Precious Stone


Emeralds are a variety of the mineral beryl which are coloured green by trace amounts of chromium and sometimes vanadium. The word "emerald" comes from Latin smaragdus, via Greek smaragdos, its original source being a Semitic word izmargad or the Sanskrit word, marakata, meaning "emerald" or "green".

Emerald is regarded as the traditional birthstone for May, as well as the traditional gemstone for the astrological signs of Taurus, Cancer and sometimes Gemini.

In some cultures, the emerald is the traditional gift for the 55th wedding anniversary. It is also used as a 20th and 35th wedding anniversary stone.

Properties determining value

Cut emeralds

Emeralds, like all coloured gemstones, are graded using four basic parameters, the four Cs of Connoisseurship; Colour, Cut, Clarity and Crystal. The last C, 'crystal' is simply used as a synonym that begins with C for transparency or what gemmologists call diaphaneity. Prior to the 20th Century, jewellers used the term water as in "a gem of the finest water" to express the combination of two qualities, colour and crystal. Normally, in the grading of coloured gemstones, colour is by far the most important criterion. However, in the grading of emerald, crystal is considered a close second. Both are necessary conditions. A fine emerald must possess not only a pure verdant green hue, but also a high degree of transparency to be considered a top gem.


Scientifically speaking, colour is divided into three components: hue, saturation and tone. Yellow and blue, the hues found adjacent to green on the spectral colour wheel, are the normal secondary hues found in emerald. Emeralds occur in hues ranging from yellowish green to bluish green. The primary hue must, of course, be green. Only gems that are medium to dark in tone are considered emerald. Light toned gems are known by the species name, green beryl. In addition, the hue must be bright (vivid). Grey is the normal saturation modifier or mask found in emerald. A greyish green hue is a dull green hue.


Emerald tends to have numerous inclusions and surface breaking fissures. Unlike diamond, where the loupe standard, i.e. 10X magnification is used to grade clarity, emerald is graded by eye. Thus, if an emerald has no visible inclusions to the eye (assuming 20-20 vision) it is considered flawless. Stones that lack surface breaking fissures are extremely rare and therefore almost all emeralds are treated, "oiled", to enhance the apparent clarity. Eye-clean stones of a vivid primary green hue (as described above) with no more than 15% of any secondary hue or combination (either blue or yellow) of a medium-dark tone command the highest prices. This relative crystal non-uniformity makes emeralds more likely than other gemstones to be cut into cabochons, rather than faceted shapes.

Emerald localities

Emeralds in antiquity were mined by the Egyptians and in Austria, as well as Swat in northern Pakistan.

A rare type of emerald known as a trapiche emerald is occasionally found in the mines of Colombia. A trapiche emerald exhibits a "star" pattern; it has raylike spokes of dark carbon impurities that give the emerald a six-pointed radial pattern. It is named for the trapiche, a grinding wheel used to process sugarcane in the region. Colombian emeralds are generally the most prized due to their transparency and fire. Some of the rarest emeralds come from three main emerald mining areas in Colombia: Muzo, Coscuez, and Chivor. Fine emeralds are also found in other countries, such as Zambia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Russia. In the US, emeralds can be found in Hiddenite, North Carolina. In 1998, emeralds were discovered in the Yukon.

The Gachala Emerald is one of the largest gem emeralds in the world, at 858 carats (172 g). This stone was found in 1967 at the La Vega de San Juan mine in Gachalá, Colombia. It is housed at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Ireland is often referred to, especially in America, as the "Emerald Isle" due to its marvellous emerald-green landscape.