Emeralds have long been prized as a precious gemstone, known for their striking green color. They are considered the traditional birthstone for the month of May. Emeralds belong to the beryl mineral family and get their signature green hue from trace amounts of chromium and sometimes vanadium. The green color can vary from a pale green to a deep, intense green. The most prized emeralds exhibit a vivid green called “grass green.”
Emeralds have a long history dating back to ancient Egypt, where they were mined in the eastern deserts nearly 4,500 years ago. Emeralds were treasured by the Egyptian pharaohs and Cleopatra was known for her love of the stone. The Incas and Aztecs of South America also prized emeralds and the Spanish conquistadors eventually discovered the rich emerald deposits there. Today, the top producers of quality emeralds are Colombia, Zambia, Brazil, and Zimbabwe.
When are emeralds the birthstone?
Emeralds are designated as the traditional birthstone for the month of May. This means that people born in May can claim the emerald as their birthstone.
The origin of birthstones is believed to date back to biblical times and the twelve stones that adorned the breastplate of Aaron, the high priest of the Israelites. Over time, these twelve stones came to represent the twelve months of the year and the stones were assigned to different months.
The modern birthstone list we use today was created in 1912 by the American National Association of Jewelers. This is the list that designated the emerald as the official birthstone for May.
Here is a table showing the traditional birthstone for each month of the year:
|December||Tanzanite, Zircon, Turquoise|
As you can see, the emerald is designated as the sole birthstone for the month of May on this traditional birthstone list.
Why is the emerald the birthstone for May?
There are a few reasons why the emerald ended up as the birthstone for the month of May:
– Availability – In ancient times, the emerald was mined in Egypt as early as 1500 BC. This means emeralds were readily available to ancient peoples and were associated with springtime. May has always been considered a spring month in the Northern hemisphere, so the emerald’s lush green color evoked the new life of spring.
– Meaning – The vibrant green color of emeralds is said to symbolize rebirth and growth, which connects to the season of spring. The emerald was believed to have healing properties and the ability to enhance wisdom, eloquence, and memory. This positive meaning and symbolism made it a fitting mascot for May.
– Rarity – Emeralds are one of the four precious gemstones along with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. In ancient times, their rarity increased their value. The emerald was seen as a royal stone fitting for the nobility. Its designation as a birthstone added to its prestige.
– Astrology – Ancient people believed that wearing your birthstone provided good luck and health benefits. The qualities of each birthstone were associated with astrological signs. Taurus falls partly in May and the qualities of Taurus were believed to align with the emerald’s meaning and properties.
– Alternating colors – When assigning birthstones, gemologists tried to alternate the colors as the months changed. After April’s diamond, the green emerald provided a vivid contrast as the birthstone color for May.
So in summary, the emerald’s lush green color, ancient prestige, positive meaning, astrological connections, and place on the color wheel made it the natural choice for the honor of May’s birthstone.
Are there any other birthstones for May?
The traditional birthstone list designates the emerald as the sole birthstone representing May. However, there are a few alternative gemstones that are sometimes considered birthstones for May:
– Agate – This banded chalcedony gemstone is on some alternate birthstone lists for May. It has intricate banding patterns and comes in a variety of colors.
– Chrysoprase – This rare gemstone is a green variety of chalcedony. Its green color is similar to emerald, which makes it a fitting alternative for May.
– Lapis Lazuli – This vivid blue stone was once considered a birthstone for May on older lists. It fell out of favor over time.
So while emerald has always been the primary birthstone for May, these other gems do have historical ties to May as alternate birthstones. However, emerald is recognized as the official, traditional birthstone for the month.
What other months claim the emerald as a birthstone?
The emerald is only considered the traditional birthstone for the month of May. However, it does make one other appearance in the modern birthstone list:
– May – Emerald is the sole birthstone for May
– June – Pearl and alexandrite are the primary gems for June, but emerald is listed as a secondary possibility by some gem organizations. However, it is not as strongly associated with June as with May.
So while May is the only month that can unequivocally claim the emerald as its birthstone, June has some weak claims on it as well. But the connection to May is most established based on tradition.
What are the key properties that make emerald a May birthstone?
There are a few key properties of the emerald that make it the fitting choice for the May birthstone:
– Color – Emeralds get their signature green color from trace amounts of chromium and vanadium. The vivid green represents spring and rebirth.
– Beauty – Emeralds are prized for their lush, vivid green in lighter “grass” greens. The intense color is what makes them a treasured gem.
– Rarity – They are one of the four precious gems along with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. Their scarcity adds to their value.
– Durability – Emeralds rate at 7.5-8 on the Mohs hardness scale, making them a durable stone that can withstand engraving and everyday wear as jewelry.
– Meaning – They are said to represent wisdom, personal growth, healing, and communication. The positive symbolism aligns with the rebirth of spring.
– History – Mined in Egypt as early as 1500 BC, they have a long history and were beloved by ancient royalty and nobility.
So in summary, the emerald’s lush green shades, rarity, prestigous history, healing meaning, and durability make it the perfect match as a May birthstone celebrating spring.
How can you tell if an emerald is a May birthstone?
If you want to identify an emerald as a May birthstone, here are some tips:
– Color – Examine the color. It should be a rich green with strong to moderate saturation. Pale greens are less valuable.
– Clarity – May emeralds tend to be more included. Examine for flaws under magnification. Fewer flaws increases value.
– Cut – Well-cut emeralds enhance the color. Look for skilled cutting that maximizes color.
– Carat – May emeralds range from small to large stones. Evaluate weight based on the dimensions.
– Source – Colombian and Zambian emeralds are considered the finest May birthstones. Emeralds from these sources are most valued.
– Certification – Request GIA certification to verify the stone’s characteristics including weight, color, clarity, and origin. This guarantees a May birthstone.
– Setting – May emerald birthstones are typically set in precious metal settings like yellow or white gold. Avoid cheap metal settings.
By inspecting these qualities, you can determine if an emerald meets the standards for a fine May birthstone. High quality cut, color, clarity and Colombian/Zambian origin indicate an esteemed May birthstone.
How much do May birthstone emeralds cost?
Emeralds as May birthstones vary widely in price depending on the quality factors of each individual stone. Here is an overview of May emerald pricing:
– Size – Larger carat emeralds over 3 carats can be over $10,000 even for lower clarity stones. 1-2 carat stones in the VS-SI range are ideal for May birthstone jewelry.
– Clarity – Flawless or near flawless emeralds exceed $50,000 even in smaller sizes. May emeralds tend to have more flaws. VS/SI clarity grades in the $500-$5000 range are typical.
– Color – Rich green color with no gray or blue undertones is ideal. Prices jump over $10,000 for rare vivid greens over 2 carats. Most May emeralds fall in the lighter greens.
– Cut – Well-cut May emeralds command the highest premiums. Expert cutting enhances color saturation and sparkle.
– Origin – Colombian emeralds over 5 carats can be over $50,000. For most buyers, Zambian emeralds offer the best balance of quality and affordability.
– Treatments – Most emeralds are oiled or resin-filled to minimize flaws. Treated but disclosed emeralds are accepted for May stones.
For 1-2 carat VS/SI emeralds in lighter greens, expect to pay $500-$2000 for quality May birthstone jewelry. Colombian stones with vivid color in flawless grades over 5 carats exceed $50,000.
What are some good alternatives for May birthstone emeralds?
For those seeking a more affordable alternative to pricey natural emeralds, here are some good May birthstone options:
– Lab-Created Emeralds – These have the same chemical composition but are made in a lab. They offer the green color at 10-30% the cost of mined emeralds.
– Green Sapphires – These closely mimic emerald’s green tones. Green sapphires have a hardness of 9 so they are extremely durable.
– Green Amethyst – This rare, irradiated amethyst offers emerald green hues. It is much more affordable than true emerald.
– Green Garnet – Tsavorite garnet has a rich green color similar to emerald but with higher clarity grades. Dematoid garnet offers lighter apple greens.
– Green Tourmaline – Green tourmaline comes in several shades like chrome tourmaline and verdilite. It has excellent clarity and durability.
– Green Quartz – Prasiolite is a green variety of quartz that provides crisp green hues. It is very economical.
– Green Peridot – A light spring green, peridot offers excellent clarity and is moderately priced. It is ideal for large accent stones.
These alternatives all offer natural green colors to substitute for emerald at lower price points while retaining excellent durability. They allow flexibility to find the perfect May birthstone shade at an affordable cost.
What are some famous May emerald birthstones in history?
Some famous emeralds that showcase the beauty of the May birthstone include:
– The Mogul Emerald – This engraved emerald from 1695 weighs over 217 carats. It is engraved with Islamic prayers and flower blossoms.
– The Duke of Devonshire Emerald – This Columbian emerald weighs 1372 carats and is inscribed with the seal of Emperor Jahangir.
– Elizabeth Taylor’s Bulgari Emeralds – The iconic actress owned an emerald and diamond suite from Bulgari valued at over $3 million.
– Mackay Emerald Necklace – This art deco necklace designed by Cartier contains a 167 carat emerald surrounded by diamonds.
– Spanish Inquisition Necklace – A 16th century emerald and gold necklace with a huge per-shaped emerald of over 600 carats.
– Crown of the Andes – A Colombian emerald and gold pope’s tiara with 400 carat emeralds owned by the Met Museum.
– Emerald of Saint Louis – This 139 carat emerald was owned by French royalty in the 17th century. It is now part of French Crown Jewels.
These famous May birthstone emeralds demonstrate the grand scale, distinguished ownership, and incredible detail that makes the emerald a legendary gemstone.
In conclusion, the emerald is unmistakably the traditional birthstone representing the month of May. Its signature green color epitomizes spring, renewal, and growth. The emerald’s long history, prestige, meaning, mystical properties, and beauty cemented its status as the May birthstone. People born in May are fortunate to claim the emerald’s gorgeous green hues, lore, and royal heritage as their birthstone. For those seeking May’s green gemstone as a birthstone, alternates like green sapphire and tsavorite offer more attainable options. But for many May babies, only the precious emerald can lay claim as a suitably majestic birthstone.