The Birthstones of May: Emeralds and Agates
The month of May has two main birthstones, which are the well-known Emerald and the versatile Agate. There are many pros and cons associated with these two different gemstones, each symbolizing a variety of meanings. These beautiful gemstones hold quite a history, one being the traditional birthstone and the other being one of the most precious gemstones. If you were born in May, this information full of interesting facts and educational history is for you!
Why does May have two different birthstones?
If you didn’t already know, there are some months that have multiple birthstones, just as May has Emeralds and Agates. Traditional birthstones are gemstones that were most commonly associated with its respective month in the early 20th century and even beyond. Those that are more commonly known in this day and age are the modern birthstones, which were officially named by the Jewelers of America in the 1950’s.
Green with Envy Over Emeralds
The modern birthstone of May is the Emerald. The name “Emerald” comes from the old French word “esmeralde” which is derived from the Greek word ‘smaragdos’ meaning ‘green stone.’
It is a member of the beryl group of minerals, colored by trace amounts of chromium or sometimes vanadium that produce the green color. The most desirable color for an emerald is a bluish green to pure green, and unlike some of the other gemstones that are available in different colors, emerald is always green. Most emeralds have imperfections visible to the naked eye, and this is an easy way to differentiate the genuine gemstones from lab created or synthetic ones.
Emeralds are 20 times rarer than diamonds, and therefore are much more expensive.
It is the most valuable stone in the beryl group, and is classified as one of the four precious gemstones with diamond, ruby, and sapphire. Emeralds are mined in many countries, but the most famous mines are in Colombia. Other high producing countries are Zambia, Afghanistan, and Brazil.
These beautiful green gemstones are known to symbolize good fortune and luck, growth and renewal, peace, balance, well-being, and hope. In ancient times, wearing emeralds were known to prevent epilepsy said by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle. They were also known to fend off danger and protect the wearer from unfaithful lovers as the stone of fidelity. Emeralds are also used in powdered form in traditional medicines by other cultures.
If you or someone you know was born in May, we recommend looking into purchasing an emerald piece as a gift! Whether you’re interested in the gemstone’s magical properties or simply its beautiful color, gifting an emerald will ensure having an amazing present.
Emeralds have a hardness of 7.5 – 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness, they are the softest and most fragile of the precious gemstones. A hardness of 7.5 – 8 is normally a decent hardness for jewelry, but most emeralds have many inclusions and fractures that can reach the surface, which can weaken the gemstone and cause it to be brittle, and this can cause breakage. If your emerald is set in a ring or bracelet, be careful, rings and bracelets get more wear and tear than any other piece of jewelry since they are worn on the hand and wrist.
Proper care is important for emeralds since not only are they fragile, but most emeralds are treated with oil and some with a resin to enhance their beauty, masking surface imperfections and enhancing the color. Clean them by just rinsing them in warm water and drying them with a soft cloth. Never use chemicals, heat, or an ultrasonic cleaner. Harsh cleaning agents can strip the oil from an emerald, however if needed, some jewelers can reapply the oil.
Agates From Around the World
The traditional birthstone of May is Agate, which was associated to the month by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. The name “Agate” comes from where the stone was first mined over 3000 years ago, the Achates River in Sicily.
The Agate is unique as a gemstone differing from other crystal gemstones as each agate stone is unique in regards to its colors and patterns. Agates are a form of Chalcedony, which is a group of Quartz classifying gemstones that are compact and micro-crystalline. These gemstones are found in many patterns, colors, and forms, just as agates are. In order for a chalcedony crystal to be classified as an agate, the gemstone has to be banded, or contain wavy-like patterns of vein bands around the mineral rock.
Fire Agate Ring
The finer and sharper the banding is of an agate, the more valuable it becomes.
Agates come in a range of colors, including green, red, yellow, blue, pink, brown, white, black, and even translucent and fluorescent. Although agates can come in a wide combination variety of unique colors and patterns, there are many that form common styles. Some of these common styles include the Fire Agate, Eye Agate, and Iris Agate.
These unique gemstones have these colors and patterns from the result of mineral traces such as oxides of iron, nickel, chromium, titanium, and other elements. Agates are found throughout the world and occur in cavities in eruptive rocks or ancient lavas.
Fire Eye Agate
Agates symbolize courage, protection, strength, and balance, and are stones that are known to transform negative energy into positive energy. Similar to emeralds, agates have a soothing and calming energy associated to the gemstone, possessing the ability to heal inner anger and anxiety. Both the emerald and agate gemstone are also known to help with harmonious relationships.
The history of agates goes back to Ancient China, in which these gemstones were believed to be fossilized horse brains or blood spilled from battle. Agates were also popular during the Renaissance, as collecting agate cups became an increasingly popularized hobby.
Agates have a hardness of 6.5 – 9 on the Mohs scale of hardness. To put this in perspective, quartz has a hardness of 7 – 7.5 and are present in the particles of dust seen floating in the air and settling on uncleaned objects in your home. These particles have the hardness that is able to remove the polish from your table and the finish from your car. Diamonds have a hardness of 10, which is the hardest gemstone, and the softest includes talc, which is a gemstone that even your fingernail can scratch. These minerals can only be scratched by the hardness level above it, so keep this in mind when caring for your agate jewelry pieces.
Although agates are generally inexpensive, they are still beautiful ornamental stones and make a great center stone for whichever jewelry piece type you are looking into.
Replacing Your Missing Emerald or Agate
Thinking about restoring a loved one’s sentimental birthstone piece? You’re in the right place to restore their precious memories.
Gemstones provide life to any piece of jewelry, yet have the highest potential to damage. Whether it be a loose, lost, or scratched-up Emerald or Agate, we take restoring the life of your treasures seriously. Any gem, any damage, we’ll make your jewelry sparkle as bright as the day you got it.
We have a team of specialists in place to properly source every type of gem needed for your treasured item. We understand your gemstones are unique and require specific attention. Our Professional Stone Sourcing team makes sure that all of your gems, even the ones that sometimes go unnoticed, are replaced by stones of the right caliber for your piece.
Visit our Gemstone Replacement Services page to learn more about servicing your Emerald or Agate.
The Ultimate Birthstone Guide
“If you were born in May, your month’s birthstones are Emerald and Agate.
If you didn’t already know, there are some months that have multiple birthstones, whereas some only have one. Traditional birthstones are gemstones that were most commonly associated with its respective month in the early 20th century and even beyond, with Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers associating these gemstones with the star signs. Those that are more commonly known in this day and age are the modern birthstones, which were officially named by the Jewelers of America in the 1950’s.
If you would like to learn more about birthstones in general, visit our Ultimate Birthstone Guide!“
Clean & Polish Services
“A basic clean, polish, and inspection is part of the routine care and maintenance needed to keep your jewelry looking like new. The inspection process includes looking for loose stones, bent prongs, and any damage to the metal or stones that need to be repaired.”
Stone Setting Repair
“A stone setting repair can be a simple re-tipping of a worn prong (which is considered routine care and maintenance) or the complete rebuilding/replacing of a damaged prong. In the case of severe damage, the entire head of the ring may need to be replaced.
Regardless of whether or not the prongs are compromised due to normal wear and tear or a result of accidental damage, we can provide the routine care and maintenance in order to ensure you do not lose a stone in your setting.”
Gemstone Replacement Services
“The process of a Gemstone Replacement is simple enough, yet requires trained eyes to be able to make a flawless switch. We aim to leave no trace of our work, which means not only will your setting be perfected, but the gemstone we choose will complete your jewelry piece effortlessly.”
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