Emeralds are found all over the world, from Columbia to Zambia and Russia, these prized shades of beryl have long been used as jewellery and adornment. Found in hues from the palest mint to the deepest sea green, the Emerald derives its colour from the presence of vanadium and chromium.
In Ancient Rome, the stone was associated with Mercury, the god of travel and messengers, becoming known as the travellers’ protection stone. Ancient historian Pliny described emeralds as the most prized gemstones of all after diamonds and pearls.
According to Pliny Lollia Paulina, the consort of Caligula, was ‘covered with emeralds and pearl interlaced and alternately shining all over her head, hair, ears, neck and fingers, the sum total amounting to 40,000,000 sesterces’ – around £600 million by today’s standards.
Often called ‘Egyptian’ or ‘Ethiopian’ stones, ancient Emeralds were mined near the Red Sea in the eastern deserts of Egypt, in Wadi Sikait, the source of all ancient stones. Today, more emeralds are mined in Columbia and Brazil; areas noted for their rich green colours. Brazil also produces rare cat’s-eye emeralds and very rare six-spoke star emeralds, not seen anywhere else on the globe.
As well as being the traditional birthstone for May, emerald is also the traditional gemstone for the summer Zodiac signs of Taurus, Gemini and sometimes Cancer.