Of all gemstones, none seem to have as storied of a history as the legendary emerald. Cleopatra used them to display Egypt’s might before Julius Caesar and the Romans. In fact, the emerald mines in Egypt date back to at least 330 BCE, their dazzling green color symbolizing the prosperity of the Egyptian kingdom for generations. That is, until Caesar’s nephew, Augustus, seized Egypt and her mines and used the stones to fund his own ambitions under his Pax Romana or “Roman Peace.” Napoleon too, loved this verdant stone, covering his beloved wife, Josephine in them. History suggests emeralds might be partially to blame for our association with the color green and wealth.
And this inference might also apply to our view of May as a month of abundance and vitality, as the world emerges from winter and blossoms green and full of life. There are many other brilliant green gemstones that have since been discovered, but none have managed to capture our collective awe like the emerald. At Omi, we profoundly believe in the expressive power of color. Green has been scientifically proven to be “calming,” with the ability to relieve stress and eye strain. Culturally, green is a universally important hue for myriad reasons. But what is it about the emerald that sets it apart from other gemstones?
Rarity might be part of the equation. Geologically speaking, the factors that combine to create emeralds occur naturally in very, very few places around the world. Emeralds are a variety of the mineral, beryl, colored green by the addition of chromium or vanadium. Beryllium and chromium rarely come in contact with one another, in fact, one would need to literally move mountains to create them. The green form of beryl is found in pegmatites formed during orogenisis, or the “making of mountains” billions of years ago when two different continental plates crash into one another. In very rare instances during this mountain building, chromium or vanadium is forced into the growing beryl crystals, turning colorless beryl into something much more rare: emerald.
Hexagonal emerald crystal
Due to the nature of their creation, emeralds, as compared to other varieties of beryl and other gemstones, are often faceted despite numerous inclusions or fissures that are visible by the unaided eye. A truly clean and transparent emerald with vibrant green color is one of the rarest gemstones on earth. This has led to the creation of different treatments of oil, resin etc. that help aid the relative clarity of the gemstones and make the emeralds internal “jardin” less visible. A reputable gemstone lab will be able to identify the type of “oiling” and the degree to which a stone has been subjected to treatment.
The rare and unique trapiche emerald, displaying a spoked pattern caused by inclusions in the crystal’s hexagonal shape.
At Omi Gems we are very selective when choosing emeralds; we consider their color, cut and inclusions carefully. As a naturally brittle stone, stones are considered for their durability. Many Omi emeralds are step cuts, as this faceting style is best suited for beryl’s hexagonal crystal structure and to reflect the gemstones striking color.
Created by moving mountains, and with the ability to shape empires, the lure of emeralds still entrances us. The famed emerald mines first opened by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century South America in Chivor and Muzo are still considered some of the most spectacular in the world. But new discoveries in Zambia, Madagascar and even North Carolina, prove that the hunt for this special green stone is just as fervent as ever.