Emeralds have long been associated with love and fidelity in many cultures throughout the world. According to practitioners of New Age Metaphysics, it opens the heart chakra and promotes harmony and domestic bliss by enabling the wearer to both give and receive unconditional love.
We have some evidence that emeralds have been used as engagement rings in the past, a natural choice given that emerald is associated with hope, desire, and chastity. For their initial betrothal, Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor an emerald and diamond brooch as an engagement present. She wore it often and it was followed by many other significant pieces of emerald jewelry.
Who first beholds the light of day In spring’s sweet flow’ry month of May, And wears and emerald all her life, Shall be a loved and happy wife. - Kuntz, 1913
Hernándo Cortés, conqueror of the Aztecs, is said to have presented his betrothed with a gift of “Five Emeralds” as a wedding present in 1529. According to King (1867),
“The first was in the form of a rose, the second in that of a horn, the third like a fish with eyes of gold, the fourth was like a little bell with a fine Pearl for the tongue, and on the rim was the inscription in Spanish, ‘Blessed is he who created thee.’ The fifth, which was the most valuable, was a small cup with a foot of gold, and with four little chains of the same metal attached to a large Pearl as a button.”
Although Queen Isabella, King Charles V’s wife, was desperate to own them, Cortés apparently refused to relinquish the emerald carvings. For this, he earned her enmity and it was rumored that he paid dearly for this folly over time.
Emeralds were also used as betrothal rings because of their purported ability to change color when a lover was unfaithful. And although emeralds were associated with Venus the Goddess of Love, they symbolized virginity, chaste love, and newfound desire, not sexual passion in full bloom. Agricola (1546, translation by Bandy and Bandy 1955) tell us that:
“Any lewd act is very dangerous to a smaragdus. If either a man or a woman wears this gem during cohabitation and it touches the flesh, even when set in a ring, it will be shattered.”
And according to Kuntz (1913):
“So sensitive was the stone believed to be in this respect that Albertus Magnus relates of King Bela of Hungary, who possessed an exceptionally valuable emerald set in a ring, that, when he embraced his wife while wearing this ring on his finger, the stone broke into three parts.”
Emerald and other gems were used by Shakespeare as metaphors for rich color or exceptional beauty. Below is an excerpt of a verse purportedly written by Shakespeare and dedicated to the woman who became his wife in 1582.
To the Idol of Mine Eyes and the Delight of Mine Heart, Anne Hathaway
“Talk not of gems, the orient list,
The diamond, topaz, amethyst,
The emerald mild, the ruby gay;
Talk of my gem, Anne Hathaway!
Although emerald is the traditional gift for the 55th wedding anniversary, it is also occasionally used as for the 5th, 20th and 35th anniversary as well.
Next, we explore South American Emerald Legends, and reveal some truly outstanding emeralds!