Some History on Emeralds
Let’s go back to the Emerald City of Oz and forget about clicking the heels of our ruby slippers. Let’s click our emerald slippers instead and enter the realm of emerald beauty. This irresistible force has long exerted a powerful attraction on the rich and famous, from the rulers of ancient India to today’s A-Listers.
Of all emerald devotees, Cleopatra is probably the most famous. Her passion led her far beyond jewelry. She wore emerald encrusted robes — a luxury by any standard. And she gave loose emeralds as gifts to visiting dignitaries, all of them men. They too appreciated emerald’s beauty.
Did You Know?
Emeralds were sold 6,000 years ago — 4000 BCE — in Babylonian markets. Where were they from? We don’t know but between 1000 and 3000 BCE, one of the earliest emerald occurrences was discovered in Upper Egypt near the Red Sea. This later became known as “Cleopatra’s Mine.”
“The Green of Growing Things”
The name “emerald” comes to us from the Greek word, “smaragdos.” The origin of smaragdos could be either the Hebrew word “izmargad” or the Sanskrit word “marakata” meaning “the green of growing things” — fresh, vivid, radiant.
I like the Sanskrit version. It communicates the lush range of emerald hues from a yellow green to a deeper blue green. Think of the first leaves of spring and follow this verdant trail to the richer shade of spruce green. Along the way, you embrace a world of growth that reflects emerald’s mesmerizing power.
Kermit Was Wrong — Way Wrong!
Kermit the Frog famously sang “It’s not easy being green” but when you’re admiring an emerald, you realize he got it all wrong. In addition to its famous beauty, extraordinary powers have been attributed to emerald through the ages. Read these and you’ll realize that all of your customers need to have emerald jewelry — the more the better.
- In 4th century BCE, the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote that emerald increases its owner’s importance in presence and speech during business transactions, gives victory in trials and prevents epilepsy.
- Throughout history, many cultures believed emerald enhanced fertility and fidelity: not a bad combination.
By the Middle Ages, emerald’s powers had increased.
- Emerald could keep a woman chaste — but not a man!
- Could reveal truth and falsehood.
- Acted as an antidote to spells, enchantments and demons.
- Could foretell the future if worn on the left side — but not the right.
- Made people more intelligent and honest.
- A high quality emerald would change hues to alert it wearer of danger.
The Irish have always had a special relationship to emerald. After all, Ireland is called the “Emerald Isle.” And what did the Irish believe? (Full disclosure: I’m half Irish). They believed Emerald bestowed good luck and perhaps a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The World’s Largest Emeralds
- 7,052 carat uncut emerald crystal from Columbia, privately owned
- 2,205 carat carved emerald vase in the Viennese Treasury, Austria
- Claimed world’s largest carved emerald, a 1,558 carat emerald named “1492” displayed in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburg
- 1,965 carat uncut Russian emerald displayed at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History
- 1,862 carat uncut, un-named emerald from Hiddenite, N.C. privately owned
- 1,796 carat emerald crystal store in the Banco Nationale de la Republica, Columbia (the largest of five un-named emeralds there)
- 1,759 “Guinness Emerald Crystal” also in the Banco Nationale de la Republica, Columbia
By comparison to these, the world’s most famous emerald, the 1,383.95 carat uncut “Duke of Devonshire” seems relatively modest. It was mined in Columbia and is now in the British Museum of Natural History.
Story Supplied By Elizabeth Raffel