History of Emerald

Emerald has been one of the most prized gemstones throughout history. It was sold in the markets of ancient Babylon as early as 2000 BCE, and for centuries it was worn almost exclusively by Kings and Queens. In medieval Europe, it was considered to be one of the ‘Five Cardinal Gemstones’ – comparable only with Diamond, Sapphire, Ruby, and Amethyst. Emerald is included in all major lapidaries, texts that describe gemstones and their powers. It is also referenced in the Holy Books of all five of the world’s major religions!

In the Bible and Torah, Emerald is listed as the fourth of the twelve stones which decorated the breastplate of the High Priest of ancient Israel. The design for the Breastplate was given by God to Moses, whose brother Aaron was the first to wear it. Each of the gemstones on the Breastplate were inscribed with the symbol for one of the Twelves Tribes of Israel. Later on, King Solomon was said to own a flawless Emerald, which he wore in a ring and used to control jinns, or desert demons. In later Christian lore, Emerald was associated with St John the Evangelist.

In Islamic countries, Emeralds are highly desired since the color green is synonymous with Islam, because the Prophet Mohammad’s cloak was that color. The royal treasuries in Topkapi Palace, Istanbul and in Tehran, Iran contain many of the largest and most valuable Emeralds in the world. Emeralds are also sacred to Buddhists, and sometimes used for eyes in Buddhist statues. The enormous Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan, destroyed by the Taliban in 2011, were said to once have emeralds for eyes, that shone like a beacon over the desert, guiding wayfarers.

Solomon And Jinn

Solomon and the Jinn

In the ancient Vedic texts, revered by followers of the Hindu faith, Emeralds were the bile of the demon god Vala. According to the story, Vala once took the form of a stone cave where stolen cows were hidden. Indra, the leader of the demigods, split Vala apart, killing him and freeing the cows. Vala’s body was scattered across the earth and his various body parts were transformed into a variety of gemstones. The Cobra King, Vasuki seized Vala’s bile and in a moment of exuberance, accidentally split heaven in two with his tail. In response, the Eagle King attacked Vasuki, and the bile dropped to the earth on top of a mountain range, where it was transformed into Emeralds.

Emerald’s modern name comes from an ancient Persian word for the green gemstone, which was translated into Latin as smaragdus. Overtime smaragdus, was corrupted to esmeraude, emeraude, and emeralde before finally take its modern form. The original name is still used in the Sikait-Zubara region of southern Egypt, where Mons Smaragus (Emerald Mountain) marks what was once home to one of the most fabulous gemstone mines in history – “Queen Cleopatra’s Emerald Mines”

In ancient times, the most valuable Emerald mines were in Zubara and Sikail, in southern Egypt. They produced pale green Emeralds, which were considered highly desirable throughout Eurasia. This was particularly true during the reign of Queen Cleopatra (69-30 BCE) and during the early period of the Roman Empire. Today, these mines are all played out and have been abandoned to the desert. But in their day, they were heavily mined, first by the Egyptians and then by the Romans.

During the reign of the early Roman Emperors, Egyptian Emeralds were held in particularly high esteem. Empress Lollina Paulina (CE 15-49), who was briefly the wife of Emperor Caligula (CE 12-41), famously came to a party covered in Emerald jewelry, which she bragged was worth 40 million sesterces – the equivalent cost of twenty villas in a fashionable part of Rome! Pliny the Elder (CE 23-79), a Roman author, naturalist and philosopher, attended the party when he was a young man. It made such an impression that he included the story in his lapidary, The Natural History of Precious Gemstones. While Pliny the Elder certainly admired gemstones, Lillina Paulina’s display disgusted him, since the emeralds had been bought with money acquired from extortion and corruption.

During the early fifteenth century, Spanish conquistadores flooded into South America in search of treasure and adventure. In what is now Columbia, tales were told of enormous Emeralds. Not content to simply steal the gemstones already dug out, the Spaniards wanted the source as well. During the 1530, the local Chibcha people were tortured and killed until they revealed the Emerald mine’s location. Then the people were enslaved as miners and Columbia’s mineral wealth flooded into Europe. Unlike the pale Egyptian Emeralds, Columbian Emeralds have a deep rich color. Today, Columbia continues to produce many of the most brilliant natural Emeralds. Unfortunately, these gems are drenched in blood. The gems are fought over by rival Emerald Lords, powerful gangsters who control the trade and feud with each other and the Colombian government, These Emerald Lords control the region and the population. It is estimated that 75% of the peasant population works in deplorable conditions in these Emerald mines.