Emeralds are a variety of the mineral beryl, colored green by trace amounts of chromium and sometimes vanadium.

Beryl has a hardness of 7.5 - 8 on the 10 point Mohs scale of mineral hardness. Most emeralds are highly included, so their brittleness (resistance to breakage) is classified as generally poor. The origin of the word "emerald" is said to be a Sanskrit word meaning "green".

Properties determining value
Emeralds come in many shades of green and bluish green. There is a wide spectrum of clarity, dependent on the inclusions and fractures in the crystal. Clear stones with dark yet vibrant color command the highest prices. Almost all emeralds contain numerous flaws, cracks, and inclusions, which can negatively affect the clarity. These are given the name "jardin", from the French word for garden. The value of an emerald depends on cut, color, clarity, and carat. Currently the best emeralds come from the Muzo mine in Colombia.

Most emeralds are oiled as part of the post lapidary process, in order to improve their clarity. Cedar oil, having a similar refractive index, is often used in this generally accepted practice. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission requires the disclosure of this treatment when a treated emerald is sold. The amount of oil entering an emerald microfissure is roughly equivalent to the size of a period (full stop) in print. The use of green-tinted oil is generally not considered acceptable by the gem trade.

Emerald localities
Emeralds in antiquity were mined by the Egyptians and in Austria, as well as Swat in northern Pakistan.

A rare type of emerald known as a trapiche emerald is occasionally found in the mines of Colombia. A trapiche emerald exhibits a "star" pattern; it has raylike spokes of dark carbon impurities that give the emerald a six-pointed radial pattern. It is named for the trapiche, a grinding wheel used to process sugarcane in the region. Colombian emeralds are generally the most prized due to their transparency and fire. Some of the most rare emeralds come from three main emerald mining areas in Colombia: Muzo, Coscuez, and Chivor. Fine emeralds are also found in other countries, such as Zambia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Russia. In the US, emeralds can be found in North Carolina. In 1998, emeralds were discovered in the Yukon, Canada.

Emerald in different cultures, and Emerald lore
Emerald is regarded as the traditional birthstone for May, as well as the traditional gemstone for the astrological signs of Taurus and Cancer. One of the more quaint anecdotes on emeralds was by the 16th century historian Brantome, who referred to the many impressive emeralds the Spanish under Cortez had brought back to Europe from Latin America. On one of Cortez most famous emeralds he had the text engraved Inter Natos Mulierum non sur-rexit mayor (Among them borne of woman there hath not arisen a greater Man. XI, 11) which referred to John the Baptist. Brantome considered engraving such a beautiful and simple product of nature sacrilegious and considered this act the cause for Cortez loss of an extremely precious pearl (to which he dedicated a work A beautiful and incomparable pearl) and even for the death of King Charles IX who died soon after.

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