The ancient Egyptians mined emeralds nearly 4,000 years ago, and Cleopatra was an avid collector. South America's rich bounty of emeralds was discovered by 16th Century Spanish explorers who found large emeralds in the possession of the Aztecs and Incas. Believed by the ancients to empower the owner with foresight into the future, emerald is regarded as an amulet for good fortune.
Emerald, to many, symbolizes rebirth and the abundance of the life force. The rich green hue brings to mind the regeneration of life in spring and hope of new possibilities. Emerald is the birthstone for May and a talisman for Gemini.
Spring can also be seen in the network of inclusions in the depth of the emerald that the French call the jardin, or garden, because it resembles foliage. The inclusions are like a fingerprint, giving each emerald a distinct personality and distinguishing them as truly natural gemstones.
Today, most of the world's emeralds are mined in Colombia, Brazil and Zambia. Emeralds can be cut in a variety of different shapes, ranging from the traditional rectangular step-cut, known as the "emerald cut," to rounds, ovals, squares and cabochons.
Early gemstone merchants sought to purify the transparency of their emeralds by immersing them in clear oils or paraffin. They found that clear oils and waxes rendered surface fissures less visible to the eye. Today, we have many sophisticated technologies with which to clarity-enhance emeralds. In addition to the oils and waxes of ancient methods, we now use clear resins to penetrate the open fissures surfacing in the stones. Hardeners are often added to solidify these liquids. This step prevents the resin from evaporating, thus making the clarity enhancement more permanent than oiling or waxing the gem. Although emerald itself is quite durable, the garden of inclusions may make individual gems vulnerable to damage if handled roughly.