Emerald and Its Value in the Ancient Times

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Emerald is a kind of beryl mineral, which is rich in velvety-green color. It sometimes can have a light bluish tint. Pure beryl is colorless, however, it acquires a color when its structure contains elements responsible for certain color. The green color of the emerald is provided by the presence of Cr impurity in it. Typical emeralds contain 0.14% of chromium (Cr), 0.12% of iron (Fe) and 0.05% of vanadium (V) (Webster 25). As usual, the best and most qualitative emeralds have a rich bright green color and transparency. The stone of the medium and low level can also be clouded with various inclusions (air or liquid bubbles), and also have cracks or point inclusions of unknown impurities. In this case, the transparency of the emerald is estimated by eye, without the use of the magnifying glass (as is the case with the diamond) (Webster 26). Emeralds that do not have surface defects visible to the eye are considered high quality stones. In fact, the emerald, which has a completely flat surface by nature, can be rarely met. Therefore, almost all the stones are treated with special compounds, providing them with attractive appearance. In addition, the uneven shape of the emerald allows processing it not by cutting, but by cabochon.

Origin of the Emerald and Its value in the Ancient Times

The origin of the name comes from the Persian word, which, through such altered forms of Latin smaragdus, as esmeraude, emeraude and esmeralde, has come to modern times. The main deposits of Emerald are in Colombia (Muzo deposit), East Africa, Transvaal, India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe (Sandvana).

Emerald, as a mineral and stone, was widely known in ancient times. The Egyptians revered this precious stone as a gift of God Thoth and the symbol of the Goddess Isis. Moreover, there were the famous emerald docks of Queen Cleopatra in the vicinity of the Egyptian Aswan.

In the East, particularly in India, this stone was valued as a symbol of love and devotion. The Indian sultan Shah Yahan wore an amulet made of emeralds with the sacred texts engraved on it. In Islamic countries, the emerald was considered the main magical stone, while Christians use this stone to symbolize the forces of darkness.

Deposits of Emerald

Deposits of high quality emeralds are found in Colombia, which accounts for 90% of the world's mining of this precious stone, which is developing at a rather rapid pace. In a relatively short period of ten years (from 2000 to 2010) the extraction of emerald increased by 78% (Keller 82). It is interesting to note that the South American Indians in Peru had a legend about giant emeralds, which worshiped the inhabitants of the village of Manta. The second place in extraction of emeralds belongs to Zambia. In first half of 2011 this country produced 3.74 tons of these precious stones (Keller 82). Zambian stones outperform Colombian stones in quality. Russia also holds a leading position in emerald extraction. In the Urals, emerald mines were discovered in 1831 by the Russian scientists (Keller 83).

Toughness of Emerald

In terms of toughness, this mineral is inferior to diamond (its toughness is 7,5-8, according to the Mohs scale), but in terms of jewelry, they are almost as good as diamonds, sometimes even exceeding them (Gregorietti 6). Density can vary from 2.6 to 2.8 g / cm3. In particular, the density of the most valuable Siberian and Colombian emeralds, having a dense green color, varies from 2.68 to 2.74 g / cm3 (Gregorietti 7). South African emeralds are even denser (up to 2.77 g / cm3), which is caused by the presence of alkali metals, such as cesium and rubidium in the body of the stone (Gregorietti 7).

The refractive index of the emerald is 1.576-1.582. Some samples of emeralds have the ability to luminesce in ultraviolet rays, emitting red or green glow (Gregorietti 8). White line, glass shine, high brittleness, lack or imperfection of cleavage and uneven (before the shell) fracture can be enumerated among the physical characteristics of this gem (Gregorietti 8). Most crystals have a well-defined transverse separation. Despite high level of toughness, the surface of emerald can be easily abraded and scratched if the stone was stored in the same tank with diamonds, sapphires and rubies for a long time. As a result, it can look almost dull, devoid of shine due to permanent damage by more solid materials.

Physical properties of the emerald, which distinguish it from other minerals

Color of the stone is usually estimated by the three components: tone, saturation and lightness. In nature, minerals exist in different shades, but their main and basic tone is always green.

The stone is able to withstand temperatures of up to 700 degrees, while further heating will cause the loss of color. Moreover, the mineral is resistant to acids (Sinlankas 542). Although, the toughness of the mineral is high, it is not the highest among the minerals of such type. Emerald is fragile, low hardness and a network of fine cracks make it quite susceptible to external influences, for example, to heating and squeezing (Sinlankas 542). Finally, natural emerald is rarely defective, so its quality is estimated literally by eye: the gem is considered to be good in case it has no visible cracks. In order to fill the cracks of some emeralds, thermal and vacuum installations, with the use of epoxy resins, are used. Thus, almost all the stones produced in Brazil and Colombia are processed, but emeralds from Zambia are traditionally treated with oil. Emerald is one of the stones, after which certain way of cutting was introduced. It is widely used in jewelry production. This is a kind of step-cut, during which the stone is provided with a rectangular shape with bevelled corners (Sinlankas 543). Emerald cut protects the most fragile minerals from damage and chips, and also advantageously represents the color of the stone and its purity.

The enormous value of the emerald and its incorporation require great responsibility of the cutter. A special cut was developed for this stone. This rectangular or square design with blunted corners gives a special beauty to this precious stone, showing its stunning color, and protecting it from mechanical damage. This way of cutting helps the cutters to create emeralds for the most beautiful jewelry.

The spheres of application of emeralds

The main area of ​​application of the emerald is jewelry. The mineral is easily liable to be cut, so beautiful jewelry is made from it. Stony or unfit stones are processed in the form of cabochons.

Occasionally, large interior materials were made from large minerals. Emerald cups are often found only in legends. However, in the New York Museum there is a cup made of solid emerald. In the Vienna Treasury there is a vase, made of a single emerald.  Industrial use of the mineral is impractical because of its softness and brittleness.

At present, chemists have managed to synthesize gems, close to natural emeralds, but their jewelry properties are lower to natural minerals. Sometimes, transparent minerals of green color, such as corundum, dioptase, chrome diopside, fluorite, chrysoprase and others are demonstrated as emeralds, while the craftsmanship of the experienced cutter mislead even experienced experts (Webster 45). Synthetic emeralds are used in quantum mechanics, so the area of application of this mineral is rather diverse; however, the emerald’s highest value is jewelry, as beautiful units are made from this stone.

Healing Properties of Emerald

It is believed that the emerald stabilizes blood pressure, relieves head and joint pain, treats stomach diseases, inflammation of the bladder and has an antibacterial property. In ancient times, it was believed that the stone helps to get rid of night blindness, eyesight and epilepsy. Modern litotherapists say that the owner of the emerald is not subject to nightmares, insomnia, unreasonable fears and increased fatigue. People tend to believe in the healing properties of the stone, therefore, it is so popular among the amateurs of jewelry worldwide.

Works Cited

Gregorietti, Gregory. Jewelry Through the Ages. American Heritage, New York. 2009. Print

Keller, Peter. “Emeralds of Colombia”. Gems and Gemology. 2011. 1 (3), 80-91

Sinlankas, Jamy. Emerald and Other Beryls. Chilton Book Co., Radnor, PA. 2001. Print

Webster, Ron. Gems, Their Sources, Descriptions and Identification, 4th eel. Revised by B.W. Anderson, Butterworths, London. 1983. Print

October 05, 2023


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