Emeralds are the birthstone for the month of May and they also happen to be the traditional 55th wedding anniversary gift (for those of you with that happy endurance event penciled in your datebooks). As a June baby, my birthstone isn’t a stone at all – it’s the pearl. The pearl is a by-product of an irritation that occurs when a parasite penetrates the shell of a mollusk who then decides to coat the intruder with epithelial cells. It was most likely discovered by an ancient fish-eating tribe while opening oysters for food. Yup, there’s June’s gem for you – created by a trespassing irritant and accidently discovered by a guy who probably chipped a tooth during dinner. Just doesn’t hold the same appeal, does it?
So, let us instead focus on May’s lovely emerald.
The emerald was one of the first precious stones to be mined over 4,000 years ago by the ancient Egyptians, though the stones from that time were a much duller green than what we value now. An area called Cleopatra's Mines is generally accepted to be the world's oldest source for this gem, but it was long ago depleted of its rich source of emeralds. Now, Colombia is the country where the most beautiful and prized stones are to be found.
Sacred ancient Hindu writings say the emerald had the ability to give mental power and wisdom, and could make the wearer a very persuasive and charismatic speaker. Intelligence and eloquence, some of a girl’s best qualities right there, if you ask me.
It was also once believed that your vision would be better if you kept an emerald handy to stare at. Pliny (thought to be the world’s first gemologist) wrote, “nothing is more intense than the green of an emerald and sight is refreshed and restored by gazing upon this stone.” Following his advice, Roman emperor Nero wore emerald sunglasses to watch the gladiators. I don’t know. I have a lotion on my bathroom counter that counteracts redness in the skin, so I think maybe Nero had a weak stomach for the violence of the gladiator games. But that’s just me.
The emerald’s intense green color is also known as the color of spring and was prized among ancient cultures as the gemstone symbolizing love and rebirth. Spring may officially arrive on paper in March, but with snow and rain still hanging around, sometimes until late April, it’s a safe bet that by mid-May flora and fauna are finally in full bloom. In fact, our local tortoise, “Turbo” at the Santa Clarita Nature Center, woke up late this year from his winter hibernation, thanks to all of the El Nino rains. As a result, I guess it sort of makes sense then that May would get the emerald as its official birthstone.
So, before the month slips through our fingers here is my wish for you -- may the emerald green of the season fill your senses, causing your heart to beat a little faster with the excitement of love and the renewal that spring brings. Oh, and if an emerald happens to make its way into your jewelry box? Bonus!
Among the changing months, May stands confest the sweetest, and in fairest colors dressed. – James Thomson
I look at myself; and see a stone, I look at my friends and see gold, but I look at you, and see a gem. -- Anonymous
FYI -- I think it is almost mystically fascinating that L. Frank Baum, who wrote the Oz books featuring the Emerald City, was born in the month of May (1856) and died in the month of May (1919) – beginning and ending his existence in the emerald month.