The emerald belongs to the mineral family of beryl, being chemically a silicate of beryllium and aluminium. Other members of the beryl family include the cheaper blue aquamarine, pale pink morganite, golden heliodor and pale green beryl. The emerald has always been treasured for its rich green color. Its name originated from the Persian but later the Greeks called it smaragdos and later still smaragdus. This name slowly became esmeraude, then emeraude and emeralde and the Anglo-Saxons of the sixteenth century settled on the present name of emerald. Archaeologists uncovered emeralds in Egyptian and Etruscan sites more than a century ago. The gems were traded in Babylon around 2000BC and between 3000 and 1500BC the Pharaohs of Egypt wore emeralds taken from the now exhausted mines near the hills of Jebel Sikait bordering the red sea.
The ancients believed that the stone symbolised love and rebirth, immortality and courage. It sharpened the intelligence and improved the working of the heart. The gem became the stone of Venus, and it was said that it would change colour and break when worn by an adulterer. The Romans said that it was the only gem which delighted the eye without fatiguing it, and the emperor Nero shielded his eyes with emeralds to watch the gladiators.
One legend says that when Lucifer fell from heaven, he lost the emerald from his crown; this was later found and shaped into a bowl which the queen of sheba sent to Nicodemus. Christ used the same bowl at the last super. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the Incas and Aztecs in South America worshipped the emerald as a holy stone and it was used as currency by the local people; thus emerald have been found in places as far apart as Mexico and the Andean ranges. The Conquistadors reported that the Incas had an emerald the size of ostrich egg. When they conquered America, the Spaniards took vast numbers of emeralds to sell in European market.