Pronounced “vermay,” vermeil is an electroplating process in which 14K gold or higher is coated over sterling silver. Officially designated by the jewelry industry, items may only be sold as vermeil if they have a minimum thickness of 100 millionths of an inch (2.5 microns) of gold over the silver. Over time, vermeil will wear off and therefore will require re-plating.
Over time your plated items will need to be re-plated. Contact your local jeweler for information on plating services.
The symbol of spring and rebirth, the emerald has a color of green that communicates harmony, love of nature and a primeval joy of life. The word emerald was derived from the French “esmeraude,” which comes from the Greek root "smaragdos,” meaning simply “green gemstone.” For centuries, emerald green has been the color of beauty and eternal love. Even in ancient Rome, green was the color dedicated to Venus, goddess of love and beauty. Many cultures and religions today hold a special position for the color. For instance, green is the holy color of Islam; all states of the Arabian league sport green banners symbolizing the unity of their religion; and green is among the liturgy colors in the Catholic church. The emerald gem is May’s birthstone, and it is the traditional gift for couples celebrating their 20th and 35th anniversaries.
Emeralds come in a variety of light and dark shades of green, often with subtle background hues of other colors such as yellow, blue, brown or gray. Most often, the purer and richer the green color, the more valuable the stone. Flawless emeralds are exceptionally rare, and therefore command great prices (even higher than diamonds, in some instances). Most naturally grown emeralds, however, have numerous inclusions that weaken their structure and cloud their color. Flaws and cloudiness, called “jardin,” are very common in emeralds, so many are treated in some way to remove surface flaws and enhance color. The most common technique is to oil the stone with a green-tinted oil that strengthens the stone and fills in surface cracks.
Emerald gemstones have been prized for thousands of years for their lush green hues and rare beauty. Venus, the goddess of love, is said to have loved the stone, and ancient Romans associated the emerald with her because it symbolized reproduction. Nero is said to have watched the Roman games in the coliseum through a set of highly prized emerald glasses. It's also said that Isis, the mother goddess, wore a green emerald on her headband. Supposedly, all who looked upon it would be able to conceive and were guaranteed a safe trip through the land of the dead. The gem is also considered the magical stone of forest spirits (elves).
In ancient Egypt, emeralds were mined close to the Red Sea. This tranquil green gem was highly prized by priests and the wealthy, and it is said that Cleopatra loved it more than any other gem. In fact, gemstone mines called “Cleopatra’s Mines” were exploited by Egyptian pharaohs between 3000 and 1500 B.C., and were found empty when they were rediscovered centuries later. Even the ancient Incas and Aztecs in South America, where the best emeralds are still found today, worshipped the emerald as a holy stone. With the conquest of South America by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century, emeralds became more plentiful in Europe. Pizarro and Cortez took over the existing emerald and gold mines of the Inca and Mayan civilizations. They shipped these fortunes back to Spain, who in turn shipped them to trading ports throughout the world, turning Spain into one of the leading world powers of the time.
Phrases about emeralds appear in the Veda, ancient sacred writings of Hinduism, including “Emeralds promise good luck” and “The emerald enhances your well-being.” Treasure chests of Indian Maharajas and Maharanis contained wonderful emeralds. One of the largest emeralds in the world is the "Mogul Emerald.” Dating back to the year 1695, it weighs 217.80 carats. One side is inscribed with prayers, while the other side is engraved with opulent flower ornaments. This legendary stone was auctioned off at Christie’s of London for 2.2 million U.S. dollars to an anonymous buyer. Other famous emeralds include a cup made from pure emerald that was owned by Emperor Jehingar. It is currently located in the New York Museum of Natural History, as is a Colombian emerald crystal weighing 632.00 carats. The entire collection is owned by the Bank of Bogota and contains five valuable emerald crystals weighing between 220.00 and 1,796.00 carats.
Throughout the ancient world, emerald symbolized eternal hope, rebirth and the arrival of spring. The ancients ascribed numerous magical and mystical properties to this most precious of green gems. It was believed to give a person psychic powers, in that the gem could tell if a lover’s affections were true. Some cultures believed the gem rewarded its owners with love, intelligence, eloquence and a soothed soul. Middle Age seers used emeralds to foretell the future, as well as to ward off evil spirits and cure ailments ranging from bad eyesight to infertility. During the Renaissance, emeralds were used as a test for friendship among the aristocracy. It was believed that an emerald given to a friend would remain perfect as long as the friendship endured. The stone was also said to improve memory and bring great wealth to its wearer.
Emeralds have long been thought to have healing powers, especially for eyesight. It is said that in business, emeralds can be used to promote sales and cash flow. It is also used to attract love by quickening the heart. The emerald is believed to put one in touch with the mind and have positive effects on psychic powers. It is said to increase those powers when used in meditation. Wearing an emerald bracelet on the left wrist is said to protect you when traveling in forests.
Brazil is by far the world's largest producer of emerald, with a wide range of quality. The finest emeralds have traditionally come from Colombia, but Russia's Ural Mountains also have produced top-quality gems. Other sources for the stone include Afghanistan, Australia, Egypt, India, Pakistan, South Africa, United States, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Emeralds belong to the beryl group of stones. They have large, perfect, six-sided crystals with a hardness of 7.0-8.0 on the Mohs Scale.
Often referred to as a gift from the sea, pearl’s origin has been an object of folklore throughout history. Early Chinese myths told of pearls falling from the sky when dragons fought. Ancient Persian legend said that pearls were tears of the gods. In classical times, it was believed that pearls were formed when moonbeams lit upon shellfish, while Indian mythology suggested pearls were formed when dewdrops fell from the heavens into the sea.
In truth, pearls are lustrous gems with an organic origin. They are formed inside mollusks such as oysters, clams and mussels when an irritant such as a tiny stone, grain of sand or small parasite enters the mollusk's shell. To protect its soft inner body, the mollusk secretes a smooth, lustrous substance called nacre around the foreign object. Layer upon layer of nacre coats the irritant and hardens, ultimately forming a pearl.
This process of building a solid pearl can take up to seven or eight years. Generally, the thicker the nacre becomes, the richer the “glow” of the pearl and greater its value. While pearls that have formed on the inside of the shell (called blister pearls) are usually irregular in shape and have little commercial value, those that are formed within the tissue of the mollusk are either spherical or pear-shaped and are highly sought-after for jewelry. Most pearls on the market measure 7.0-7.5mm in diameter, but can be found as small as 1mm or as large as 20mm.
Although some pearls are found naturally in mollusks (considered the most valuable), the vast majority of pearls are grown, or cultured, on pearl farms. To instigate this culturing process, a small shell bead, or nucleus, is surgically inserted into the mantle of an oyster. Despite the fact that pearls are harvested in great quantities on pearl farms, producing a quality pearl is an extremely rare event. It is estimated that half of all nucleated oysters do not survive and, from those that do, only 20 percent create marketable pearls.
Cultured and natural pearls can be distinguished from imitation pearls by rubbing them gently against the edge of a tooth. Cultured and natural pearls will feel slightly rough, like fine sandpaper, because of the texture of natural nacre. Imitations will feel quite smooth because their surfaces are merely molded or painted on smooth beads. Since nacre is organic, pearls are quite “soft” and rank only a 2.5-4.5 on the Mohs Scale. The gems are very sensitive and special care should be taken when wearing and storing them.
The value of a pearl is judged by several factors, and high-quality pearl strands should feature pearls well-matched in these factors: “orient,” the lustrous iridescence that’s produced when light is reflected from the nacre, should glow with a soft brilliance; the nacre’s texture should be clean and smooth, absent of spots, bumps or cracks; the shape of a pearl should be symmetrical and generally the rounder a pearl is, the higher its value; and although pearls come in many different colors (depending on the environment and species of mollusk), the most favored are those that have a rose-tinted hue.
Pearls are cultured in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Akoya pearls are the classic round pearls found in most pearl jewelry. They are mainly grown in the waters off Japan and are found in a range of hues, including white, cream, pink and peach. Mabe pearls are grown in Japan, Indonesia, French Polynesia and Australia. They are usually flat-backed and often called blister pearls because they form against the inside shells of oysters rather than within oysters’ bodies. Tahitian pearls are grown in French Polynesia and come in a range of colors, including gray and black with green, purple or rose overtones. Because of their large size and unique dark colors, they command very high prices. Also prized for their large size, white South Sea pearls are grown in Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and other areas of the South Pacific.
Freshwater pearls come in various colors and are grown in bays, lakes and rivers primarily in Japan, China, Europe and the United States (Mississippi River). They are often irregularly shaped and less lustrous than saltwater cultured pearls, making them substantially less expensive.
Pearls have been treasured throughout ancient folklore and history. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, considered pearls to be sacred. The Greeks prized the gems for their beauty and believed that wearing pearls would promote marital bliss and prevent newlywed women from crying. In ancient Rome, pearls were considered the ultimate symbol of wealth and status. The ancient Egyptians were buried with them and the Egyptian queen Cleopatra favored pearls immensely. It is said that while dining with Mark Anthony, she purposely dropped a pearl into her drink to demonstrate the wealth of her rule.
As early as 2000 B.C., pearls have been used as medicine in China, where it was believed to represent wealth, power and longevity. Even today, low-grade pearls are ground for use as medicine in the Orient. Arabs and Persians also believed it was a cure for various kinds of diseases, as well as insanity.
Long ago, when pearls were not cultured and thousands of oysters had to be searched for only one pearl, the gems were important financial assets, comparable in price to real estate. Some European countries even banned all but nobility from the right to wear them. Medieval knights wore them in battle as a talisman against injury, while warriors in India encrusted pearls into their sword handles to symbolize the tears that swords can bring.
Today, the pearl is a universal symbol of innocence and purity. It is the birthstone for June and is considered the traditional gift for couples celebrating their 3rd and 30th wedding anniversaries. Many believe the gem gives wisdom through experience, quickens the laws of karma and cements engagements and love relationships. It is also considered to offer the powers of wealth, protection and luck.
The largest pearl in the world is approximately 3” long and 2” wide, weighing one-third of a pound. Called the Pearl of Asia, it was a gift from India’s Shah Jahan to his favorite wife, for whom he also built the Taj Mahal. Another famous pearl is called “La Peregrina,” or “the Wanderer,” and is considered by experts to be the most beautiful pearl in the world. Pear-shaped and measuring 1-1/2” in length, it is said that 400 years ago the pearl was found by a slave in Panama, who gave it up in return for his freedom. In 1570, the conquistadors sent the pearl to King Philip II of Spain. The pearl was passed to Mary I of England, who gave it to Prince Louis Napoleon of France, who sold it to the British Marquis of Abercon. After disappearing for a century, the pearl turned up once again in 1969 at a New York auction house. It was purchased by actor Richard Burton for his wife, Elizabeth Taylor.