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History of Emeralds

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Rough emeralds in the hand of a miner

In emeralds there is a magic that has seduced people for centuries. The history of this stone is closely related to the whole history of mankind.

The early Egyptians extracted and polished stones in mines widely recognized as the oldest in the world, today called the Cleopatra's mines. Old documents show that the stone was known and marketed in Babylon in 4000 BC. The emerald was worshiped by the Incas and mentioned in the biblical parable of the Apocalypse. These green treasures were valued before diamonds, rubies or sapphires were recognized.

Beautiful emerald with inclusions so called "Garden"

Its worth asking: why some stones are so desirable? . The view of something beautiful physically motivates us, writes Lance Hosey (1).The study of the brain revealed that the view of an attractive object could trigger a part of the brain responsible for hand movement. We instinctively reach for things for us delightful, says the author of the text. Beauty moves us. Literally. But what are the objective criteria for assessing the value of a stone? The above-mentioned sense of beauty is subjective, so it would be difficult to recognize them as the only measure. “What makes stone a jewel?” asks Aja Raden in the book "Stoned".(3)The author immediately replies: uniqueness. The value of the jewel raises the fact that it is something that no one but the buyer will own.

CLEOPATRA new how to use the magic of Emeralds

The oldest known emerald mines, at least in the Western Hemisphere, were in Egypt. They are dated to 300 BC, and are today known as the Cleopatra Mine.

The most famous Egyptian queen knew how to use the magic of this stone. She used emeralds to maintain Rome's position, not only financially but also psychologically. She wore great emeralds to show ostentatiously the riches of Egypt and its land. Octavian August defeated Cleopatra, took her fortune (including stones) and created Pax Romana - a period of inner peace and external conquest. In later centuries Napoleon , inspired by this period of Roman Empire's glory, he himself was decorated with emeralds, thus referring to these times of prosperity. The Spanish Izabella I of Castile was rolling holy wars. Wars was very expensive. When the safe shone brightly with emptiness, She sent ships into the world to search for treasures that could fill the vault.

When the Spaniards plundered America in the XVI century, they found something very valuable - green stones. They were amazed by the emeralds that Inca Empire possessed. Jewels from Colombia due to the content of the composition of a large amount of chromium, in the ultraviolet light turn out to be fluorescent. This strange glow gave the Incas the belief that every stone was part of the body of a living god. For these reasons, large numbers of stones were gathered in the temples. The conquistadors have ransacked the temples and killed the defenders, but even in the face of terrible torture, the Inca did not issue secretly located mines. Only years later, a mine in the Chivor region of Colombia was discovered by accident.

1 Lance Hosey „why we love beautiful things” ,New York Times, Februray 15,2013

2 Dr. James Shigley, Historical Reading: The Ancient Emerald Mines of Egypt 3 Aja Raden, „Stoned. Jewellery, obsession, and how desire rules the world”


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