With its rich, velvety green hue, the emerald certainly stands out from other precious stones. Coveted by royalty for thousands of years and is symbolic of romance, rebirth, and intelligence, the significance of this distinctive gem spans many cultures across time.
For those considering incorporating emeralds into their next tattoo, this article will discuss the meaning and history behind this gemstone, as well as illustrate several styles and designs to help you choose the best emerald-inspired ink for you.
History of Emerald Tattoos
Meaning “spring green” in Sanskrit, the emerald is considered significant by many cultures throughout history. Cleopatra was said to be an avid fan of emeralds and wore the stones regularly.
They were also coveted by the ancient Romans, who believed paler green emeralds weren’t yet ripe, and would eventually darken to the deep, velvety hue the stone is so well known for.
Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder believed that emerald green helped relieve eye problems. The infamous emperor Nero would reportedly watch the gladiatorial games through an emerald lens in order to calm his mind.
In contemporary culture, the emerald is the May birthstone, and is traditionally given as a gift for both the 20th and 55th wedding anniversaries. The fact that emerald ranks higher than gold and is second only diamond in a list of traditional anniversary gifts shows how deeply treasured this stone is.
Emeralds in Religion
The significance and fascination with emeralds is not only limited to the secular realm, but in the spiritual as well.
Emeralds are mentioned several times in the Holy Bible, as a symbol of strength during adversity as well as the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In some legends surrounding the Holy Grail, the Grail itself is carved from emerald, and was not only Christ’s goblet during the Last Supper but also the vessel that collected His blood during the crucifixion.
The emerald is mentioned as one of the stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel, as well as in the foundation of New Jerusalem, and is used to signify the beauty of the Garden of Eden in Genesis.
In Muslim culture, the emerald is considered the holy color of Islam. The Prophet Muhammed’s cloak was believed to be emerald green, and the first of the seven heavens depicted in the Koran is emerald green.
The Mogul is a 217.8-carat emerald, into which verses from the Koran are inscribed. The year 1695 A.D. is carved into the stone alongside an Islamic prayer.
The Hindu god Vishnu is depicted in religious texts and artwork wearing a symbolic emerald necklace, in which the emerald at the center represents earth and the representation of human passion and desire. The ancient Hindu text Puranas describes the god Krishna as inhabiting in holy gem-studded city called Devarka, with emeralds prominently featured in the holy city.
In one of the Buddhists’ sacred books, a shrine for a celestial being is said to be composed of seven precious substances, including emerald.
What Do Emerald Tattoos Symbolize?
Across many cultures, emeralds symbolize love, beauty, prosperity, wisdom, health, and truth.
To the ancient Romans, emeralds were most often associated with Venus – the goddess of love, desire, and fertility. Many ancient Romans believed that wearing emeralds would boost fertility and aid in healthy childbirth.
Emeralds were also believed to protect lovers from unfaithfulness. If lovers were separated, each would wear an emerald to make sure the other remained true. If the emerald retained its rich green color, then each would know that their beloved was faithful. But if the emerald grew dull and lost its signature luster, it would mean that the other wearer’s affection had gone astray.
Because emeralds were believed to help restrain lust, spouses during the Middle Ages would often give them to each other – especially when the husband went off to war.
Aside from its romantic associations, the emerald also symbolizes wisdom, and it was believed in the Middle Ages that an emerald would bestow its wearer with sharp intelligence, improved memory, and intuition. Emeralds were also believed to boost creativity, foster optimism, and help the wearer achieve mental and spiritual balance.
What Do Emerald Tattoos Mean?
Emerald tattoos can symbolize the following:
For those considering getting an emerald tattoo, consider which symbolism means more to you.
If you are religious, your emerald tattoo may signify an important facet of your faith. This is especially significant in Islam, where the emerald holds the highest value as the holiest color.
If your birthday is in May, this stone may hold special meaning for you. Birthstone tattoos are also a popular choice among parents.
The association with the goddess Venus can lend a meaning of romantic love and/or sexual empowerment to your tattoo.
Styles and Characteristics of Emerald Tattoos
As with all gemstones, the cut attributes a lot to the meaning. A teardrop cut emerald, for example, may hold a different meaning than a rectangular or heart-shaped emerald.
The precise facets of emeralds – and all gemstone tattoos – make them particularly suitable for geometric patterns. Antique patterns, including lace and chains, are popular additions to emeralds.
Complementary colors to the emerald’s rich hue include red or pink, making emeralds and rubies great choices to display side-by-side. Black, white, and gray are colors that will give your emerald a more subtle palette while still making the green pop.
Where do Emerald Tattoos Usually Go?
Like most tattoos, emerald tattoos can be placed anywhere on the body. A full necklace can go around the throat, like a choker, or a chain of emeralds down an arm or leg. Over the sternum and under the breasts are a great choice for a tattoo that holds a special or intimate meaning.
If you opt for a smaller emerald tattoo, the fingers, wrists, feet, and ankles are all great choices.
Regardless of the design, style, and placement of your emerald tattoo, this majestic green stone has a lot of history and meaning behind it that will make any tattoo collector proud.