May Birthstone Emerald

Emerald is the Birthstone for May. — The Emerald (as a mineral) is a composition of silica, alumina, and glucina, colored generally green by chrome oxide. It is of various shades of green, sometimes colorless, sometimes inclining to blue and yellow.

Those species not green however are specifically known as beryl or aquamarine—the coloring matter in them being iron peroxide.

Emeralds are found in the shape of six−sided prisms, with the lateral faces smooth, and varying from transparent to translucent, It is not affected by acids. Emerald is found chiefly in Peru. Less beautiful varieties are met with in India, Ceylon, Greenland, and Siberia.

Emerald is cut in various forms, the Brilliant, the Hose, and the Table styles. It is usually set with a green substance behind it, unless of very fine quality, when they are open−set. One of twenty−four grains, at the auction of the Marquis de Dree (1760—1848), sold for 2,400 francs (XVIII—XIX century). It may be very successfully imitated.

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May Birthstone Emerald

May Birthstone Emerald. Credits to Dennis Harper @ Flickr

Anciently there were mines of Emerald wrought in Egypt on the Arabian Gulf, For some centuries all knowledge of them was lost, but they have been rediscovered, in modern clays, by Caillard.

Tavernier has some remarks on Emerald, which, as bearing on the early history of America, are worth translating in full.

He first expresses the opinion, that the Emerald, though known from time immemorial, always came from America. He then adds, «I believe, that, prior to the discovery of that part of the world, commonly called the West Indies, Emeralds were indeed brought into Europe from Asia, but that their actual source was the kingdom of Peru.

For the Americans, before they became known to us, traded in the Philippine Isles, whither they carried gold and silver, especially the latter.

The same traffic is still continued, and the Peruvians visit the Philippines yearly with two or three vessels carrying silver add rough Emeralds.

Here they are met by traders from Bengal, Aracan, Pegu, Goa, and other places, bringing cloths of all sorts, set Diamonds and Rubies, gold jewelry, silk−stuff’s and Persian carpets.

It should, however, be remarked, that they are not permitted to deal directly with the Americans, but only through the intervention of persons residing at the Manillas. And this is the only way in which Emeralds reached Europe before the discovery of the West Indies.»

The Spanish conquerors of Peru heard that, in the Valley of Manta, was a temple dedicated to the Goddess, Emerald. Of course they hastened to pay their devoirs at the shrine of so respectable a divinity. But, on reaching the temple, they found that the Goddess had disappeared. However, finding there a large number of daughters of the «Mother of the Emeralds», (as the Goddess was entitled by the priests), they took possession of these for their own behoof,

The Mexican kings prized Emeralds so highly, that they were accustomed to pierce their nostrils and there hang one of the finest specimens they could procure. They put then also upon the faces of their idols.

If we may credit an old writer, the traffic in them from America must, at one time, have been enormous. For he says, that in tile fleet, which came from the Indies, in the year 1587, there were two great chests of Emeralds. If this be fact, the number in circulation must, we think, have diminished.

Highly as Emeralds have eyer been prized by Europeans, it would seem that the Orientals have valued them more highly still. For Tavernier says, that, in his day, may birthstone Emerald, and indeed nearly all the precious stones, except the Diamond, brought better prices in Asia than in Europe.

Emerald is especially noted for the extravagant traditions of all kinds concerning it.

Thus it is gravely recorded, that the victorious Saracens captured, at the Spanish city, Toledo, a table three hundred and sixty feet lone, constructed of a single Emerald! Also that an obelisk stood there, composed of four Emeralds only, which was sixty feet high! It is stated also that in the Cathedral treasury of Genoa was preserved, in 1780, a hexagonal bowl of Emerald, of which the broadest diameter was fourteen rind a half inches.

In 1319 this bowl was pledged to a certain cardinal for 1200 gold marks, and twelve years elapsed before the city could raise this SUIll fur its redemption. In 1726 a volume was published in Genoa, which professed to demonstrate by authorities, that this identical vessel had once belonged to King Solomon, and was an item of the presents brought to him by the Queen of Sheba.

It must be confessed, that it is rather a sorry downfall of the romance concerning Emerald to find it more than probable, that all these large specimens are neither more nor less than green glass, or at host but rock−crystal, imbedded perhaps with portions of aquamarine. For it is stated that in Peru, which yields the finest in the world, no Emerald larger than an ostrich’s egg has ever been mentioned, and that such a one ever existed is extremely doubtful.

In Saint John’s Apocalypse (chapter IV, 3 V,) the throne of the throne of the Deity is described as surrounded by a rainbow of Emeralds.


Tradition says that the famous magician Hermes Trismegistus engraved on an Emerald a panacea for all human maladies, which was enclosed with his body in his tomb. Rather a selfish proceeding it seems to us.

As a fact belonging to modern times, we would mention that the scepter of Poland was a simple piece of beryl, two feet long. It has been broken in the middle, and is now in the possession of Russia.

Mr. Hope, of London, possessed a cut crystal of the beryl class, weighing six ounces, and valued at £500 (XIX centiry); and the Duke of Devonshire another from Peru, two inches long, and weighing eight oz. eighteen dwts, but containing many flaws, and valued at one hundred and fifty guineas.

In the «Memories du Règne de Catherine, Impératrice de Russie» mention is made of an Emerald, belonging to the Crown, of the size of a hen’s egg.

Martinus Rulandus says that the Emerald exceeds in verdure watered grass, or the greenest leaves of the trees.

Avenzoar declares it to be a specific against poisons, and Boetius gives a recipe for a «tincture of Emerald».

Dr. Aloysius Mundella Says that his brother, a Jeweler, sold Emerald for one hundred and thirteen auras to Franciscus Maria, Prince of Urbino, and intended by him to be used medicinally.

Cardanus says that all green jewels may be affected by the fire on account of the abundance of humor contained in them! (De lapidis pretiosis, Book 7).

Bacchius says, speaking of the Emerald, that if wrapped in a linen cloth and put into water, or put into water by itself, the water will seem to be moved. And Wurtzung, a German physician, says that this gem is used in all diseases of the heart.

We shall conclude our researches upon Emerald with some quaint old passages from our «Sometimes member of Jesus Colledge».

«Sophisticators are wont, lucre causa, to adulterate Emerald».

«The Emerald is a precious stone of so excellent a viridity, or spring−color, as that if a man shall look upon an Emerald by a pleasant green meadow, it will be more amiable then the meadow, and overcome the meadow’s glorie, by the glory of that spring of viriditie whichEmerald hath in itself: the largeness of the meadow it will overcome with the amplitude of its glory, where with farre above it greatness it doth feed the eie: and the virescencie of the meadow it will overcome with the brightness of its glory, which in itself seethe to embrace the glorious viridity of many springs. It is known by its apparent coldness in the mouth, and by its gravity being weighed».

«Emerald do much sharpen and acuate the dulness of the sight, and therefore engravers will most willingly be employed about them. It is very transparent, and do very excellently dart forth their rayes like lightning; and therefore they are of great esteem and price».

«The Seythian Emerald is found in gold mines, and can’t be obtained without a great deal of danger: for it is reported, that the Gryphines take charge of this, stand century a bout it, and have their safe custody upon it. These fierce ravenous birds make their nests in the mines of gold where these pretious gems are to be had, therefore the Arimaspi, or Monoculi, who hunger much after the gold, and Emeraukls, are forced to arm themselves for a battle with these birds, before they can obtain their prize».

«Emerald is good to recreate the sight; Andreas Baccius, Agricola, Cardanus, and Anselmus Boetius say, that there is such an enmity betwixt it, and illegitimate venery, or the uncleanness of the flesh, as that if it do but touch the skin of an adulterer, it will break. And that Emerald doth bridle the reins of lasciviousness, and much temper it; insomuch as Albertus Magnus doth not doubt to affirm that the king of Hungaria Bela having carnall knowledge of his wife, with all Emeralds set in gold on his finger, the Emerald brake into three parts».

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