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Emeralds are gem-quality specimens of the beryl mineral family with a rich, distinctly green color. For over 5000 years, emeralds have been one of the most desirable and valuable colored stones. Ancient civilizations in Africa, Asia, and South America independently discovered emeralds and made them a gemstone of highest esteem. In the States and many other countries, emerald serves as the birthstone for people who were born in the month of May. They are found in igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks in a small number of locations worldwide. Today emerald, together with ruby and sapphire, form the "big three" of colored stones. The "big three" generate more economic activity than all other colored stones combined. In 2015 the value of emeralds imported into the United States exceeded the value of all colored stones outside of the "big three" combined.
Beryl, the mineral of which emerald is a variety, has a chemical composition of Be3Al2(SiO3)6. When pure, beryl is colorless and known as "goshenite." Trace amounts of chromium or vanadium in the mineral cause it to develop a green color. Trace amounts of iron will tint emerald a bluish green or a yellowish green color depending upon its oxidation state. Emerald is defined by its green color. To be an emerald, a specimen must have a distinctly green color that falls in the range from bluish green to green to slightly yellowish green. To be an emerald, the specimen must also have a rich color. Stones with weak saturation or light tone should be called "green beryl." If the beryl's color is greenish blue, then it is an "aquamarine." If it is greenish yellow it is "heliodor."
This illustration is a painting of a large, fine emerald crystal. It is based on a number of emerald crystal specimens from a variety of mines that are in museums and collections. The original illustration is an acrylic painting on canvas board. The print is on glossy photo paper. It is an 8 x 11 inch print. The artist has created botanical illustrations for publications that have been published by the New York Botanical Garden and the University Press of Florida.