May’s birthstone is the emerald, one of the most revered gems throughout history. From the famous jewels of Cleopatra and the Aztecs to The Wizard of Oz’s fictional Emerald City, they are legendary.
May Birthstone Meaning
As the color green represents new life, the promise of Spring and new beginnings, it makes perfect sense that emerald is Spring’s birthstone for May in our official list of birthstones.
Emeralds are commonly associated with romance – supporting passion, love, and bliss – as well as resurrection, renewal, and awakening – giving youth, fortune, and foresight to the owner.
This makes the emerald the perfect gemstone for wedding anniversaries.
Emeralds have also been thought to cure bleeding, dysentery, and fever; to prevent epilepsy; to soothe the eyes, and to calm panic. During the Middle Ages, these gems were said to hold the power to predict the future.
Emeralds were also said to have other superficial powers such as:
- Seeing the truth
- The power to cure disease
- The power to protect against evil
It’s All About the Color of the Emerald
Emeralds have a great range of color from light to very dark, rich green color. Color is the first factor considered when valuing an emerald.
Made of the mineral beryl, like March’s birthstone aquamarine.
Chromium, vanadium, and iron are the trace elements that create emerald’s iconic color. Amounts of each element and their presence or absence determine the exact color of an emerald. When the color is very pale gemologists categorize them as green beryl.
Emeralds can vary widely in price and this is most affected by its color. As you might expect, the most valuable emeralds display:
- an evenly distributed bluish green to pure green color
- vivid color saturation
- tone being not too dark
- highly transparent
Emerald’s color intensity at its best may be unrivaled in nature.
On the other hand, smaller, poorly cut and light colored emeralds will be lower in price. As will gems that have been created in a lab rather than mined from the earth.
The Cut of an Emerald
The cut of an emerald can greatly enhance its color. An emerald with a rectangular style cut actually emphasizes the richness of color by leading the eye into its depths.
Historically, emeralds have so often been cut into these rectangular octagonal shapes that the cut itself has become known as an “emerald cut” – even applying to a stone that isn’t an emerald.
However, a beautiful emerald may come in any number of different cuts!
Many of these green gemstones contain small mineral inclusions or fissures that can be seen with the naked eye. But, this is accepted as something of a given with beryl stones.
Because when looking at these inclusions they remind us of branches, sprigs, and moss, they are known as ‘Jardin’, meaning garden. They do not detract much from the overall value until they have a negative effect on clarity and transparency. Lastly, being eye-clean of inclusions is very rare and ups the value exponentially.
The History of Emeralds
Revered for 6,000 years, emeralds are one of the most legendary gemstones in history. It’s glowing spring green color, makes them a symbol of springtime, fertility, and rebirth to numerous cultures. Egyptians mined emeralds as long ago as 1300 B.C.
- For Christians, they represent the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- To ancient Romans, the color green and emeralds represented Venus, the goddess of beauty and love.
- Representing good luck for the Irish and Chinese.
- Ancient Egyptians believed them to represent fertility and rebirth.
- Mayans called emerald “quetzalitzli”, for the quetzal bird’s green wings. Quetzacoatl is their god of rebirth, regeneration, sky, earth.
- In 1st century Teotihuacan emeralds symbolized Quetzacoatl, their god of vegetation and fertility, connected to the planet Venus.
Spanish conquistadors found South American and Mexican indigenous rulers wearing fantastic emeralds and other gemstones. Soon they “commandeered” all the gemstones, gold, and silver that they could.
The Famous Zuniga Family Fortune
In 1756, two hundred years after Cortez dies, a Spanish ship destined to sink to the bottom of the ocean is bringing back his Zuniga family fortune. Among the hundreds of chests of emeralds is a famous 964-carat emerald. Possibly being The Judgement Stone or the “Isabella Emerald”. Currently valued at over $20 million. In 1992 in the Bermuda Triangle, explorers retrieved the shipwreck, re-discovering it 200 years after its sinking.