by Ann Hudson
The birthstone for May is the emerald. This green gem is quite valuable and has a rich history. From the Irish to the Egyptians, emeralds have been treasured by many ancient and modern groups. Emerald jewelry is popular, and May birthstone jewelry options such as emerald rings and bracelets offer a wide range of choices.
Features: Emeralds are members of the beryl family and are related to the aquamarine. The emerald has a rating of 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness, making emerald jewelry well-suited for daily wear. While May birthstone jewelry can be quite durable and scratch-resistant, emeralds also tend to have a lot of inclusions and fissures, which can affect their clarity.
Colors: The familiar emerald-green color is the most popular hue for emerald jewelry. The color of an emerald is significant in determining its value. The priciest gems are those that have a warm green color. Emeralds that are too dark or have yellow or blue undertones are less valuable. Emeralds with a blue-green hue are rare and generally command high prices. When shopping for May birthstone jewelry, select hues that appeal to you personally.
Cuts: Emeralds can be cut in a variety of shapes to show off their brilliance and bright colors. Round, pear, heart-shaped, and oval emeralds are popular for use in May birthstone emerald rings, pendants, and earrings. Emeralds also have a gemstone cut named after them. The emerald cut is a rectangular or square shape with step-cut facets. The emerald cut uses a large percentage of an original gemstone, making it a great choice for valuable gems. Emerald-cut diamonds are popular in many types of jewelry.
History: It is believed that the first emerald mines were Cleopatra's in ancient Egypt, which date as far back as 330 B.C. Cleopatra's mines are still in operation, though high-quality emeralds are rarely mined there. The Spanish historically also prized emeralds, and many fine specimens were brought back from Latin America in the 16th century. Many cultures of the past and present regard the emerald as a holy stone, including the Aztecs. May birthstone jewelry brings the history and magic of emeralds to jewelry lovers everywhere.
Geography: Some of the highest-quality emeralds come from mines in Colombia. Austria, Russia, and India are also known for their emerald mines. The Bahia Emerald, a 180,000-carat stone valued at $370 million, was found in Brazil, while the 858-carat Gachala Emerald and 37.82-carat Chalk Emerald, which is featured in a famous Harry Winston ring, were found in Colombia.
Quality: Emeralds by nature have a high incidence of inclusions, or imperfections. Emeralds are considered flawless if no inclusions can be seen with the naked eye. Flawless emeralds are extremely rare and valuable, though many jewelry designers find that working with emerald inclusions can give them the opportunity to create unique jewelry. Many emeralds are treated with oil to enhance their color and clarity. Check with jewelers for their policies and specifications on treated gems.
Alternate birthstones: Agate and chrysoprase are accepted May birthstones and are available in many beautiful birthstone jewelry styles. Agate gemstones come in many colors, including white, grey, green, and blue. Many agate stones are banded with a variety of colors in swirls and veins. Chrysoprase is typically apple green and may sometimes have the appearance of jade. Both agate and chrysoprase are types of chalcedony.