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Emerald, the birthstone of May

All you need to know about the most precious of green gems

Emeralds are the birthstone of May, the month-long association with peace, serenity, and the renewal that comes with the changing of the seasons. As such, they are associated with love, hope, fertility and rebirth. They formed in the belly of Earth as far back as three billion years ago, when our planet was a water world and the only life in it was single-celled organisms. Their incredible colour is due to their chemical composition, which includes trace amounts of chromium and/or vanadium. It is the former that gives emeralds the appearance of giving off light. They are 20 times rarer than colourless diamonds and often, dearer.

From ancient times, superstition and folklore quickly attributed them to all kinds of healing and supernatural powers. For example, the Romans believed emeralds could revitalise the souls of those who wore them. Several Middle Eastern cultures thought them a defence against snake bites and others were convinced that placing one under your tongue would give you the power to see the future.

Angelina Jolie and Jessica Chastain are two of the global stars choosing emeralds for Red Carpet events.

But it was the demand by the European aristocracy that made emeralds into such objects of desire. When Princess Mary, the younger sister of King George VI, wore an emerald engagement ring before her wedding in 1922, women around the world wanted the green gems for their own jewellery. In 2011, an emerald pendant brooch made by Bulgari and purchased as part of a set by Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960s, while they were filming Cleopatra, was sold for $6.5 million by auctioneers at Christie’s, smashing its original estimate.

The Inkalamu Lion Emerald was discovered by Gemfields in 2018 at Kagem, the world’s largest emerald mine.

Their allure keeps enamouring stars of all ages. Celebrities such as Zoe Kravitz, Angelina Jolie, Sofia Carson and Jessica Chastain are often seen wearing emeralds at red-carpet events.

One of the largest emeralds recently discovered was the Lion Emerald, a 5,655-carat Zambian emerald crystal with remarkable clarity and a perfectly balanced golden-green hue. Such a unique stone was discovered by Gemfields, the company seen as the world leader in responsibly-sourced coloured gemstones. More recently, Gemfields have also unearthed the Kafubu cluster, which weighs 37kg.

Marketing & Communications Director, Emily Dungey, explains what “responsibly sourced” means: “The company is guided by three core values: transparency, legitimacy and integrity. In real life, this manifests in the policies and processes adopted at an operational level, such as striving for zero-harm shifts and recruiting locally.”

As with diamonds, not all emeralds are of the same quality so when buying one of these gorgeous green gems, you should look at factors like the evenness and saturation of colour. Basically, move the emerald in all directions in natural light and check that it has a good colour from all angles. The cut is also important as some give off more light than others and, finally, look at inclusions. These are natural in emeralds and make them unique but the clearer the stone, the rarer it is and so the value will vary accordingly.

Left: Fabergé x Gemfields Colours of Love pearl-shaped emerald drop earrings. Centre: Shruti Sushma x Gemfields Waterlily emerald and diamond earrings. Right: House of Meraki x Gemfields Ezra emerald and diamond ring.

Zambian emeralds are seen as the best and they are very rare. Emily tells me that they were formed over 500 million years ago by an extraordinary combination of temperature, pressure and elements from deep within the earth’s crust. “Each emerald found at our Kagem mine in Zambia is a gift from Mother Nature,” she adds.

There are a few rules when caring for emeralds. To avoid scratches, never store them next to a diamond, ruby or sapphire. Diamonds are the hardest material on Earth and sapphires are almost as hard. Emeralds can be quite fragile so you shouldn’t use an ultrasonic cleaner and should be kept away from perfumes, alcohols and any potentially harsh chemicals. Last, my advice is that you remove them before showering (any jewellery in fact).

Emeralds are favoured by many jewellery brands. Gemfields themselves often partner up with like-minded companies to create beautiful pieces. They look for designers that share their sustainability and social responsibility values, such as Shruti Sushma, Sandy Leong, House of Meraki, and Fabergé among others. Emily comments, “Gemfields seeks partners that offer not only high-quality craftsmanship but also value responsible business practices and having a positive impact. I value a bit of fun, too – playful use of colour or an unexpected, brilliant design are not to be underestimated.”

Shruti, from the mother-daughter Shruti Sushma jewellery house from India, says of their business with Gemfields, “The exceptional colour and clarity of Gemfields’ emeralds provides the perfect canvas to craft captivating and distinctive designs that resonate with our clients, who appreciate both aesthetic beauty and ethical considerations in their jewellery choices.”

Left: Shruti Sushma x Gemfields Emerald Hexagon necklace. Right: Midnight Opera House x Gemfields earrings and necklace from their Floral Seasonscape collection

Gemfields just launched Midnight Opera House x Gemfields Floral Seasonscapes collection its first collaboration with a Chinese designer. The exclusive pieces combine the rich green hue of Gemfields Zambian emeralds with the serenity of black agate, exuding Oriental elegance.

Birthstone gifting has increased in popularity exponentially in recent years, so if you were lucky enough to be born in the month of emeralds, I would suggest you make a lot of noise about it. This is a trend you want to support.

Words: Julia Pasarón

Angelina Jolie picture: Dee Cercone / Everett Collection. @ Alamy Stock Photo.
Jessica Chastain picture: Anthony Devlin / PA Images. @ Alamy Stock Photo.

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