Sign up for our newsletter |

Online Article Page




In just three words penned around 50 A.D., Pliny the Elder, antiquity’s greatest cataloger of natural wonders, summed up the nearly 2,000 years of emerald veneration before him and the nearly 2,000 years of it since. “Nothing greens greener,” he wrote—a short phrase that captures the essence of this gem.
Pliny was just summing up what his peers in ancient Egypt, India, Greece and Rome thought about the most famous member of the beryl family. Is it any wonder that Cleopatra, Egypt’s tempestuous female monarch, was as famous for wearing emeralds in her time as Liz Taylor, the actress who played her in a 1969 movie, is for wearing diamonds in ours?

Emerald has been the gemstone standard bearer for the color green during practically all of recorded history. It should come as no surprise, then, that linguists trace the word “emerald” back to the ancient Greek color-name for green: smaragdus.

Islamic texts describe the Garden of Paradise as carpeted with this gem. For the lawns of heaven to be lined with a thick astro-turf of emerald, this gem had to have more going for it than just good looks (although they certainly helped). It had to have exceedingly good vibrations. When the ancients talked about the magic of gems, they were being literal not figurative. They wore gems as much for protection as pleasure.

Today we call widely-held notions among the ancients that emerald could improve one’s sex life as well as one’s eye sight, increase one’s intelligence, and bestow eloquence by the name of lore. So when the Muslims celebrated emerald as the gem of paradise, they were simply elevating it from its long-standing associations with spring and fertility to far more sublime and spiritual levels. Today, fittingly enough, emerald is the birthstone for May and still symbolizes the eternal hope and promise of Spring.

The emeralds the ancients adored were nowhere near as beautiful as those mined today. The modern emerald bounty began almost five centuries ago when Spanish explorers began trading or, more likely, looting emeralds from the people of Panama, Peru and Mexico in the early sixteenth century. Those emeralds, which the Spaniards soon learned came from mines in Colombia, were far superior to any seen before.

In our century, several more emerald El Dorados have been discovered. While Colombia is still the world’s largest and most famous emerald-producing country, Brazil and Zambia have emerged as major sources for this gem. As could be expected, emeralds from each of these countries possess their own distinctive characteristics. If you are buying mainly or solely for color, Colombian stones have the highest reputation. However, the finest Brazilian stones rival those of Colombia for color. If clarity is your primary concern, Zambian stones are renowned for their crystalline appearance and have a rich, robust green to boot.

1 2 next