May's birthstone is the regal Emerald—one of the world's "Cardinal Gemstones" alongside the diamond, ruby, sapphire and amethyst (that is until large deposits of amethysts were discovered in Brazil in the Nineteenth Century, contributing to the loss of their rarity and high value). Emeralds are a variety of the mineral gemstone "Beryl," which, when pure, is clear (which is why beryl was used as the lenses in the first eyeglasses in the 13th Century). When beryl is "contaminated" with other minerals, it changes color. Emeralds are the variety of beryl which have Chromium in them. Other varieties in the beryl family include Aquamarine, Heliodor (Golden Beryl), Goshenite (clear), Morganite (Rose Beryl) and Bixbite (Red Beryl).
Emeralds were first mined in Egypt circa 1500 BC. Egypt's subsequent invaders—Rome, Byzantium and Islam—quickly realized the precious value of the emeralds and actively mined them to send them back home. In the Fourteenth Century AD, emeralds were discovered in India and Austria, then, later, in Columbia and Zambia. The best emeralds have a saturated but vivid green coloration. And, since most emeralds have many "inclusions" within the stone, increased clarity makes for a more valuable stone.
The Art Deco enameled cufflinks, shown above, are the color of emeralds—not made of the actual stone itself. Nevertheless, they are handsome and sufficiently reminiscent of the birthstone for May—and you can learn more about them by clicking on the photo above.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248