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Article: Origin of the Word "Emerald"


Origin of the Word "Emerald"

The word "emerald" evokes images of brilliant green gemstones, renowned for their unmatched beauty and rarity. This precious stone has been valued throughout history by various cultures around the world.

In this text, we will explore the etymological origin of the word "emerald," its significance in different cultures, and how these gems reached each continent.

Origin of the Word Emerald

The word "emerald" has its roots in ancient Greek. It comes from the word "smaragdos" (σμάραγδος), which in turn originates from a Semitic word, likely the Aramaic "izmargad" or the Hebrew "izmargad," meaning "green gem." This etymology reflects the admiration for its distinctive green color, symbolizing renewal and life.

The Word Emerald in Different Cultures

Egypt: In Ancient Egypt, emeralds were mined and cherished for their association with fertility and immortality. Cleopatra, the famous pharaoh, was known for her love of these gems and often adorned herself with them.

Rome and Greece: The Greeks and Romans also valued emeralds. The Romans considered them symbols of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. Pliny the Elder, in his work "Natural History," described emeralds as gems that delighted the eye without causing fatigue.

Pre-Columbian America: Indigenous civilizations in South America, especially the Muisca in Colombia, revered emeralds and used them in religious ceremonies. For them, these gems symbolized fertility and the natural wealth of their land.

Emeralds in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas

Arrival of Emeralds in Europe

The discovery of the Americas and the Spanish conquest in the 16th century marked the beginning of the arrival of Colombian emeralds in Europe. The Spanish found vast deposits of emeralds in regions inhabited by the Muisca and quickly recognized their value. These gems were transported to Europe, where they adorned the jewelry of royalty and nobility. Emeralds became a symbol of status and power, and their trade flourished in major European cities.

Arrival of Emeralds in Asia

Trade routes connecting Europe and Asia facilitated the arrival of emeralds on the Asian continent. Colombian gems were particularly prized in India, where emeralds were incorporated into the opulent Mughal jewelry. Indian artisans valued emeralds not only for their beauty but also for their supposed protective and healing properties. In Persia (modern-day Iran), emeralds also found a prominent place in royal courts and the decoration of luxury objects.

Arrival of Emeralds in Africa

In Africa, emeralds were not only imported but also discovered and mined in some countries like Zambia. However, before these discoveries, emeralds imported from South America made their way through trade with Europeans and Asians. African culture, rich in traditional jewelry, incorporated emeralds into their ornaments, recognizing their beauty and rarity.

Arrival of Emeralds in the Americas

Although South America, especially Colombia, is home to some of the most valuable emeralds in the world, their value and commercialization also spread to North America. Emeralds were brought to North America by European traders and settlers. Today, Colombian emeralds remain highly valued in the U.S. and Canadian markets, both in fine jewelry and private collections.

Paula A. Bonilla 

Social communicator and journalist from Sergio Arboleda University in Colombia. She is also a jeweler and is passionate about constantly learning about precious gems and national high jewelry.

Currently, she is working for one of Bogotá's most important jewelry stores, Emerald by Love. This jewelry store has over 40 years of experience and has 2 physical branches in the capital city of Colombia, located in the city center.

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