Cleopatra’s Favorite Stone

In Indian mythology, the Sanskrit name for emerald is “marakata” which translates to “the green of growing things.” A fitting name for the gem and the month it represents. All those April showers bring us May flowers!

Perhaps also because of the gem’s color, the ancient Egyptians believed the stone represented fertility and rebirth. Cleopatra loved emeralds so much that she claimed all of the emerald mines in Egypt as her own. (Interestingly, much of her emerald collection later turned out to be peridot, a similar green stone.) In Egypt, the dead were often buried with emeralds to symbolize eternal youth.

Cleopatra was not the only royal with an affinity for emeralds. Shah Jahan, emperor of India who built the Taj Mahal, had sacred texts inscribed into emeralds so that he could wear them as talismans. Other royals with notable emeralds include Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, and Queen Elizabeth II. In modern times, celebrities have also prized the green stone: Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly, and Elizabeth Taylor are just a few.

The sacred texts of Hinduism describe emerald as the “gem of good luck,” and the “gem that improves one’s wellbeing.” Ancient Greeks associated the stone with the goddess Venus, ruler of love and beauty. It was said to protect lovers from unfaithfulness, glowing a clear green when in the presence of a loyal heart. If the heart went astray, the color became lifeless. Emerald is also believed to improve intelligence and memory, and allows one to think clearly about the past, present, and future.