Emeralds 101: A Beginner’s Guide

Emerald History

Intro to Emeralds

The lustrous green of emeralds has captivated and enchanted people globally for centuries. Beyond its use in jewelry, the gem’s allure has only grown, standing shoulder to shoulder with other esteemed stones like diamonds, sapphires, and rubies.

Emeralds In History

Throughout history, the emerald was cherished by numerous ancient civilizations. In ancient India, this gemstone was referred to as “marakata,” meaning “the green growing.” The term “emerald” most likely originated from an ancient Persian word, which then evolved into the Latin “smaragdus” and eventually, emerald.

Emeralds have been commodities in Asian and European markets for up to 6000 years. Across the Atlantic, the Incas held emeralds in high esteem, even revering them. Aristotle mentioned emeralds in his writings, highlighting their calming effects and their ability to elevate a person’s stature.

In addition to being beautiful, emeralds were famed for their spiritual attributes. Chaldeans believed they housed a divine essence, while some Islamic cultures used them to inscribe verses of the Koran. Remarkably, it’s said that Emperor Nero of Rome watched gladiatorial contests through a large transparent emerald to find tranquility.

Emeralds were viewed as sources of creative energy by ancient cultures. During the Middle Ages, they were thought to ensure a woman’s chastity and could predict future events when placed on the tongue. These gemstones were also believed to counteract spells and curses. In Hippocrates’ era, emeralds were ground into powder and transformed into a soothing eye lotion. Across different societies, emeralds symbolized serenity, protection, trust, and fidelity.

Royalty has always had an affinity for emeralds. Cleopatra was particularly famous for her love of this gem. Royalties in India, Iran, and Russia included emeralds in their crown jewels. Hernando Cortes discovered emeralds on his trip to Mexico, though many were lost due to shipwrecks on his return voyage. Modern icons like Elizabeth Taylor showcased their passion for emeralds through their extensive collections.

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Today, emeralds continue to be rare and cherished gemstones used in various forms of jewelry. Their unique green hue remains highly celebrated worldwide. For further reading, explore emerald formation.


Were emeralds popular in ancient times?

Absolutely. Emeralds were deeply admired by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, who attributed mystical powers to them. South American civilizations like the Incas and Aztecs also held emeralds in high regard and integrated them into their religious rituals.

What are some famous emeralds from history?

The Mogul Emerald, a 217.80-carat rectangular cut emerald once owned by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, is among the most renowned. Other notable emeralds include the Duke of Devonshire Emerald, the Chalk Emerald, and the Patricia Emerald.

How were emeralds used in ancient times?

Emeralds served various purposes in ancient times, such as talismans, jewelry, and even medicine. The ancient Greeks believed emeralds could heal eye ailments, while Romans thought they could bring peace to the soul.

Are emeralds still sought-after?

Emeralds have always been treasured, though their appeal has shifted. Historically, their mystical and healing attributes were celebrated; today, their beauty and rarity are the primary reasons they are coveted, especially in high-end jewelry.

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