Knowledge Centre > Gemmology > Gemstones > Emerald

Tales of the past: The folklore behind emeralds

A powerful and mysterious stone

Gubelin Colombian emerald and diamond ring berganza hatton garden
Gubelin Colombian emerald and diamond ring, Swiss, circa 1943.
Ref: 24477

Thursday 20th September 2018

Connected to some of the most exciting tales of the past, the rich green of emeralds has captivated and thrilled mankind for centuries. Emeralds are so esteemed that carat for carat, a fine emerald may be two or three times as valuable as a diamond. According to Indian mythology, the first translation of the name emerald from Sanskrit was ‘marakata’, meaning ‘the green of growing things’. However the name as we now know it has its origins in an ancient Persian word, translated to Latin as ‘smaragdus’, which was modified over the years to ‘emerald’.

Many cultures throughout time have believed the emerald to be exceedingly powerful and mysterious. The Chaldeans of Ancient Mesopotamia were convinced that the stone contained a goddess. The ancient Egyptians thought that the emerald brought fertility and rebirth. The Romans believed that lighter coloured emeralds were unripe and that the stone would move toward darker shades of green as it matured. Emeralds have also been mentioned in some of the legends of King Arthur, The Holy Grail described as being ‘fashioned from an emerald’. The earliest mention of emeralds in Western literature came from the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. He wrote of how the emerald would increase the owner’s presence and power of speech plus ensure victory in trials. It was believed that wearing an emerald allowed one to think clearly about the past, present and future, improve intelligence and increase memory.

The most coveted emeralds are found in the South American country of Colombia. These Colombian emerald mines have been in operation since ancient times and continue to be the standard upon which all emeralds are graded for quality. The most prized Colombian emeralds are coloured by the trace element chromium, which gives these stones a recognisable glow in natural daylight. Emeralds from the famed Muzo mines in central Colombia have a distinctive saturated green hue with a bluish undertone. The Chivor mines from a nearby area have a characteristic light yellowish-green hue.

One of the most famous emeralds discovered in a mine in Muzo, Colombia, is The Duke of Devonshire Emerald. Weighing an astonishing 1,383.93 carats, it is one of the world's largest uncut emeralds. It is thought that the stone was either forcibly given or sold by Emperor Pedro I of Brazil to William Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, in 1831. It now resides in the Vault at London’s Natural History Museum.

At Berganza, all of our emeralds are natural with no colour enhancement. Looking to add a piece of emerald jewellery to your collection? Visit us instore or online to view original ancient, antique and vintage pieces with unique designs featuring exquisite hand cut emeralds.

Art Deco emerald and diamond ring berganza hatton garden
Art Deco Colombian emerald and diamond ring, circa 1925.
Ref: 19020
Art Deco emerald and diamond ring berganza hatton garden
Art Deco emerald and diamond ring, circa 1935.
Ref: 14274
front view Antique emerald and diamond cluster ring berganza hatton garden
Edwardian Colombian emerald and diamond coronet cluster ring, circa 1915.
Ref: 20986
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