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The May Birthstone: Emerald

Updated: 1 day ago

Many of us are familiar with our astrological signs, yet fewer know about our birthstone—the unique gemstone corresponding to the month we were born. The May birthstone is the captivating Emerald. At Sennen Jewellery, our experts have thoroughly researched the history, significance, and symbolism of the emerald birthstone. Join us as we explore everything you need to know about this stunning gem.

May Birthstones: Emerald Key Point Summary

  • Historical Significance: Emeralds have been valued since ancient times, from Egyptian pharaohs like Cleopatra to the Goddess Venus, symbolizing fertility, rebirth, and fortune.

  • Unique Properties: Emeralds are known for their rich green colour, influenced by their chromium and vanadium content. Despite their hardness, they require careful handling due to their brittleness.

  • Symbolic Meaning: As the May birthstone, emeralds hold a significant place in birthstone jewelry, representing love, renewal, and protection. This makes them particularly ideal for meaningful pieces such as engagement rings and anniversary gifts, where the deep green hue and its characteristics play a crucial role in the value and significance of the jewelry.

  • Modern Appeal: Today, emeralds are mined in several parts of the world, with Colombian emeralds being particularly prized for their vibrant green colour.

  • Versatility and Investment: This beautiful gem is versatile in design, suitable for both traditional and modern settings, and can be a good investment, retaining or increasing in value over time.

May birthstones

The History of Emerald Jewellery

Part of the Beryl family of gemstones, which also includes Aquamarine and Morganite, Emerald has been mined for around 4,000 years.

  • Ancient Egypt (circa 2000 BC): The first emeralds were mined in Egypt, where they were believed to be a symbol of fertility and rebirth. According to legend, this green gem entranced Cleopatra, who thereafter adorned herself with exquisite emerald jewellery. The Greek miners who worked in Alexander the Great's mines are said to have given the Egyptian Queen their emeralds, sourced from ancient Greek territories. Cleopatra's mines, which were previously believed to be nothing more than legend, were rediscovered on the Red Sea coast in 1817, giving her legend a great deal more legitimacy.

  • Ancient Rome: Emeralds were associated with Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, reflecting their perceived properties of beauty and eternal love.

  • Middle Ages: Believed to possess the power to foretell the future and protect against evil, emeralds were highly valued for their supposed mystical properties during this period.

  • Incan Empire (1438 - 1533 AD): The Incas, like the Aztecs, believed that emeralds could bring good luck and fortune. The Incan Empire in South America (1438 - 1533 AD) had been using emerald in jewellery for 500 years before trading with the 16th-century explorers to obtain precious metals.

Today, emeralds are still mined in many parts of the world, including Colombia, Brazil, and Zambia. The most famous emerald mine is located in Muzo, Colombia, which produces some of the finest emeralds in the world.

May birthstones

The Vivid Shades of the Emerald Birthstone

The rich green colour of the emerald is unique and sought after, ranging from bluish green to pure green. This intense colour green has long been associated with lush green landscapes; for example, Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, and Seattle as the Emerald City.

Emeralds' green hue is caused by impurities in the crystal structure of the gem, which are typically a combination of chromium, vanadium, and occasionally iron.

Emerald is one of the few gemstones where inclusions and flaws are not only accepted but frequently enhance the beauty of the stone.

Despite their hardness (7.5-8 on the Mohs Hardness Scale), emeralds can be quite brittle due to their crystal structure and common inclusions, necessitating cutting by a specialist lapidurist.

How Shade affects the Value of an Emerald

The specific shade can significantly impact the stone’s value—deeper, more vibrant tones are often more desirable. These colour variations are primarily due to the geographical conditions where the emeralds are mined.

Colombian emeralds are noted for their pure verdant green with a hint of blue, while Zambian emeralds might appear with a more subdued, grayish-green hue. In the gemstone market, the preference for specific shades can vary, with some cultures valuing the brighter green over the bluish hues and vice versa.

The Symbolism of Birthstone Jewellery for May

As the May birthstone, emeralds are renowned for their vivid, rich green colour and hold a special place in the world of gemstones. The May birthstone also carries deep symbolic meanings that make emeralds a popular choice for engagement rings and significant jewellery pieces.

May birthstones

Symbol of Love and Renewal

The emerald birthstone is often associated with the goddess Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, which makes it a fitting symbol of love and devotion.

Its vibrant green hue is thought to represent new beginnings, renewal, and rebirth—themes that are apt for a couple embarking on a lifetime journey together.

This connection to growth and renewal makes an emerald a meaningful gemstone to include in an engagement ring.

Healing and Protective Properties

Traditionally, emeralds are believed to have healing properties, particularly strengthening emotional bonds and providing inner peace. They are also thought to protect the wearer from negativity, which makes them an excellent choice for engagement rings or anniversary gifts, serving as a talisman for a strong and healthy relationship.

The Perfect 20th Anniversary Gift (or 35th and 55th Anniversaries!)

May Birthstones

As the traditional gemstone for the 20th and 35th and 55th wedding anniversaries, emeralds are a popular choice for anniversary gifts, symbolizing the longevity and freshness of a couple's love. Incorporating the emerald birthstone in jewellery signifies not only celebration of past years together but also hopes for the future.

May Birthstone Jewellery: The Versatility of Emeralds

Emeralds are incredibly versatile and can be set in various types of jewellery, from vintage designs that nod to their ancient heritage to modern settings that emphasize their bold, green colour.

In our opinion, yellow gold pairs exceptionally well with emeralds, as the warm hues of the gold beautifully complement the deep green of the emerald.

Whether it's the centerpiece of an engagement ring or a stunning addition to a necklace, earrings or a bracelet, emeralds adapt beautifully to different styles, enhancing their appeal as a choice for special occasions.

May Birthstones

The combination of meaningful symbolism, historical significance, and aesthetic versatility makes emeralds particularly appealing in birthstone jewellery for May. Whether celebrating a May birthday, an engagement, or a milestone anniversary, beautiful emerald jewelry brings with it a wealth of meaning and tradition, making each piece a cherished symbol of the wearer's most treasured moments and relationships.

Created Emeralds: Sustainable Birthstone Jewellery

Created emeralds provide a less expensive and more ethical alternative to natural stones. These lab-grown gems are made through processes such as hydrothermal synthesis, which mimics the natural conditions under which emeralds form.

Chemically, physically, and optically identical to their mined counterparts, created emeralds generally possess fewer inclusions, which can enhance their clarity and colour uniformity. While they offer significant benefits in terms of environmental impact and cost, there is still debate among gem enthusiasts regarding the value and desirability of synthetic versus natural emeralds, especially considering the premium placed on natural gemstones for their rarity and unique histories.

Famous Emeralds and Their Stories

Emeralds are not only renowned for their stunning beauty but also for their intriguing histories. Here, we explore some of the most famous emeralds in the world, each with a unique story that adds to the lore and allure of this captivating gemstone. From royal treasures to legendary finds, these emeralds have made their mark throughout history and continue to fascinate gem enthusiasts and historians alike.

1. The Chalk Emerald

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Chalk Emerald. Credit: Smithsonian Institute

The Chalk Emerald is renowned for its superb quality and deep green colour. Weighing 37.82 carats, it was originally the centerpiece of an emerald and diamond necklace belonging to a Maharani of the former Baroda State in India.

The stone was later recut and set into a ring designed by Harry Winston, featuring surrounding pear-shaped diamonds. It now resides in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Gem Collection.

2. The Mogul Mughal Emerald

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Mogul Mughal Emerald. Credit: PInterest

Dating back to 1695, the Mogul Mughal emerald is one of the largest emeralds known. It is distinguished not only by its size but also by the intricate Islamic inscriptions carved across its face, which includes a Shiite prayer.

This emerald was auctioned by Christie's of London in 2001 and is a notable example of the connection between emeralds and the rich history of India's Mughal Empire.

3. The Bahia Emerald

May birthstones
Bahia Emerald. Credit: Pinterest

One of the largest emeralds ever discovered, the Bahia Emerald contains a massive 180,000-carat stone found in Brazil in 2001. This emerald is notorious not only for its size but also for the legal battles it sparked regarding its ownership. The stone has traveled through multiple hands, each party arguing over legal rights.

4. The Patricia Emerald

May birthstones
1. The Patricia Emerald. Credit: Pinterest

Named after the daughter of the mine owner who discovered it in 1920, the Patricia Emerald is a 632-carat dihexagonal, or twelve-sided, crystal.

Unlike many large emeralds, it remains uncut and is one of the few large gem-quality emeralds preserved in its natural crystal form.

It is also part of the collection at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

5. The Duke of Devonshire Emerald

Among the treasures of the British Crown Jewels is the Duke of Devonshire Emerald, an impressive 1,383.93-carat Colombian emerald.

Originally mined in Colombia, the gemstone was gifted to the sixth Duke of Devonshire in the 1830s. It stands out due to its remarkable size and the historical significance of its journey through royal hands.

From Emerald Earrings to Rings: Our Top Picks of Emerald Jewellery

Here we present our selection of beautiful emerald jewellery.

FAQs: Emerald Birthstone

Can wearing emerald improve luck?

Yes, traditionally, emerald jewellery is believed to bring prosperity, love, and good fortune. Many cultures consider emerald, the birthstone for May, a powerful talisman that can attract abundance and emotional well-being to the wearer, making them a favoured choice in birthstone jewellery.

How should emerald jewellery be cared for?

The May birthstone, emeralds, require careful handling due to their natural brittleness and propensity for inclusions, which might make them more susceptible to damage. To maintain the luster and integrity of your emerald birthstone jewellery, store each piece in a soft, padded box away from other harder gemstones. Clean your emeralds with a soft brush dipped in mild soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and dry with a soft cloth. Avoid exposure to harsh chemicals and sudden temperature changes to prevent cracking.

What is the meaning of emerald as a birthstone for May?

The emerald birthstone for May is rich with symbolism, representing rebirth, renewal, and the flourishing growth of spring. This makes it an especially meaningful gift for May birthdays, as it embodies the promise of new beginnings and enduring love. The vibrant green colour of the May birthstone also reflects the lushness of nature, further connecting it to the vitality and renewal of life in spring.

How do the properties of emeralds compare to other gemstones?

The May birthstone, Emerald, is unique among gemstones due to the composition and structure of the gems. Like all beryls, emeralds are relatively hard, scoring 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs hardness scale, but their plentiful inclusions can make them more prone to breakage.

Unlike the brilliant clarity often sought in diamonds, the inclusions in emeralds (known as jardin) are considered desirable by many, adding character and enhancing the stone's visual appeal. Emeralds also have a distinct, rich green colour that is rarely found in other gemstones, which is primarily due to traces of chromium and sometimes vanadium.

What should buyers look for when purchasing emerald jewellery?

When purchasing emerald jewellery, buyers should pay close attention to the quality and characteristics of the stone, specifically colour, clarity, cut, and carat:

  • Colour: The most coveted emeralds exhibit a vivid, saturated green without being too dark or light. The presence of blue or yellow hues can also affect the value.

  • Clarity: Look for emeralds that showcase their natural inclusions without compromising the beauty or integrity of the stone.

  • Cut: The cut of an emerald should enhance its hue and luminosity while minimizing any visible inclusions or flaws.

  • Carat: Larger emeralds are rarer and, therefore, more valuable, but the quality of the gem should always be a priority over size.

What is the difference between emerald and green beryl?

Emeralds and green beryl are both varieties of the mineral beryl but differ significantly in colour and value. Emeralds, the birthstone for May, are valued for their rich, vibrant green colour, which is primarily due to the presence of chromium and sometimes vanadium.

In contrast, green beryl features a much paler green colour caused by the presence of iron ions, leading to its less intense and often "muddied" appearance. Due to these differences, emeralds are highly prized in the gemstone market, whereas green beryl is less sought after.

Can emeralds be an investment?

Emeralds can indeed be a good investment. High-quality emeralds have maintained or increased in value over time, especially those from notable locations like Colombia. When considering emeralds for investment, focus on gems with exceptional colour and clarity.

The provenance of the emerald can also significantly impact its value, with stones accompanied by a certificate from a reputable gemological laboratory often fetching higher prices.

As with all investments in tangible assets, prospective buyers should do thorough research and possibly consult with a gemologist or an investment expert specializing in fine gemstones.

Is there another May birthstone apart from emerald?

The primary birthstone for May is the emerald. This captivating gemstone is celebrated for its vibrant green hue and is unique in symbolizing rebirth and renewal. In some cultural traditions, such as those influenced by ancient and folk beliefs, alternative birthstones like agate and carnelian are also recognized for May. However, emerald remains the predominant May birthstone, widely recognized and cherished globally for its beauty and symbolism.

Emeralds have earned their place in luxury jewellery and will stay there for many years to come. Created emeralds are an alternative to achieve the same look for less.

Having explored the May birthstone, are you curious about the birthstones of other months? Discover more here:  Your Guide to Birthstones ( 


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