Happy Birthday May: Green as an Emerald…

Emerald is the traditional birthstone of the month of May. The green variety of Beryl –Aquamarine is the blue variety of Beryl, Heliodore the golden yellow variety of Beryl– Emerald has been used in jewelry since before the pyramids were built.

It is the gem that comes closest to symbolizing Spring. The color of (American) money, the color of envy, the gem of love. Because, more so than any of the other “big” gemstones –in the jewelry world Emerald, Sapphire and Ruby are collectively known as the “Big Three” due to their persistent importance and popularity– you have to fall in love with an individual Emerald.

No two Emeralds of any size are identical. And two Emeralds of roughly the same weight and value may strike a viewer as radically different. Because, they often are radically different. They may be equally beautiful… but one you love and one you may not really love.

That said, like everything we love, Emeralds have their flaws.

This close-up of a heavily included Emerald Cabochon seems to have a whitish cloud. It is likely the slightly whitish cloud in this natural Zambian Emerald is the result of a Calcite inclusion.
This close-up of a heavily included Emerald Cabochon seems to have a whitish cloud. It is likely the slightly whitish cloud in this natural Zambian Emerald is the result of a Calcite inclusion.

 

In fact, the flaws often contribute to their beauty. (“Flawless” isn’t a word we can use when describing a natural Emerald. The lack of flaws in synthetic Emeralds makes them noticeably different than natural Emeralds.)

In the interests of full disclosure we at N.C. Nagle Gems & Beads always believe in disclosing “inclusions” –but with an Emerald we also believe in marking a clear line between aspects of the stone that will make it more fragile, and characteristics that merely impact the appearance.

It is tempting to assume that an “Emerald” is always the glamorous nearly clear dark green that costume jewelers have been selling as an “Emerald substitute” for years. In fact, most Emerald isn’t all that clear and often displays a blueish or yellowish undertone. This large –it weighs over one pound– specimen is an Emerald. But its primary purpose is as a paperweight. So included it is nearly opaque and with numerous cracks and fractures it is a curious desk ornament rather than a precious jewelry adornment.

A crack or a fracture is something that you should worry about. An inclusion? Often an inclusion is a bit like a freckle… nothing to worry about. In fact, as a gem dealer I can get quite excited about certain types of inclusions. Some inclusions in Emeralds are impossible to fake and their presence automatically proves that the stone is natural. A good eye and and a goodly amount of experience and all that heavy equipment is just an accessory, not really a necessity.

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