Emeralds have been used for ornamentation since 4000 BC. The vibrant greens of Emeralds have long been associated with fertility and rebirth. Many cultures have used Emerald as treatment for eye diseases, epilepsy and poisoning. Emeralds have been held under the tongue as a way of foretelling the future. Emeralds were dedicated to the Goddess Venus and were considered an aid in revealing the truthfulness of one's lover. But their incomparable beauty is reason enough for owning the gem.
The first stones were mined in Cleopatra's Mines in the Egyptian desert near the Red Sea. These mines were abandoned after being worked for thousands of years. They were rediscovered in 1818 and today the Egyptian Emerald lodes are small and dark stones.
The top Emerald producing countries are Columbia, Zambia, Brazil and Zimbabwe. Emerald deposits are typically found in metamorphic rocks with no particular surface indications for possible mining locations. Mining for the 6-sided Emerald crystal is primarily done by hand.
Emeralds are part of the Beryl mineral family, along with Aquamarine, Golden Beryl, Goshenite, Bixbite and Morganite. The name for Emerald is taken from the Greek smaragdos, meaning green stone. Inclusions are generally accepted in Emeralds. These inclusions help to separate natural from synthetic Emeralds and possibly the country of origin.
Although Emeralds have a hardness of 8, they still must be treated with care to prevent chipping. Emerald jewelry should never be ultrasonically cleaned nor steam cleaned. Since most Emeralds exhibit some type of visible inclusion, the degree of clarity is not as important as with other type of Beryl. Most natural Emeralds have tiny surface breaks that fill with air and are visible to the eye. For centuries, organic oils and resins have been used to prevent these surface breaks from being visible. Since these oils have a tendency to dry out over time, manmade substances, including epoxies, are now being used to lessen the surface fissures. The best way to care for emerald jewelry is to use warm, soapy water and a soft brush.
The top color for Emerald is a deep, rich green. Emeralds are available in a range of green tones, including yellowish green, bluish green and pure green. Emeralds that are transparent in the top color command the highest prices.