Spring is a time of new growth and rebirth. And the intense brilliant green of the Emerald, May’s birthstone, is as refreshing to the eyes as a spring garden after a rain. Within it’s depths are often tiny fractures or inclusions, which the French call "jardin," or garden, because of their resemblance to foliage. The Egyptians were known to engrave Emeralds with the symbol for foliage to represent eternal youth, and to bury these jewels with their dead. The ancient Romans associated this gemstone with fertility and rebirth, and dedicated it to Venus, the goddess of love and beauty.
The Ancient Egyptians mined Emeralds in the eastern desert region 2,000 years before Cleopatra’s birth, braving extreme heat, scorpions and snakes to search for the beautiful crystals. During Cleopatra’s reign, she claimed the Emerald mines as her own, as this was her favorite gem. She often wore lavish Emerald jewelry, and it is said that she bestowed visiting dignitaries with large Emeralds carved with her likeness when they departed Egypt.
In the sixteenth century, the Spanish Conquistadors were amazed to find the native people wearing Emeralds larger and more magnificent than any they had ever seen. Although the natives attempted to hide their Emerald mines, the Spaniards soon discovered and conquered most of them. But it took twenty years before they found the abundant mining operation held by the Muzo Indians, and another thirty years to overtake this aggressive tribe. The Muzo mine was in the area known today as Colombia, and it remains the source of the most prized Emerald specimens. Other sources of Emeralds are Brazil, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Madagascar, Nigeria, and Russia.
The Emerald is a member of the beryl family of minerals. The green crystals grow slowly within metamorphic rocks and are restricted in size by the rock, making large Emeralds rare and costly. Although this gemstone is relatively hard and durable, it must be protected from blows because the inclusions found within make it susceptible to breaking.
Some people believe that wearing an Emerald brings wisdom, growth, and patience. And as any couple in a long-term relationship would agree, all of these qualities are essential for a successful and lasting love. This may explain why a gift of Emerald for an anniversary -- or anytime -- is considered symbolic of love and fidelity.