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What On Earth is an Emerald? Discovering an Iconic, Green Gemstone

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“What On Earth…” will routinely discuss one type of gemstone or crystal, so you can learn all about the physical, historical and spiritual aspects of the magnificent stones we sell!

Emerald is a gemstone that’s notable for being a deep, crystal clear green. What makes it green exactly? It beings as a clear crystal, but trace amounts of chromium or vanadium taint the gemstone, creating a green tint. The chemical formula for emerald is Be3Al2(SiO3)6. It’s a silicate mineral, classified as a cyclosilicate because it’s a variety of beryl.

The origin of emeralds can be traced back over 2,500 million years. These emeralds were found in Zimbabwe in Southern Africa. Other emeralds were found in Pakistan, dating back nine million years. This means that emeralds are one of the oldest known gemstones.

Emerald mining dates back to 1500 BCE in Egypt, and 1300 CE in Austria and India. Despite its ancient roots, emerald mining now mostly takes place in Colombia. There are three main mining areas in Colombia, including:

  • Muzo, actually known as “the world capital of emeralds.” It’s also known for being home to incredibly high-quality emeralds.
  • Coscuez, where the infamous Guinness Emerald Crystal was found. This gemstone was 1759 carats, coming in as one of the largest gem-quality emeralds in the world.
  • Chivor, with a city name meaning “green and rich land.” This refers to their emerald mining.

Emeralds can also be found around the world, including Italy, the United States, China, canada, France, Australia and many other countries.

Synthetic emeralds can also be created by developing an emerald overgrowth on colourless beryl seeds. Emerald synthesis has been occurring since the mid 1900s, though the process by which emeralds are synthesized is long and arduous.

While an emerald is an emerald based on its chemical makeup and origin, in order for an emerald to be considered a top gem it must meet more explicit standards. For instance, a top gem emerald must not only be green in colour, but also have a high degree of transparency. Emeralds aren’t always the green shade that they’re famous for, either. Some are more yellow, while others can be a blue-green colour.

Emerald gemstones appear in both ancient culture and modern pop culture. In the 16th century, French historian Brantôme thought that the engraving of an emerald for the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez was sacrilegious because it destroyed its preciousness. He also believed this was what led to the death of King Charles IX of France.

In pop culture, the most famous example of emeralds may be in “The Wizard of Oz,” containing the iconic Emerald City. Ireland is also known as “The Emerald Isle,” thanks to its lush, green topography.

When it comes to mythos, emeralds are named for the Greek word “smaragdos,” simply meaning “green gemstone.” Emeralds were used to provide protection throughout history, especially in religious contexts. They’re also said to be powerful for mental and physical clarity, as well as fidelity in relationships.

Is there another gemstone that you’re interested in learning more about? Tell us below and you’ll see it on our blog soon!

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