Emeralds are the green variety of the mineral beryl, and have been valued since ancient times as one of the five cardinal gemstones, whose value surpasses all others. Their mesmerising colour and unique characteristics set them apart from the other cardinal gemstones, and jewellery crafted with these stones exhibits a distinctive beauty.
Only deep green beryl is classified as a true emerald, with lighter variations often labelled simple as green beryl. Lighter stones are not without value, but there is a sizeable difference between these and the darker variants. Beryl can also be found in other colours, such as pale blue (aquamarine), pale pink (morganite) and in its rarest form as a deep red, sometimes known as red emerald.
Where most precious stones are free from inclusions true emeralds are almost never completely flawless, and it is through these microscopic flaws that a gemmologist can easily determine whether a stone is a natural variant. Synthetic emeralds are flawless, which is a solid indication that they were grown in a lab rather than occurring naturally. Older, less sophisticated attempts to create synthetic emeralds occasionally show bubbles in their internal structure, which is something that a true emerald can never have.
The interplay of inclusions within an emerald is referred to as the Jardin, French for “Garden” due to their foliage-like appearance. Whilst lapidaries take every care to cut the stones carefully most of the stones will have a few inclusions which breach one of the cut facets. Lapidaries deal with this by oiling the stone after cutting, which creates a more uniform, shining surface.
Although emeralds are perfectly suited to use in jewellery they are more fragile than diamonds, and are ill-suited to the elaborate, multi-faceted cuts which are often used with these stones. Instead lapidaries will cut emeralds with long, straight facets and clipped corners. These cuts are specifically designed to protect emeralds, and are therefore known as “emerald cuts”. The other common emerald cut is the cabochon, a rounded front with a flat back most often seen in opals. Both cabochon and emerald cuts showcase the clarity of the emerald, allowing its internal structure to be more fully appreciated by allowing the maximum amount of light to flow through.
Emeralds have been used in jewellery for millennia, and there are many pieces of antique emerald jewellery in circulation today. When well cared for these pieces can be valuable heirlooms that are passed down from generation to generation. In rings and pendants emeralds are often paired with diamonds to increase the brightness of the piece and show off the colour of the emerald with contrast.
At Antique Jewellery Online we have many years of experience in locating and providing fine pieces of emerald jewellery to our customers. You can view our full collection of antique emerald jewellery here.