Long associated with Spring and birth, gloriously green emeralds have an extensive history of healing and supernatural powers.

Green is Nature’s most soothing color, and early physicians instructed their patients to look through pieces of emerald to ease fatigue and treat eye diseases. Medicine made from powdered emeralds was used to “cure” diseases such as epilepsy. Many people believed that placing an emerald under the tongue enabled them to see the future. Others wore emeralds to improve their memory. Although the shades may vary, emeralds are always green. A member of the beryl family of minerals, emeralds get their vibrant hues from tiny amounts of chromium and iron impurities. Color is the most important factor in valuing emeralds, with vivid greens being the most desirable.

No gemstone, including emerald, is ever completely perfect. Most have internal imperfections, or flaws, called inclusions. Inclusions generally decrease the value of gemstones. Not so with emeralds. Many people feel that the tiny flaws add to the character of the emerald. Because the inclusions often look like leaves and vines, they are called jardin, French for “garden.” Other inclusions create a satiny appearance known as silk.

Natural flawless emeralds are extremely rare and extremely expensive. In fact, most dealers regard flaws as an indication that the stone is natural.

Flawless emeralds are usually synthetic gems, which have been marketed since the 1930s. Some manufacturers now make fakes which contain “flaws,” so as with any other expensive purchase, make sure you buy from a reputable dealer.

You may also find “emeralds” marketed under special names. These are all imitations. For example, Brazilian emerald is tourmaline; Lithia emerald is spodumene; Oriental emerald is corundum; Evening, Morning, and Cape emeralds are a variety of green stones; and Soude emerald is two or more pieces of clear quartz glued together with green adhesive. Egyptians were the first to mine emeralds nearly 4000 years ago. Those mines are now exhausted and no longer in production. Colombia is currently the source of the world’s finest emeralds. Afghanistan, Brazil, Pakistan, Zambia and Zimbabwe also produce high-quality gemstones. Colombian emeralds have a tendency to have fewer flaws because they were formed at the bottom of an ancient inland sea where there were fewer mineral impurities, whereas all other known emeralds are the result of volcanic action.

Virtually all emeralds are soaked in oil to fill any surface cracks and deepen the color. Steam, hot water and soaps will wash away any oil and ruin the appearance of most emeralds. Never put emeralds in an ultrasonic cleaner–it can destroy the color and sometimes shatter the gem.

Treat emeralds with care, as they are brittle and chip easily