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All About Emeralds: May Birthstone, Fine Jewelry Grading & Fun Facts

Emerald: The King of Jewels & May’s Birthstone

May birthstone, emerald stud earrings in yellow gold.

Among the oldest and most rare stones to come from the earth, emeralds are the kings among jewels. Far more rare than diamonds, this May birthstone is among the most valuable of all gemstones. With a durability ranking of 7.5-8 on Mohs Scale of Hardness, emeralds are even more precious for their delicacy. Since they can crack or chip, making them into jewelry can be a difficult process. This is why if you are in the market for a May birthstone gift, be sure to purchase from a reputable fine jewelry store to ensure that you are buying a piece made with delicate care. That being said, a person sporting a fine emerald necklace or pair of earrings should not only appreciate the beauty of the stone, but also the skill that went into making the piece. 

Emerald Colored Gemstone Grading

Like other colored gemstones, an emerald is graded predominantly on its color. Its prized green color is its trademark, making it valuable around the world. This is the first thing that will be looked at for emerald jewelry appraisal. However, like all other gemstones, the full grade of an emerald is decided based on the 4 factors laid out by the GIA: color, clarity, carat, and cut.  

Emerald Color Grading

Emeralds ranked from left to right (best quality to lacking) on their color: AAA, AA, A

Similar to the colored gemstone aquamarine, emeralds are made of beryl. However, emeralds get their color from traces of vanadium and chromium in the environment when they are formed. Depending on where they are formed in the world, emeralds can take on different hues.  

An emerald’s hue refers to the type of green. Natural emeralds may be a “yellow-green” or a “blue-green.” Since most emeralds come from Columbia, most of these gemstones on the market tend to have a “blue-green” hue. When purchasing an emerald, look for one that has a rich green color. Lighter shades of green, will not only take away from the emerald’s allure, but they will have a lower grade. Emeralds follow this grading scale:  

AAA: These are the highest quality emeralds on the market. These will be a rich green with exceptional brilliance and have slight inclusions.  

AA: Emeralds in this category will have a medium, or slightly lesser green color, with moderate inclusions.  

A: Grade A emeralds will have a dark green color and be heavily included to the point that the emerald may look cloudy or opaque. These are still fine stones, but are certainly of a lower quality than the other two categories. 

Emerald Clarity Grading 

All colored gemstones are given a ranking of typical market clarity. Type 1 being flawless or near flawless, and Type 3 having several inclusions that are visible with the naked eye. For as valuable as emeralds are, many would find it unusual that they fall into the Type 3 Category of colored gemstone clarity. Although they are a common aspect of gemstones, too many inclusions can both affect the stone’s beauty and compromise its durability. Don’t let inclusions deter you from this gemstone. They are like Persian rugs: perfection is always given a flaw. Each emerald’s inclusions are unique, and if you are presented with a flawless emerald you should be skeptical of its authenticity. Eye-clean emeralds are exceedingly rare and valuable, typically bought only by investors. 

Emerald Carat Grading

Carat refers to the weight of a gemstone. Since gemstones have different chemical compositions, some will be heavier than others at different sizes. For example, a 1ct emerald will be bigger than a 1ct diamond because diamonds have a greater density.

Emerald Cut & Grading

The cut of any gemstone is graded on its expert precision and capability of showcasing the stone’s brilliance. Emeralds are special in this regard. While they can be cut into any shape, their signature cut best represents them: the emerald cut. Primarily rectangular, this cut emphasizes the stone’s ability to reflect light. 

Emerald Lore & Fun Facts 

The Bahia Emerald.

In the United States a couple’s 55th wedding anniversary is celebrated by exchanging emerald gifts. 

A stone of strong female rule, emeralds were a favorite of Cleopatra. 

Worldwide emerald trade began with the Spanish who brought the precious stones back from the New World to exchange for gold. 

A popular myth is that an emerald can allow a person to see the future if it is placed under the tongue, but we don’t recommend trying this one out. 

One of the largest emeralds in the world, the Bahia Emerald (aka the Green Giant) contains the single largest shard ever found. It weighs 752lbs and is over 1,700,000cts. That’s about the size of a mini-fridge. It was named after the place it was found: Bahia, Brazil. As with many famous, large gemstones, it is believed to carry a curse.  

According to legend the secret to transforming reality, the goal of alchemy and science, is so simple and yet to profound that it was carved onto the face of a single emerald. This is known as the Emerald Tablet, and many believe that it resides somewhere on the Giza plateau, hidden away around 400 AD to protect it from religious zealots. 

Looking to gift someone fine emerald birthstone or anniversary jewelry? Come into one of Hamilton’s locations and our in-store experts will be glad to help you navigate through the world of emeralds. With over 100 years of experience, you can trust us to have the knowledge about emerald quality grading and the skill to help you bring to life a custom engagement ring or custom fine piece of jewelry. 

If you’re not located in NJ or FL, you can always ask the experts online or over the phone. Hamilton representatives are always happy to address any concerns and help you make an educated decision.  

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