The name "emerald" is derived from the Greek word smaragados meaning "green stone." Many other green stones were also given this name in ancient times, before modern gemological testing allowed for gemstones to be classified in ways other than by color alone.
In rare cases, the internal characteristics of an emerald can create chatoyancy (the cat's-eye effect) when the gem is cut en cabochon. Also, in Colombia, dark carbonaceous material is sometimes trapped between emerald crystals during growth, resulting in unique Trapiche emeralds. When carefully cut and polished en cabochon, the dark lines form distinctive star- or wheel-like patterns.
Emeralds were discovered so long ago--thousands and thousands of years ago--that the details of their discovery are unknown. While no definitive records exist, Cleopatra's emerald mines, in upper Egypt east of Aswan, are believed to have been worked as early as 2000 B.C. Even more astounding is the fact that emeralds are believed to be the first gems traded in markets in Babylon around 4000 B.C., adding a couple thousand years more to emerald's long, rich history.
Some of the most famous emerald mines are found in Colombia. The Chivor, Muso, and Cosquez mines, while remote and nearly inaccessible, are famed for their top quality rough. These mines were so highly valued by indigenous cultures that the source of their intense green treasures was never divulged to the conquistadores. Yet we don’t have to rely on Colombia alone… Emeralds have been found in Brazil, Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and numerous other countries. In recent years, substantial deposits of emeralds have been found in Canada and China. Amazingly, emerald has even been discovered in Tanzania, home of the exceptionally popular tanzanite.
Regardless of the source, emeralds are in high demand and regarded as one of nature’s greatest gifts to man. Known as the birthstone for May, emerald is also associated with the 20th wedding anniversary. However, the gift of emerald is an exceptional prize for any occasion.