The May birthstone, the emerald, is one of the most magical and mystical of all. It has been revered for centuries and is still considered among one of the most valuable gemstones in the world.
Keep reading to learn everything that you need to know about the May Birthstone.
What is the Birthstone for May?
The birthstone for those born in the month of May is the emerald. Unlike some of the other months that may have up to four birthstones, the month of May only has one birthstone.
Additionally, everyone agrees on the birthstone for the month of May. Some of the other months have controversy about which stone belongs, but the month of May, being the emerald, is unanimous.
The name emerald comes from a variant of the Ancient Greek word “smaragdus”, meaning “green gem”.
What is the Emerald Birthstone?
The emerald is a precious gemstone of the mineral beryl variety, colored green by trace amounts of chromium and vanadium. It is the birthstone for the month of May.
Its color ranges from a deep saturated green all the way to a lightish blue-green. It is one of the oldest known stones and is still one of the most valuable stones on the market.
The crystals grow in veins of hydrothermal fluids, which originate deep in the earth’s crust. As the veins cool, emerald crystals will grow, assuming conditions and other factors all align. Several different processes have to occur at the right time to complete the formation of the crystals. This highly dependent and unreliable sequence makes for an emerald’s rarity.
History and Myths Behind the Emerald
The emerald is called “Nofech” in the Jewish Torah, and it was the third stone on the first row of the High Priests Choshen in the Temple. The emerald was the stone of the tribe of Yehudah. King David and his successive lines of Kings all come from the tribe of Yehudah, including the Messianic King of the future. The emerald has a strong association with royalty.
Emerald stones probably have more myths and superstitions than any other gemstone. Two popular examples are that they bring happiness to marriage and that they act as an aphrodisiac.
According to legend, emeralds cure epilepsy, snake bites, blindness, ulcers, and poison. It was also thought to protect fishermen from the perils of the sea.
Locations Of Emerald Mines
Emeralds mines have been around in Egypt for about 3,500 years, although most of those locations no longer produce stones. The first Egyptian mines were at Mount Smaragdus and were heavily exploited by invading Roman and Islamic armies until only ruins remained.
India and Austria have also been centers for emerald production for about 600 years.
In more recent times, emerald deposits have appeared in many countries across the world, which is unusual for precious gemstones. However, most deposits are very small, with very few being workable for any length of time.
The most important modern mine for emeralds is in Colombia. Colombia produces anything from 50% to 95% of all the emeralds in the world, depending on the year.
There are a few smaller-sized emerald deposits in Connecticut, Montana, Nevada, and the Carolinas in the USA.
Physical Properties of Emeralds
Emerald crystals would take hundreds of millions of years to form naturally.
The crystals consist of the mineral beryl, and their color is from traces of chromium and/or vanadium.
Interesting trivia: Aquamarine is technically also an emerald but instead contains traces of iron and occurs in much greater quantities.
Despite a reasonable rating on the Mohs Hardness Scale of 7.5-8, the emerald is still the softest of the four precious stones.
Problems come with emerald stones being quite fragile. This is because almost all the stones are very heavily included. These inclusions make weak spots in the crystal structure, and a sharp hit in the right spot can all but destroy a cut emerald.
Another effect of the high incidences of inclusions is that cutting and polishing an emerald is much more difficult. Most polished emeralds will be in the classic emerald-cut or in “fancy” shapes. Few would ever become round stones.
The softness of emeralds also presents serious issues when attempting to clean an emerald. See below for our guide to safely cleaning your emerald.
May Birthstone Color
The color for the May birthstone is emerald green. Although emerald-green covers a spectrum of different greens, added with variants of yellows and blues, the official color is green, as shown above in the infographic.
The HEX Color for the month of May is #50C878.
Emeralds In Jewelry
Emeralds rarely appear alone in rings or jewelry items. They can usually benefit from the presence of diamonds which act as a halo or a supporting element. The contrast helps to bring out the color of the emerald and can make an inferior stone look to be of much higher quality.
They are a favorite in earrings and necklaces, as their vivid color makes them very eye-catching. The value of emeralds can vary wildly from the best stones to the worst, with the best fetching prices higher than even high-quality diamonds.
Shop Emerald Jewelry
We’ve been curating emerald jewelry for over 40 years. Feel free to browse our stunning collection of emeralds. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us.
Tips for Shopping for Emeralds
Unlike diamonds, the 4Cs (of cut, color, clarity, and carat weight) will not be able to determine the value of an emerald.
An emerald will have different characteristics that will determine its worth. Here’s the list. Please note that the higher up the list a factor is, the more important it will be worth.
- treatments. If the emerald has a gemstone green color and it is untouched or untreated by oils or chemicals, the value is much higher.
- Color and Saturation. The greener the emerald and the deeper its saturation, the more that it’s worth.
- carat size The larger the stone, the rarer and more desirable it will be.
- Provenance. The location of the mine will determine its rarity. For example, if the certification says that the emerald came from Colombia, it will be much more desirable than if it came from Zambia.
- inclusions. All emeralds have inclusions, but the finer emeralds will usually have less than others.
- Certification. More certifications attesting to the emerald’s provenance and quality will add more value.
Here are some resources that can help you learn more about shopping for emeralds:
More Tips When Shopping for Emeralds
There are no actual shape standards for emeralds. Each emerald is evaluated on symmetry and pleasantness.
Emerald has only about 66% of the density of sapphire. This is important because you will need to get a much bigger “carat weight” for the same-sized stone.
The biggest contributor to an emerald’s value is color. Despite this, there is no “officially regulated” top color standard. Each region produces emeralds of different hues, and it is the color purity and intensity as determined by the emerald expert that will determine the price.
As mentioned above, almost all emeralds have inclusions, which does not affect the price too much. These inclusions are always present in beryl crystals and actually aid in determining a natural emerald from a synthetic one.
As long as the inclusions do not detract significantly from the overall appearance, they will seldom be a factor in pricing.
Almost all standard emeralds are subject to treatment and/or oil filling. This improves the color and appearance and is an accepted practice. However, the highest-quality emeralds will have certificates attesting to the fact that no oil treatment was done.
Synthetic emeralds are readily available and first appeared in the 1960s. They differ from many synthetic gemstones in that they are often chemically, physically, and optically identical to natural emeralds. Such stones must be described as “created” or “synthetic” in the US and are much cheaper than natural stones. Take care if buying overseas, as such regulations may not be in place. As with diamonds, we strongly discourage buying synthetic stones as they have no value and aren’t resealable after purchase.
Cleaning Your Emerald
Because of an emerald’s relative fragility, they often appear in bezel settings to protect the edges.
Even with the bezel, emeralds require extreme care when cleaning. Steamers, boiling water, and chemicals will dramatically affect the integrity of the emerald. If you cannot comfortably put your hand in the water, then the liquid is way too hot for any emerald. Even if the emeralds are only secondary stones in a ring, like an emerald halo, you will still want to use extreme caution when cleaning them.
Ultrasonic cleaners will also prove fatal for your emerald. The high-frequency vibrations may cause the stone to shatter and are at least likely to damage it in some way.
Use warm water, some mild soap, and a very soft baby toothbrush.
- Leave the emerald in the soap/water solution for up to 10 minutes if necessary, but no longer.
- Gently work the dirt loose with the brush.
- Wash the emerald in lukewarm water
- Pat dry with a lint-free cloth and allow to air dry naturally for an hour or two.
Important Note: Never subject your emerald to even gentle heat to speed up drying.
Learn about the Other Birthstones
Each month has a fascinating birthstone (or birthstones) associated with it. Click the links below to learn more about each month.
January Birthstone | February Birthstone | March Birthstone | April Birthstone | May Birthstone | June Birthstone | July Birthstone | August Birthstone | September Birthstone | October Birthstone | November Birthstone | December birthstone
Do you have any jewelry-related questions? Feel free to reach out to our jewelry experts. They will be thrilled to help out.