Emeralds are fascinating gemstones. They have the most beautiful, most intense and most radiant green that can possibly be imagined: emerald green. Inclusions are tolerated. In top quality, fine emeralds are even more valuable than diamonds. The name emerald comes from the Greek 'smaragdos' via the Old French 'esmeralde', and really just means 'green gemstone'.
The green of the emerald is the color of life and of the springtime, which comes round again and again. But it has also, for centuries, been the color of beauty and of constant love. In ancient Rome, green was the color of Venus, the goddess of beauty and love. And today, this color still occupies a special position in many cultures and religions. Green, for example, is the holy color of Islam. Many of the states of the Arab League have green in their flags as a symbol of the unity of their faith. Yet this color has a high status in the Catholic Church too, where green is regarded as the most natural and the most elemental of the liturgical colors.
The magnificent green of the emerald is a color, which conveys harmony, love of nature and elemental joie de vivre. The human eye can never see enough of this unique color. Pliny commented that green gladdened the eye without tiring it. Green is perceived as fresh and vivid, never as monotonous. And in view of the fact that this color always changes somewhat between the bright light of day and the artificial light of a lamp, emerald green retains its lively vigor in all its nuances.
"Dressed in green, with a green body, who has four arms, the incarnation of Vishnu, who is a yogi, whose vehicle is a lion with an elephant's trunk, who carries a sword, shield and book in his hand, the son of the Moon, with an emerald crest jewel on his head, making the gesture that gives boons, may Divine Mercury ever grant us his grace."
The lively luminosity of its color makes the emerald a unique gemstone. However, really good quality is fairly rare, with inclusions often marring the evenness of the color – signs of the turbulent genesis, which has characterized this gemstone. Fine inclusions, however, do not by any means diminish the high regard in which it is held. On the contrary: even with inclusions, an emerald in a deep, lively green still has a much higher value than an almost flawless emerald whose color is paler. Affectionately, and rather poetically, the specialists call the numerous crystal inclusions, cracks or fissures that are typical of this gemstone 'jardin'. They regard the tender little green plants in the emerald garden as features of the identity of a gem, which has grown naturally.
A sophisticated gemstone
Whilst its good hardness protects the emerald to a large extent from scratches, its brittleness and its many fissures can make cutting, setting and cleaning rather difficult. Even for a skilled gem cutter, cutting emeralds presents a special challenge, firstly because of the high value of the raw crystals, and secondly because of the frequent inclusions. However, this does not detract from the cutters' love of this unique gem. Indeed, they have developed a special cut just for this gem: the emerald cut. The clear design of this rectangular or square cut with its beveled corners brings out the beauty of this valuable gemstone to the full, at the same time protecting it from mechanical strain.
Emeralds are also cut in many other, mainly classical shapes, but if the raw material contains a large number of inclusions, it may often be cut into a gently rounded cabochon, or into one of the emerald beads, which are so popular in India.
Today, many emeralds are enhanced with colorless oils or resins. This is a general trade practice, but it does have the consequence that these green treasures react very sensitively to inappropriate treatment. For example, they cannot be cleaned in an ultrasonic bath. The substances that may have been used by the cutter during his work, or applied subsequently, seal the fine pores in the surface of the gem. Removing them will end up giving the stone a matt appearance. For this reason, emerald rings should always be taken off before the wearer puts his or her hands in water containing cleansing agent.