Emerald is a variety of the mineral beryl, coloured green by trace amounts of chromium and sometimes vanadium. Beryl has a hardness of 7.5–8 on the Mohs scale. Most Emeralds are highly included, so their toughness is classified as generally poor. And yet, the rarity of finding a beautiful emerald in rich hues makes it a gemstone dearer than all, but diamonds.
The word “Emerald” is derived from the Latin Esmaralda/Esmaraldus, a variant of Latin Smaragdus, meaning green. Emeralds in antiquity have been mined in Egypt since 1500 BCE, and India and Austria since at least the 14th century CE. Colombia is by far the world’s largest producer of Emeralds, constituting 50–95% of the world production. Rare ‘trapiche’ Emeralds are found in Colombia, distinguished by a six-pointed radial pattern made of ray-like spokes of dark carbon impurities. Zambia is the world’s second biggest producer, with its Kafubu River area deposits.
In general, while grading coloured gemstones, colour is the most important criterion. However, in the case of Emeralds, clarity is considered a close second, and both colour and clarity are necessary conditions. A fine emerald must possess not only a pure verdant green hue, but also a high degree of transparency to be considered a top gem. Emeralds tend to have numerous inclusions and surface breaking fissures. Unlike diamond, where the loupe standard, or a 10× magnification, is used to grade clarity, Emerald is graded by eye. If an emerald has no visible inclusions to the eye, it is considered flawless.
In India, the Emerald is considered the gemstone of planet Mercury. In Hindu mythology, Mercury is the son of the Lord of Love and is a manifestation of Wisdom and Words. However, the planet is also known for its dual nature and as shrewd and astute are those born under the sign of Mercury, those afflicted by the negative effects of the planet may suffer memory loss, inadequate reasoning power, speech defects, lack of concentration, and/or insomnia. The Emerald is believed to shield its wearer from these ill effects of the largely benefice planet.
It is believed to harness the positive energy of the planet to its wearer and bring him/her confidence. Mercury also symbolizes younger siblings, in particular, sisters, and the Emerald is therefore believed to nourish the bond between siblings. To reap the astrological benefits of any gemstone, it is recommended that the stone remains in close contact with the skin, as it would in an open set ring or pendant.