Your Talisman: May Emerald

From the Smithsonian exhibit of precious gems, 2011  (taken with iPhone through glass case)

Happy Birthday/Feliz cumpleaños!
May 1 is my son’s birthday, a day I celebrate 38 years later with a smile on my face. First, I look out the window, knowing that even if it’s cloudy or misting with May rain out there, the sun will soon be out. The first of May is 99% certain to be a sunny day. Then, I prepare some coffee, call my son to wish him a lovely day, and before heading to the computer or a journal, I put the leash on our little dog, Poppet, and take her for a stroll in the park. I let my partner sleep in, because she’s a neurobiologist and she can get to the lab at whatever time she chooses. (As New Yorkers of a bygone era used to say in the movies, ain’t life grand?)

Emeralds and green tourmaline drops

Life is grand! For all the lucky souls born in May, whether in the northern or southern hemisphere and no matter what the weather, you get to have the glorious Emerald as your birthstone. In the old days, as we have established, emeralds were prized as much as they are now. The emerald was considered a healing stone, and ground into powder for medicine, placed in royal scepters and set into crowns for kings and queens, used as talismans for protection and for conjuring spells, and praised in poems, likened to the sea or the glow in a lover’s green eyes.

But where do the images of green as dangerous, double-edged, and seductive come from? Ah, first things first. Let’s do a bit of historical pseudo-research. 😉 [that was a wink]

The emerald is part of the beryl family, same as aquamarine, heliodor, and morganite. It’s composition as a crystal is hexagonal, and though it has a hardness of 7.5 to 8 in the Moh scale, it does have poor cleavage which means you will often see a fracture line and mineral inclusions. This doesn’t mean the stone is “cracked” or that it will break necessarily, but it can serve as a clue that it is a natural stone and not synthetic. Absolutely clear, transparent emeralds, are exceedingly rare, as it is the chemical impurities that give the otherwise colorless beryl its range of color– chromium produces the rich green of emerald while traces of iron brings out the bluegreen quality of aquamarine, the golden yellow of heliodor, and a touch of manganese is responsible for pink morganite.

Emerald rondelles contrast with fire orange CZs

It is generally accepted that Colombian emeralds (which have “three-phase” inclusions typical of the locality) are the finest in the world, found around Chivor and Muzo in Colombia, and mined from veins with dark shales and limestones. In ancient times, the original civilization of this region mined the stones. Taken from Indigenous jewels and gold art work, and through forced labor as in most aboriginal locales invaded in the Americas, these emeralds changed the course of history in the 16th century. Prior to this time, the emeralds used by Romans and in Medieval Europe had come from Egypt and Austria.

Today, fine emeralds are also mined in Pakistan, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

Gem scholars Tracy Johnson and Paul Solomon maintain that the green color of emerald is significant in its healing properties, as it serves to quiet emotions and balancing the aura. Through Thelma Isaacs we learn that Lama Sing recognizes the quality of amplification in emeralds, so that its emanations may affect the pineal and pituitary glands, while Richardson and Huett point to this amplification as enhancing wisdom from the mental plane. Isaacs connects the green, healing color with a “strong love vibration,” (35) and in terms of the chakras, the correlation is to the solar plexus. She also states that emeralds are best used when the moon is full, as it is affected by the moon and its phases. The next full moon will be May 5-6, so get ready all you Taurus babies!

The emerald seems to have always been included as one of the 12 stones worn by ancient priests, except according to Kunz, who lists instead light green serpentine, green feldspar, malachite, and green jasper or jade. Personally, I find this to be curious, because serpentine feels like a neutral stone that doesn’t respond to the warmth of human touch, and jasper, while beautiful in its varieties of color and design, has a low vibration that would not emanate a sensation of healing. It is my own theory that there are probably manifestations much older than Aaron’s breast plate of people’s desire to gather in one personal object the symbols of their environment that signify protection in some way. But protection can also suggest a concentration of energy, personal power achieved through the concentration of thought or mindful attention, and elements such as crystals that emit a perceptible vibration would have been the perfect medium.

Why crystals, colored stones, bits of glass, shells, pearls, even branches of aromatic trees, flowers, a feather, or a nugget of gold, silver, or other shiny mineral? I think that we are aware of different aspects of existence throughout our lives, and that regardless of a defined spiritual expression we note our passage through life as a continuum of connection to the earth, the most immediate universe we know. At times, we note a lesser or greater energetic vibration within ourselves and we seek a resonance, a corresponding vibration in our environment. (We are a gregarious species, after all, and we always seek to communicate.) And sometimes this sense of connection comes through symbols, such as four cardinal directions, three primary colors, the identification of basic elements, sounds, and words. I think that we find comfort in identification because it is a way of fixing ourselves in a state– stabilizing, maintaining form– life.

So, I think that’s where the idea of having 12 or so healing or protective stones comes from. Magic stones, talismans, touchstones. And for the month of May, emerald seems to have been a constant, perhaps because in the northern hemisphere it is a time of green, of Spring – Primavera – of life– and it is from northern traditions that these definitions come (we don’t know what southern civilizations determined, but I think we can find out!). The Hebrew, Roman, and Spanish stone for May is the Agate or chalcedony (also, carnelian). Later the Arabic, Polish, and Russian stone becomes the emerald. The Italians return to the agate, and then from the 15th to the 20th century we recognize both the agate and the emerald.

But, wait until June– you will be surprised to see what we discover!
Incidentally, I have many designs with emeralds in my Zibbet and Etsy shops (as well as here under my tienda/shop page), so stop by and take a look. Subscribe to this blog, so you can keep in touch with the latest post, and let people know who you think might enjoy it. And do send in your own entries and comments! I’ll be glad to hear from you and post any photos and contributions to Livingatnight Jewels. Write to me at and list your blog or website here, in your comments.

Happy Birthday, May People!
from Mariana


More from the Smithsonian


Feliz cumpleaños to all my May people:
Christian & Jenny, Papi, Vero, Chea, Enrique, tatiana, Dr. V. Pickel, and Elliot.


2 responses to “Your Talisman: May Emerald

  1. Hey there, My birthday is the day before your sons. Thanks for all the info on emeralds. I am ashamed to say, that it is my birthstone and until now I didn't know that much about it.-Debbie

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