5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, the presence of inclusions in emeralds gives each stone a unique personality that can unfortunately affect their toughness. Liquids, gases and crystals naturally occurring inside the gems create challenges for jewellers working with emeralds, which are prone to cracking or scratching under stress. Whilst this may sound discouraging, emeralds whose inclusions are centred far from its surface or corners are blessed with durability that makes them perfectly sound contenders for everyday jewellery. What’s more, clever settings – like the secure rub-over setting in our emerald Hera engagement ring – seals the stone’s edges and corners, protecting it from day-to-day bumps and knocks.
With their mesmerising hues and attention-seeking presence, we’ll always jump at the chance to work with emeralds here at Lebrusan Studio; we love incorporating them into one-in-a-million bespoke creations. With the correct care and setting, an emerald possesses the power to turn heads and steal hearts for decades on end.