Birthstone of the Month: Emerald

Kristen Baird

Emerald, the birthstone of May, carries the rich green color of Spring and radiates a beautiful vivid tone. It is considered to be a symbol of rebirth and love. A fine emerald is a truly breathtaking sight, and this gem certainly deserves its placement among the traditional “Big Four” precious stones, along with diamond, ruby, and sapphire.

I admire and respect emerald, and I find I tend to work with it primarily on commissioned work and customized birthstone pieces. As you’ll read below, they are very rare, and it can be expensive to get my hands on this green gem. But check out emerald’s story below and learn why people have been mesmerized by its lush green hues for ages.

What is Emerald?

Emerald's name is derived from the Greek word smaragdus, meaning “green gem.” Like aquamarine, emerald is a variety of beryl, a mineral that grows with six sides and can get up to one foot in length. Emerald is also like aquamarine in that the way its color presents itself in jewelry depends on a good cut by a skilled gemologist.

The emerald color can range from light green to a deep, rich green. The deeper the green an emerald is, the more valuable it is. The rarest emerald stones will appear to be an intense green-blue color.

Emerald gems are found all over the world, including Colombia, Brazil, Afghanistan, and Zambia. The availability of high-quality emerald is limited. Consequently, treatments to improve clarity are performed regularly. Emerald ranks at a 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness, so it is a sturdy stone but can be susceptible to scratching.

History & Lore

Emerald gemstones were first mined in Egypt as early as 330 BC, but they originate back far beyond that date! Cleopatra is perhaps the most famous historical figure to cherish emerald gemstones. She even claimed ownership of all emerald mines in Egypt during her reign. (Sounds like my kind of lady!) The Egyptians used emeralds both in jewelry and in their elaborate burials, often burying emerald stones with monarchs as symbols of protection.

On the other side of the world, the Muzo people of Colombia had well-hidden and prized emerald mines. These mines were so hidden that it took the Spanish conquistadors nearly twenty years to find them!

Today, emerald is a symbol of loyalty, new beginnings, peace, and security, making it not only a beautiful gem to wear, but also a meaningful jewelry gift to be treasured by the receiver. It is still widely prized by the rich and famous, with Elizabeth Taylor’s famous emerald pendant selling for $6.5 million in 2011.

Legend has it that emerald has the power to make its wearer more intelligent and quick-witted. It was believed to cure diseases like cholera and malaria or that one could see into the future by placing it under the tongue. Some even believed it made one an eloquent speaker and exposed lovers who made false promises.

Kristen Baird Jewelry & Emerald

Petite Emerald BeautyI always say, there are no materials too small to be used - all gemstones are here to be well-loved, worn, and cherished! This piece is the perfect example. We combined parts and pieces from 3 heirloom emerald and diamond rings to create the perfect 30th birthday present from mother to daughter. Read on to see how this Petite Emerald Beauty came to life...and oh, how beautiful she is!

Birthdate Beauties Featuring Emerald: Ever since having a baby, I've really been into designing and creating more unique and one-of-a-kind pieces for mothers. There's something so special about birthstones, birth stories, birth orders, kids, babies...I may have caught the bug! That said, when a fellow artist and mom reached out to me, I knew I had to do something very special for her. This project was such a joy to work on, and I can't wait to share this story. Read on to see more about this Birthdate Beauty and how we worked a little magic for this special Mama - including an emerald band for her May baby!

Radiant Rapids Featuring EmeraldThis Commission was for a repeat client. We first worked on her Warrior Women piece, which was a piece made in memory of the powerful women in her family. This new piece she wanted to make for herself…let's call it a self-purchase. She already had wonderful materials left over from her first project including sapphires, rubies, emeralds and diamonds, but wanted something unique - a versatile stacking set with a modern twist. So, let’s dive into this story!

Final Thoughts

So while I don’t use emeralds often, I do love a good emerald and welcome the opportunity to work with them. Many times, that comes in the form of birthstone accents as you’ve seen above. And hey, now that I’m feeling pretty inspired, my mom’s birthstone is emerald, so maybe I need to start creating a special emerald piece for her, but shhh, I want to keep that as a surprise!

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