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  Home | Newsletter | Emerald — History and Mythology of the Green Gem, March 2011

Emerald — History and Mythology of the Green Gem

St. Patrick’s Day is a time to celebrate all things green. Take a moment to reflect on one of the rarest and mythical of all gems — the enchanting green emerald.

Gem of Love

Named after the Greek word meaning green gemstone, the emerald is the birthstone for the month of May and the zodiac sign Taurus. Emerald jewelry signifies success in love, life and springtime, as well as the 20th and 35th wedding anniversaries. Emerald’s deep green hue is also considered to be the color of beauty and love.

Emeralds in History

For more than 6,000 years, the emerald has been cherished by many cultures for its beauty and supposed magical qualities. According to Indian mythology, the name emerald was first translated from Sanskrit as "marakata," meaning "the green of growing things." Today’s term "emerald" is believed to originate from an ancient Persian word, translated to Latin as "smaragdus," and then morphed over time to "emerald."
The first emerald mine is thought to be in South America, where the Incas and the Aztecs first discovered the shining green gems and hand crafted them into stunning pieces of jewelry. Another theory speculates that emeralds originated in ancient Egypt near the Red Sea.
Throughout history, emeralds and emerald jewelry has been thought to possess magical properties such as healing powers and good luck. The pharaohs believed emeralds protected and empowered its wearer. Cleopatra is thought to have owned countless precious emerald jewelry pieces, as well as emerald mines.

The Claddagh Ring

Ireland is known as "The Emerald Isle" because of its lush greenery. It is also where the Claddagh emerald ring originated more than 300 years ago. The name of the Claddagh ring comes from a small, picturesque fishing village named Claddagh, Ireland. The ring symbolizes three virtues: love, friendship and loyalty and has today become a worldwide symbol of love and faith.

Emeralds on Display

Some of the world's most famous emerald discoveries are, or have been, on public display. New York's Museum of Natural History showcased a cup crafted out of an emerald. It sat next to "Patricia," one of the biggest emeralds ever known at over 600 carats. Another famous display was at the Bank of Bogotá, which held five separate emeralds each between 200 and 1,000 carats. The "Mogul" Emerald is one of the biggest emeralds ever known at over two hundred carats. Prayers were engraved in the gem, along with flower etchings. It is rumored that that emerald was purchased for more than $2 million dollars by an anonymous buyer.

Let Empire Appraise Your Gems

Have a gem you’re interested in selling or wondering about its worth? Let Empire Jewelers’ GIA-educated experts give you a free, no obligation appraisal. Call Empire today at (516) 520-5252 or visit our website.

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