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Posted on Tue. Jan. 29, 2013 - 12:07 am EDT

Eyes on emeralds

Price might mean admirers will stay green with envy

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Wendy Stein is a fan of emeralds.

The gemstone is one of her favorites but she doesn’t have many of the pieces. There’s the birthstone ring her parents gave her when she was a child to bribe her to give up her blankie. She has had it sized to fit her as an adult, but she doesn’t wear it often because of the childlike style. There’s the emerald stud earrings she doesn’t wear often because they are set in yellow gold, and she’s more a fan of white gold or silver. Even her wedding band had diamonds and emeralds in it.

Pantone’s color of the year for 2013 is emerald, and despite the popularity of the shade, it’s not enticing people to buy emerald jewelry. It turns out, Stein is something of a minority – there simply aren’t a lot of emerald fans out there, says Steve Shannon, owner of Shannon Jewelers.

“I have not sold a large emerald ring for quite sometime,” he says, adding that people interested tend to be from his generation (Shannon is 69).

The emerald pieces he has in the store are small stones, but price tags are about $500 or $1,000. A good quality emerald – no inclusions or scratches, crystal clear – is rare enough that the stone can be more expensive than a diamond, Shannon says. Stein, who is a May baby and loves her birthstone, doesn’t have many pieces simply for that reason.

Shannon does use the stone in mothers’ rings, and even there, swapping out a genuine emerald for a synthetic one is a way customers keep the price of their jewelry down.

For people who love the stone and have the money to spend on one, Shannon says an emerald pairs perfectly with yellow gold at 18 karats or higher. This gold is more malleable and less likely to break the stone; in a prong setting, the prongs will fit nicely against the stone, but in 10- or 14-karat gold, there is more alloy in the metal, making it more likely to spring back and shatter the stone.

He tells of a customer he had years ago with a $20,000 emerald. He had trouble finding someone to set it for him out of fear of breaking the stone.

Because of the earth tones in an emerald, Shannon says, it pairs better with yellow gold than white gold – it’s a warmer color that complements the rich tones of an emerald. If possible, he suggests European gold, which is a richer gold color and not as bright as American gold.

Like other gemstones, the emerald has a mythology and history behind it. Shannon pulls a page from the catalog of Stuller Corp., a jewelry manufacturer and distributor, that shows how emeralds were viewed around the world.

There were emerald mines near the Red Sea called Cleopatra’s Mines, which were where pharaohs gathered gems between 3000 and 1500 B.C. Incas and Aztecs of South America worshiped emeralds as holy stones. The maharajas of India filled their treasure vaults with the stone, believing it would bring luck and health.

The green of an emerald is said to be representative of life and springtime, according to Stuller Corp. It symbolized the beauty and love of the goddess Venus in ancient Rome, which is perhaps why the stone celebrates 20th, 35th or 55th wedding anniversaries.

“If money were no object, I would wear emeralds often,” Stein says, and she laughs. “My tiara will definitely have emeralds and diamonds in it when I am queen.”

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