The human love affair with emeralds goes back thousands of years, with the earliest known emerald mine thought to be in Egypt, dating back to the first century BC. Emeralds are a beautiful transparent green with subtle overtones ranging from yellow to blue, depending on where they come from. Sources of emeralds include Afghanistan, Brazil, Colombia, Pakistan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The most sought-after emeralds are Colombian, which are the finest quality and have a deep green colour. Brazilian emeralds will tend to have a subtle yellow overtone, while Zambian emeralds a blue overtone. Each overtone adds personality to the stone and personal preference will decide which stone will “speak to you”.
Emeralds have been used as a symbol of beauty, abundance and power. Cleopatra famously loved the stones so much that she adorned herself in emeralds to display her wealth and influence (read the interesting fact section below for an elaboration on that.) Two iconic images of celebrities who have worn these beautiful stones are Elizabeth Taylor and Angeline Jolie.
Cleopatra used emeralds to keep Rome in line, not just financially but also psychologically. Very few rulers have understood the fluid relationship between the power of perception and the perception of power as well as she did. Even when she was initially deposed, she wore massive emeralds, the signature gem of her kingdom, everywhere, to remind the people that she was a queen, on or off the throne. She wielded the jewels both symbolically, as a nationalistic icon for all to see, and as an aggressive display of wealth, leading everyone around her to wonder, if she could pay for that, what else could she pay for? An army? A war?
She seduced Caesar with a spectacle of luxury that might easily have doubled for a masterclass in intimidation. She met with him covered in old threads, lying on a massive pile of her country's coveted green stones.
Caesar returned to Rome not just smitten with the Egyptian queen and her jewels but also with a new understanding of the more subtle ways in which wealth might be used, not just as a display of abundance but also as a show of force. As a result, he almost immediately instituted a whole new set of sumptuary laws in his capital, laws that forbade or restricted the use of certain luxury items to only a select few.
From the book Stoned by Aja Raden.