All About the May Birthstone: Emerald

All About the May Birthstone

A saturated, intensely green emerald draws attention for its beauty and uniqueness. These gemstones can be used in all types of fine jewelry, and they make an excellent birthday gift for someone born in May (after all, it’s the May birthstone!). Continue reading to learn more about emeralds including how to evaluate, buy, and care for them.

What are Emeralds?

Beryls are minerals composed of beryllium aluminum silicate, such as emeralds. Emeralds are made from four elements that are found deep in the Earth's crust: beryllium, aluminum, silicon, and oxygen. These elements flow in veins filled with hot water called hydrothermal veins. When the conditions are right in these veins and cool down, the emerald crystals start to form.

Emerald Background

Emerald gemstones were mined in Egypt as early as 330 BC, but some estimate that the oldest emeralds are 2.97 billion years old. Today, emeralds are mined in Zambia, Colombia, and Brazil.

Cleopatra is a famous historical figure known to cherish emerald gemstones. In fact, she claimed ownership of all emerald mines in Egypt during her reign. The Egyptians used emeralds both in jewelry and in their elaborate burials–even burying emerald stones with monarchs as symbols of protection.

May Birthstone Meaning

Emeralds symbolize loyalty, new beginnings, peace, vitality, prosperity, and security. It’s said that the color green can reduce stress and relieve eye strain. Its color reflects vitality and new spring growth, which makes it the perfect choice of a birthstone for the month of May.

Not only are emeralds a beautiful gemstone to wear, but it’s also a meaningful gift for someone else or for yourself. These statement stones make a statement for holidays, anniversaires, graduation, weddings, mother’s day, or as a “just because” present.

Emerald Quality

Like diamonds and other gemstones like emeralds, you’ll use the 4Cs to judge a stone’s quality: colorcutclarity, and carat weight. As you can imagine, color is an important element to consider. See if the color is evenly distributed but not too dark. More rare emeralds appear as a deep green-blue. Lighter-colored gemstones are more common, so they’re also more reasonably priced.

Like other beryls, emeralds often have inclusions that are visible without a microscope. Inclusions are acceptable in emeralds and don’t detract too much from the overall value of the stone. Remember, the vibrant color and saturation are important for this gemstone.

Cut also is important for emeralds because it helps maximize its green color. Funny enough, many emerald gemstones are cut into an emerald shape—an elongated, rectangular shape with step-cut facets. This helps to make the stone shine bright with sparkle while minimizing any inclusions or fissures.

Real vs. Not

The 4Cs can also help you identify whether it's a real emerald or not. Hold the stone up to a light. “Real” emeralds showcase a pure green or blue-green hue. So if the stone displays yellow or brown undertones, it is most likely not real. Real emeralds have inclusions, so take a close look to determine authenticity.


Some emeralds are treated to enhance their quality. Some have inclusions that reach the surface, so these are treated with oil, wax, resin, etc. Oiling gemstones to fill internal fractures is a common practice. These treatments last, but care is important (more on that later).


Emeralds are very durable–they have a hardness of 7.5 to 8 on the Mohs scale so means they resist scratching. Its hardness also helps make this stone more durable.

Average Budget for Birthstone Jewelry

A well-known emerald is Elizabeth Taylor’s famous emerald pendant that sold for $6.5 million in 2011. You don’t have to spend that much to get an amazing emerald. Prices for birthstone jewelry vary greatly depending on the quality of the birthstone, the piece of jewelry, type of metal (platinum will increase the budget), and the cost of any other gemstones on the jewelry. You can spend a couple hundred dollars to thousands depending on what you select. Start browsing earrings, necklaces, rings, engagement rings and jewelry sets to see what type of emerald items are available. Emerald rings continue to be a popular gift idea.

Buying Emeralds

Some factors to consider when selecting emerald jewelry gifts:

  • Budget: Have an idea of how much you’d like to spend.
  • Preferences: If you’re buying a gift for a May birthday gift, keep that person’s personal preferences in mind while you shop. Pay attention to the types of metals your special someone wears–notice if they wear more of one type of metal than others.
  • 4Cs: Review information about the 4Cs so you have a good understanding of these terms. Color is important for emeralds, as is the cut. The 4Cs also can help you identify whether the emerald is real or synthetic.

Caring for your Emerald Jewelry

While emeralds are very hard, you don’t want them scratched by other gemstones like diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. Store your emeralds separate from your other gemstones in a separate lined compartment in your jewelry box.

Most emeralds are treated with an oil-filler for clarity, so they can’t go into a jewelry cleaning machine of any kind. The machines could damage the emerald in addition to removing the oil-filler, and make sure any jewelry cleaning solution specifies that it’s safe for emeralds. Warm, soapy water and a toothbrush will take care of most jewelry (meaning no pearls, ivory, amber, or anything organic). Avoid soaking your emeralds–not even in water and soap.


Which metal best goes with Emerald?

Emeralds look beautiful in any metal color. Most choose to pair a bluish emerald with yellow gold or a yellowish emerald with white gold or platinum. These pairings make the emerald appear a more pure green.

Are emeralds rare?

Yes, some say that high-quality emeralds are more rare than diamonds. Rarer emeralds appear as a deep green-blue. Lighter-colored gemstones are more common, so they’re also more reasonably priced.

What are the most popular types of emerald birthstone jewelry gifted?

Emeralds make a stunning statement in many different types of jewelry including stud earrings, rings, bracelets, and necklaces. A halo-set emerald and diamond ring makes an exquisite gift or engagement ring.

Does the color of the emerald fade away?

Compared to some sapphire colors, the color in emeralds is even more stable. Most emeralds are treated with an oil-filler for clarity, so they can’t go into a jewelry cleaning machine of any kind. The machines could damage the emerald in addition to removing the oil-filler.

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