May – emerald
The glorious greens in fine emeralds range from the pale milky green to the lush dark green – some are fiery and others a cool bluish green. And the colour is a clue as to where in the world that stone originated.
Today, the finest emeralds come from ancient mines in Columbia where centuries earlier, Aztec rulers and priests faced the Spanish Conquistadors wielding swords decorated with big, bold, green emeralds, engraved with the symbols and emblems of their gods. Others come from mines in Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Zimbabwi, Zambia and parts of Europe – but none compare with the finest stones from Columbia. Cleopatra wore emeralds from her own Egyptian mines and in Ancient Rome, the emerald was considered to be a symbol of youth. But for the Moghul Emperors, it was a talisman reputed to bring wisdom.
Van Cleef & Arpels made a 150-carat emerald the centrepiece of the crown for the first Empress of Iran, embellishing it with 1,469 diamonds, 36 rubies and 105 pearls. Today, the best emeralds sell at more than $5,000 for a quality 1.0 carat emerald, so the value of that crown is almost incalculable.
Inclusions, flaws, cracks and other markings are characteristic of all emeralds. An experienced gemmologist can identify the country – sometimes even the mine – from which the stone originated. These marks are nature’s fingerprints. Most emeralds are small and brittle so that they are cut as round, cushion or emerald cut shapes with corners removed to protects the stone. So cherish your emeralds – handle them with loving care.
The emerald: photo by Paul Hartley, Hartley Studios, www.hartleystudios.com