What is the May Birthstone? Gem Birthstone Significance
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What is the May Birthstone? Gem Birthstone Significance

Green sure is the colour of envy when it comes to the gorgeous, vibrant, emerald that is May’s birthstone. Emeralds stand out in a crowd, as a symbol of vibrant luxury. Often found on the necks, fingers and wrists of the rich and famous, emeralds are the statement piece of any important item of jewellery. 

What is the May birthstone?

May’s birthstone is the gorgeous vibrant emerald, which is categorised as a gemstone. Gemstones are defined as a precious stone that can be cut or polished, and then used in a piece of jewellery.

Renowned for its unique different hues of green, the emerald is striking. The colour green comes from the chemical combination in the stone. Chromium, vanadium and iron are the key elements that give the emerald its gorgeous range of greens. Less of one element and the green of the emerald is affected. The chromium and vanadium are the elements that create that intense colour green that is most sought after in the gem.

The lesser known birthstone: Agate.

If you aren’t a big fan of green, now may be your chance to claim May’s other birthstone agate. Agate was known as May’s birthstone in the time of Ancient Greece. This was when birthstones were appointed to astrological signs instead of the month.

Available in almost every colour, agate is a form of quartz. Quartz have interesting rings of colour inside that can take on various patterns.

Getting its name from the site of its discovery, Agate is named after the river Achates, now called Dirillo, in the southwest of Sicily.

May birthstone meaning

The name emerald comes from the Greek word smaragdus which means, funnily enough, “green gem”.

Known as a symbol of rebirth, the colour reflects new spring growth, with the month of May also being springtime in countries such as America, and England. The May birthstone also represents wisdom, loyalty, success and truth.

Also, holding cultural significance, emeralds have been used in the myths and legends of Rome and Greece. Connecting the emerald to the goddess Venus, who was known for hope and love.

History of the May birthstone

Emeralds have been around for a long time; it is estimated that the oldest emeralds could be 2.97 billion years old. Appearing so often in royalty in differing centuries and cultures, it is seen as an important and influential gemstone. Cleopatra is one of the most renowned historical figures to have worn the gemstone. Egyptians used emeralds in multiple pieces of jewellery and their extravagant burials. It was thought being buried with emeralds would provide protection in the afterlife. The Spanish also held the green gemstone in high regard and crafted many fine pieces, such as the ‘Crown of the Andes’, which holds a remarkable 24 ct emerald and 442 further emeralds.

Emerald lore has also had a big part in its history. Those in past centuries believed that if you put one of the precious emeralds under the tongue, you would be able to see the future. Others thought the stone would make the wearer more intelligent.

Roman tradition even claimed that the gemstone had healing properties for the eyes. Interestingly this has now been partially proven, with scientists claiming the colour green eases eye strain and stress.

Where are emerald birthstones found?

May’s birthstone is found all over the world, most prevalently in Columbia, Brazil, and Africa. However, Columbia is the centre of the emerald trade. Said to be where the best emeralds are surfaced, Columbia has set the standard of emeralds in the gemstone industry.

Columbia has three main noteworthy sites where the gemstone is unearthed. If you have a certain type of green you like, look to see if you can find an emerald from these different regions when wanting to purchase.

Giving differing colours in each region, yellowish-green emeralds have been uncovered in Coscuez. Blueish green, with a lighter tone, are found in Chivor. The most sought after, dark deep tones of pure green emeralds, are discovered in Muzo. 

May birthstone durability & maintenance

Emeralds rank a seven and a half to an eight on the MOH scale of hardness. This scale is used to determine the measurement of resistance of a smooth surface to scratching or abrasion. The ranking is out of ten with diamonds taking that top spot. An emerald, therefore, is deemed moderately durable. It should be worn with care to preserve it, making sure it lasts, hopefully for future generations. So, if you think you may be doing an activity to put the stone in harm’s way, perhaps leave it at home for the day.

Emeralds are also often enhanced/treated to improve their clarity and colour. One of the enhancements is done by dyeing the emerald. Some emeralds are paler than others and often have little fractures in the stone. By dying the paler emeralds green it makes the colour pop and helps cover up the fractures.

The other enhancement is filling those fractures. Using oils, resins and waxes some emeralds have fractures filled. The aim is to make the fractures less visible and improve the overall clarity of the gemstone. These treatments may seem like cheating, but these are traditional care practices used on most emeralds, as over 99% of the May birthstone are found with fractures through them.

When it comes to cleaning and maintenance avoiding heat, and harsh chemicals is paramount. Ultrasonic cleaners are also bad news when it comes to the May birthstone. The ultrasonic cleaner uses heat and vibrations which can cause filler to seep out of the fractures.

The best way to clean your vibrant emerald is in soapy warm (never hot) water, gently scrubbed with a soft brush.

Shop the birthstone of your May loved one

GS Diamonds has just released a gorgeous new range of gemstone jewellery. Be one of the first to shop those amazing pieces, and get your favourite May baby, their emerald birthstone.

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