The Wall Street Journal has spread the news of Panetone’s choice for color of the year for 2013: Emerald. Accordingly, the deep green hue reflects beautifully the gem after which its named, but I find the gem itself to be a natural wonder and one of my favorites.
Owing its green color to trace amounts of chromium, this most valued member of the beryl family derived its name Emerald “(via Old French: Esmeraude and Middle English: Emeraude), from Vulgar Latin: Esmaralda/Esmaraldus, a variant of Latin Smaragdus, which originated in Greek: σμάραγδος (smaragdos; “green gem”).” (via).
Scoring a 7.5–8 on the Mohs scale, emeralds are highly included and thus their toughness is usually deemed poor. Jewelers call the inclusions jardin, or “garden,” because they look like a wilderness growing within the crystal. As noted by the gemologist Robert Webster, emeralds are so commonly flawed that a ‘clean’ emerald is said to be unknown. Oftentimes, owners can distinguish between emeralds by their distinct inclusions, functioning as unique identifiers for the stones.
About emeralds, Pliny said, “No stone has a color that is more delightful to the eye, for, whereas the sight fixes itself with avidity upon the green grass and the foliage of the trees, we have all the more pleasure in looking upon the emerald, there being no gem in existence more intense than this.” Following Pliny’s advice, the Roman Emperor, Nero, watched gladiator fights through emerald-encrusted sunglasses.
The most notable historic figure, and most likely the first, to have adored and acquired a vast amount of emeralds is the glamorous Cleopatra. So enthralled with the gem, Cleopatra even had her own diamond mines in Egypt, filled with men whose lives were dedicated to finding jewels for her. Though remnants of the mines are few, the two main emerald mines, one called Sikait and the other Zubara, are both found on different slopes of Mount Smaragdus, or “Emerald Mountain.”
While emeralds in antiquity were mined in Egypt, India and Austria, the most famous and best emeralds, however, are found in the renowned triumvirate of Colombian mines: Muzo, Coscuez, and Chivor. The latter mine, named after the Chibcha people who had once owned the land, first opened under Spanish control in 1537. Naturally, this location was also the same area from which the myth of gold-rich El Dorado had sprung. Thirty years later, the best emerald mine in history was discovered sixty miles north of what is now Bogota: Muzo. From there, some of the worlds most famous emeralds have been discovered, including the Devonshire named for the 6th Duke of Devonshire after it was gifted to him by Emperor Dom Pedro I of Brazil. It remains uncut and weighs a whopping 1383.95 carats.
Emeralds from Colombia glow with deep, intense green color and, if with crystal clarity, is known to mesmerize. Within the first few years of discovering the emerald rich black shale of Colombia, the Spanish royal family wore the gems almost exclusively, adding much needed color to the dark clothes of sixteenth century Castille. The legends of ships full of emeralds rang true after the discovery of one such Spanish galleon, the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, which struck a reef and sank on September 6, 1622 during a raging hurricane near the Florida Keys. Valued at over $400 million, the discovery made by Mel and Deo Fisher on July 20th, 1985 offers as much historical significance as its profits. To date, just under 6,000 uncut, “raw” Colombian gems have been recovered from the wreck, as well as those that were already cut, polished, and mounted into gold settings.
Considered one the three most precious of gemstones, the emerald remains a cherished jewel around the world. I’d like to share some of the most significant and famous emeralds in this post so as to see just how incredible this gem truly is. Welcome to Emerald City!
First, there have been some emeralds of enormous size recently seen in the news because of the controversy surrounding them, the Teodora and the Bahia Emerald.
Put up for auction in early 2012, the 57,500 carat Teodora failed to fetch its estimated $1.15 million when no buyers bid on it at the auction block. Weighing roughly 11.5 kilograms, it is the fifth largest emerald ever found, but the biggest that’s been cut with facets.
The story of the Bahia Emerald is rather incredible, and if you’d like to read more about it, visit its website or watch the National Geographic special on it The 400 Million Dollar Emerald. The “Bahia Emerald” was unearthed in 2001 in Brazil, weighing 840 pounds and containing roughly 180,000 carats of emerald crystals.
Other world famous emeralds include:
The ‘Mogul Emerald’, believed to have come from the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb – the last of the great Mogul rulers who controlled much of India – was auctioned off in 2001 by Christie’s of London for $2.2 million. Cut into a rectangular tablet and intricately carved with prayers on one side and a floral motif on the other, it weighs 217.80 carats and is nearly 4 inches high! This enormous emerald likely originated in Columbia and reached the Mogul Empire via Spanish traders, as Spain had found the eastern empires of the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent a ready market for their valuable merchandise.
Here is Christie’s Lot Notes from the sale:
The inscription contains a Shi’a prayer blessing Muhammad and the twelve Imams; and the hijra date 1107 which transposes to 1695 -96 A.D. In full it reads:
O Merciful One, O Compassionate One
God bless Muhammad and ‘Ali
and Fatima and al-Husain
and al-Hasan and ‘Ali
and Muhammad and Ja’far
and ‘Ali and Muhammad
and al-Husaini and the steadfast Mahdi
This is the only known carved and dated emerald of the classic Mughal period. The date places it to the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb (1658 – 1707), the last of the four great Mughal rulers who ruled between them for 150 years. This emerald is the benchmark for the dating of all other Indian carved emeralds.
Fine large emeralds were unknown until their discovery in Colombia by the Spanish Conquistadors of the 16th and 17th century. They were extremely popular in all three of the great Islamic empires of the time: the Ottoman Turks, the Safavid Persians and the Mughal Indians; so much so that none appear to have been retained at the time in Europe. They reached India via Spain as trade goods during the Mughal dynasty. They were highly prized by the Indians who used them mainly as beads or in gold artefacts.
The Mughal Emperors were Sunni and therefore the Shi’a prayer would suggest that this stone should not be associated directly with the emperor Aurangzeb himself, particularly since by this date he had become somewhat of a religious zealot. It is likely, however, that it would have belonged to one of the Emperor’s officers, many of whom were of Shi’a Deccani and Persian origin. It could also have belonged to one of the great nobles of the Deccan where Shiism was the predominant sect of Islam, possibly from either Golconda or Hyderabad.
The reverse side of the emerald is carved with a central rosette, poppy flowers and scrolling foliate detail, typical of the naturalistic decoration of the period reflecting the Mughal love of nature. Worn as a talisman with the inscription facing outward, it was mounted and secured by the drill holes to each side.
Centuries of tradition have held certain precious stones to be imbued with powers radiated by celestial bodies. A logical inference was to augment this phenomenon by carving the stone with a suitable image of a deity, with symbols or with writing. In addition to this, the green colour of emerald holds a special significance within Islam; for this reason it is especially suited for engraving as a talisman. The other stone frequently used for Moslem religious inscriptions is jade, again with its variations of green colour.
The Patricia Emerald
At 632 carats, the Patricia is one of the world’s greatest emeralds. Named for the mine owner’s daughter when it was discovered in 1920 at the Chivor Mine, this dihexagonal, or twelve-sided, emerald resides in the New York Museum of Natural History.
The Mackay Emerald Necklace
The stunning 167.97-carat Mackay Emerald was mined in Muzo, Colombia. The largest cut emerald in the National Gem Collection, it is set in an Art Deco diamond and platinum necklace designed by Cartier Inc. In 1931, Clarence H. Mackay presented the necklace as a wedding gift to his wife, Anna Case, a prima donna of the New York Metropolitan Opera from 1909 to 1920. The piece was donated to the Smithsonian Institute by Mrs. Anna Case Mackay in 1984. Source: The National Gem Collection by Jeffrey E. Post.
The Guinness Emerald Crystal
The 1759-carat Guinness Emerald Crystal. The stone was found at the Coscuez in Colombia and is one of the largest gem-quality emerald crystals in the world. Today it is part of the collection of the Banco Nazionale de la Republica in Bogotà, Colombia.
The Chalk Emerald Ring
The superb clarity and deep green color of the 37.82-carat Chalk Emerald ranks amoung the very finest Colombian emeralds. According to legend, it was once the centerpiece of an emerald and diamond necklace belonging to a maharani of the former state of Baroda in India. It originally weighed 38.40 carats, but was recut and set in a ring, where it is surrounded by sixty pear-shaped diamonds (totalling 15 carats), by Harry Winston Inc. The ring was a gift to the Smithsonian Institute by Mr. and Mrs. O. Roy Chalk in 1972. Source: The National Gem Collection by Jeffrey E. Post.
One of the most valuable and famous ermald in the world, the Gachala was discovered in 1967 in the mine called Vega de San Juan, located in Gachala, a town in Colombia. The 858 carat stone is now part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution, donated by 1969 by Harry Winston.
Hooker Emerald Brooch
The Hooker Emerald Brooch, containing a 75-carat square-cut emerald, is also in the U.S. National Museum of Natural History.
Indian Emerald Necklace
This art deco, Indian-style necklace features 24 emerald drops of graduated sizes, each adjoined by a smaller emerald bead. All are set in platinum with hundreds of small diamonds.
The Vladimir Tiara, sometimes referred to as the Diamond and Pearl Tiara, was purchased in 1921 by Queen Mary, who bought it from Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia. The tiara was sold to Queen Mary along with a diamond riviere for a price of £28,000 (£984,200). Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, after her marriage to Prince Nicholas of Greece, known always as Princess Nicholas of Greece, had inherited it from her motherGrand Duchess Maria Pavlovna. The tiara had been smuggled out of Russia by a British diplomat during the 1917 revolution. Over the years Princess Nicholas of Greece sold various pieces of jewellery from her personal collection; as a refugee, she had to sell the pieces to support her family and various charities.
The Topkapi Emerald Dagger
The Topkapi Emerald Dagger is the renowned jewel-studded dagger of mid-18th century origin, preserved and displayed for public viewing at the treasury of the Topkapi Palace Museum, in Istanbul, Turkey. One side of the handle of the dagger is set with three large Colombian emeralds of good color and clarity whose size and prominence undoubtedly gave the dagger its popular name. The exquisitely crafted jewel-studded dagger was actually one of several other valuable gifts that was carried by an embassy of Sultan Mahmud I (1730-54) to Iran, to be gifted to the mighty Iranian conqueror Nadir Shah, but unfortunately was not delivered as Nadir Shah was assassinated, when the embassy just crossed the borders of the Ottoman Empire into Iranian territory. The gifts including the jewel-studded dagger were then returned to the treasury at Istanbul, and eventually became one of the most celebrated treasures in the treasury of the Topkapi Palace Museum. The popularity of the dagger, as well as the museum that holds it, were given a major boost worldwide, when it was made the subject of a popular Hollywood heist film in 1964, based on Eric Ambler’s novel “The Light of Day.” (via)
Here is a selection of other notable emerald jewels:
A Magnificent and Rare Emerald and Diamond Tiara, Formerly in the Collection of Princess Katharina Henckel Von Donnersmarck, circa 1900
Formed as a crown of foliate and floral inspiration, the base set with a central row of eleven larger cushion-shaped diamonds, each collet set between pairs of muguets, above a line of laurel leaf motifs and surmounted by festooned ribbons, pierced and millegrain set throughout with rose and brilliant-cut diamonds, surmount by a row of eleven polished pear-shaped emeralds, totalling approximately 500 carats, graduated in size from the centre, each emerald drilled and held in diamond set cusp motifs, the nine largest tipped by rose diamonds, mounted in silver and gold, later detachable tiara fitting.
This magnificent emerald and diamond tiara is possibly the most important to have appeared at auction in over 30 years – since in fact it was sold at Sotheby’s Zurich in 1979. It is also probably the grandest tiara to exist outside Royal, State and museum collections.
When this tiara was first offered at auction at Sotheby’s in Zurich, on 15th November 1979, lot 823, the catalogue footnote stated that family tradition linked the eleven pear-shaped emerald drops to the French Imperial Crown Jewels. In Paris in 1887, seventeen years after the fall of the monarchy, the French government sold the Crown Jewels at public auction. Despite the fact that Empress Eugénie adored emeralds, there were very few jewels set with emeralds in the illustrated catalogue of the sale, and none set with stones similar to the pear-shaped drops of this tiara. However, in 1872, the sale of Empress Eugénie private collection of jewels had included 25 polished emerald drops. An annotated copy of the sale catalogue is held at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London where the buyer of each lot is identified. At the time of the sale no one single buyer bought sufficient emerald drops to create this tiara, but it is entirely possible that at a later stage a group of 11 emeralds originally purchased at the 1872 sale, was put together to crown this superb jewel commissioned by Count Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck for his second wife Katharina Wassilievna de Slepzoff. The Imperial provenance of the stones would have been a perfect fit to the grandeur of the commission and the status of the Donnersmarcks: as it is known Count Henckel von Donnersmarck also bought Empress Eugénie’s pearls for his wife La Païva through two different agents on the occasion of their marriage in 1871.
The eleven exceptionally rare emerald drops are truly outstanding Colombian specimens of superb colour and size. They would originally have been drilled and polished in India, probably during the 17th or 18th century, and would almost certainly, have adorned the neck of a Maharaja.
The tiara is not signed and does not bear any mark, however in quality of design and manufacture, it is in line with the best creations of the great Parisian Maisons of the time. Boucheron and Chaumet were the favoured jewellers of fin de siècle European nobility and the Henckel von Donnersmarck were patrons of both firms. Chaumet in particular, in 1896, had been commissioned by Count Henckel von Donnersmarck to produce a crown of diamond leaves and ribbons which could be surmounted by five emeralds or pearls, and is entirely possible that the same firm created the tiara offered here, with its line of laurel leaves, swags and lily-of-the-valley motifs.
IMPRESSIVE EMERALD AND DIAMOND PENDENT NECKLACE, CARTIER – Sotheby’s
Suspending to the front with two cushion-shaped emeralds weighing approximately 44.42 and 42.50 carats, surrounded by brilliant-cut diamonds, to a necklace composed of brilliant-cut diamonds, decorated at intervals with clusters of pear-shaped diamonds, the diamonds together weighing approximately 75.00 carats, mounted in platinum and 18 karat yellow gold, length approximately 430mm, signed and numbered HSS347.
A SUPERB ANTIQUE INDIAN EMERALD, DIAMOND AND ENAMEL SARPECH – Christie’s
The articulated full sized turban ornament comprising three hinged central panels set with open backed vari-cut emeralds within table-cut diamond and yellow gold surrounds suspending three emerald bead drops, the tapering scroll aigrette in the form of an openwork flowerhead with a central hexagonal emerald to the graduated emerald and diamond surmount suspending an emerald bead, the head bands on either side set with open backed graduated emeralds and table-cut diamonds suspending an emerald bead fringe, the foiled diamond backs decorated with red and white enamel Mughal flowers, mounted in yellow gold, Deccan, mid-18th century, 36.5cm
Accompanied by report no. 62138 dated 27 February 2012 from the SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute stating that 78 emeralds are of Colombian origin, 1 is of Brazilian origin, with minor to significant amount of oil; and a letter indicating that the Sarpech can be considered a ‘very exceptional treasure.’
A VERY RARE PLATINUM, CARVED EMERALD, EMERALD AND SAPPHIRE BROOCH, CARTIER, NEW YORK, CIRCA 1920 – Sotheby’s
VERY FINE PAIR OF EMERALD AND DIAMOND PENDENT EARRINGS – Sotheby’s
Each suspending on a step-cut emerald weighing 10.28 and 10.19 carats respectively, surmounted by a step-cut diamond each weighing 2.01 carats, mounted in platinum.
AN EMERALD, PEARL AND DIAMOND RING, BY JAR – Christie’s
Set with an oval-shaped emerald, to the pearl and diamond gallery and hoop, mounted in platinum, 1988, ring size 3¾
Accompanied by report no. 61997 dated 6 February 2012 from the SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute stating that the emerald is of Colombian origin, with moderate amount of oil
AN IMPRESSIVE EMERALD, NATURAL PEARL, CULTURED PEARL AND DIAMOND TIARA – Christie’s
The Belle Epoque diamond-set scroll tapering bandeau on a later added base of graduated cultured and natural pearls with diamond rondelle spacers, to the later added graduated bar surmount set with cultured and natural pearls, emeralds and diamonds, inner diameter 14.5 cm
Accompanied by report no. 62909 dated 2 April 2012 from the SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute stating that the pearls are natural and cultured pearls
AN EMERALD AND DIAMOND NECKLACE, BY HARRY WINSTON
Composed of two opposing undulating lines of graduated rectangular-cut emeralds and diamonds, enhanced by circular-cut diamond or emerald trim, tapering to a point, set with a detachable pendant comprising two modified pear-shaped emeralds, suspending a pear-shaped emerald, weighing approximately 18.95 carats, within a graduated circular-cut diamond surround, mounted in platinum, 1956, 16¾ ins., accompanied by two brooch fittings, in a Harry Winston black leather case
Signed Winston for Harry Winston
Glamourous and important, this necklace by Harry Winston illustrates the sensibility of 1950s jewels. At the time, necklaces were often designed to sit high on the neck as the perfect compliment to the plunging décolletages of the era’s evening gowns. Jewelry designs were fluid and feminine, with detachable parts that permitted day-to-night versatility. In addition to his reputation as “King of Diamonds,” Harry Winston is credited with revolutionizing jewelry manufature and design. Without the distracting weight of excess metal, his finely-crafted creations set the standard for elegant simplicity.
A PLATINUM, EMERALD AND DIAMOND RING – Sotheby’s
the modified emerald-cut emerald weighing 22.84 carats, flanked by 8 baguette diamonds weighing approximately .90 carat, size 5¼, numbered 4019169, circa 1930; with box signed Van Cleef & Arpels, Inc.
This elegant emerald and diamond ring was presented by Vincent Astor to the soon-to-be Mrs. Astor upon their engagement in 1953. Cecil Beaton, a friend of Mrs. Astor, was called upon to take portraits on the evening that she and Vincent held a party at the St. Regis to celebrate their marriage. Mrs. Astor wore a flowing Balmain ball gown made of various shades of blue and green satin. In her 1980 autobiography Mrs. Astor wrote that her emerald and diamond engagement ring was one of the jewels she chose to wear that evening “to complete the color scheme.”
Elizabeth Taylor’s emerald and diamond parure by Bvlgari, the necklace sold for $6.13 million.
AN EXCEPTIONAL EMERALD AND DIAMOND NECKLACE, BY HARRY WINSTON – Christie’s
Designed as a line of graduated brilliant-cut diamonds, with twin pear-shaped diamond detail, suspending five detachable pear-shaped emerald and diamond pendants, to the marquise-shaped diamond and pear-shaped emerald pendant clasp, mounted in platinum, 39.0 cm, in black suede Harry Winston pouch
With maker’s mark of Jacques Timey for Harry Winston
Van Cleef & Arpels Colombian Emerald-Cut Emerald & Diamond Ring – Betteridge
Colombian, emerald-cut emerald ring in platinum with fancy-cut diamond shoulders, the emerald weighing 8.20 carats and two diamonds weighing 1.10 total carats, numbered 144.034, signed Van Cleef & Arpels.
Emerald Bead Necklace with Bulgari Diamond-Set Clasp – Betteridge
Emerald bead necklace, composed of 41 graduated emerald beads weighing approximately 860.58 total carats (AGL-certified: natural), accented by diamond-set, rondelles in platinum, and secured by diamond-set clasp, the clasp signed Bvlgari.
A MAGNIFICENT PAIR OF EMERALD, DIAMOND AND PEARL EAR PENDANTS – Christie’s
EACH SUSPENDING A PEAR-SHAPED EMERALD WEIGHING APPROXIMATELY 23.34 AND 23.18 CARATS, SPACED BY A PEARL, TO THE CUSHION-SHAPED DIAMOND SURMOUNT WEIGHING APPROXIMATELY 3.01 AND 3.01 CARATS, MOUNTED IN PLATINUM, 4.5 CM LONG
A PLATINUM, 18 KARAT GOLD, EMERALD AND DIAMOND NECKLACE, BULGARI, 1959 – Sotheby’s
Centering a flexible composition of 13 emerald drops weighing approximately 71.00 carats, further enhanced with 14 cabochon emeralds weighing approximately 41.00 carats accented by 14 marquise-shaped diamonds weighing approximately 8.50 carats, and set throughout with numerous round diamonds weighing approximately 50.00 carats, length 14½ inches, unsigned, French workshop and assay marks; with signed and fitted box.
This magnificent emerald and diamond necklace was commissioned in the fall of 1958 while Mr. and Mrs. Astor were visiting England. As Mrs. Astor recounted in her 1980 autobiography, “Vincent amused himself by having old Mr. Bulgari come over from Rome to discuss an emerald necklace and earrings for me.” After spending the afternoon with the couple, Mr. Bulgari returned to Rome to contemplate the design of the suite. Mrs. Astor later noted that, “Vincent was very pleased with himself.” It was shortly after this trip to England, in February of 1959, that Vincent passed away. As far as Mrs. Astor knew, the design for the emerald suite remained a mystery.
It came as quite a surprise to Mrs. Astor when she received a package from Mr. Bulgari nearly two years later. As Mrs. Astor wrote, “A strange thing happened at this very moment. Mr. Bulgari, the Italian jeweler, sent over a colored transparency of the emerald necklace and earrings for which we had selected the stones in London in 1958.” Attached to the transparency was a note from Vincent, asking that the pieces be completed in time for Mrs. Astor’s birthday in March. Having recently returned from a yacht voyage with friends and in the midst of implementing changes within the Astor Foundation, Mrs. Astor felt that the timing was inopportune for such a lavish present. However, after some reassuring words from her banker and further admiration of the design, Mrs. Astor moved forward with the purchase concluding that the necklace “is pretty and not ostentatious but very elegant.”
The emerald and diamond necklace is distinguished both by its impressive design and by Mrs. Astor’s emotional ties to it. Mrs. Astor explained this connection in her autobiography writing, “Considering that it was really Vincent’s last personal gift to me, I am very sentimental about it, and I felt that it was a sign of encouragement from Vincent.”
PAIR OF EMERALD AND DIAMOND EAR CLIPS – Sotheby’s
Each set with a detachable step-cut emerald weighing 35.53 and 36.03 carats respectively, suspended from a cluster surmount of marquise-shaped and brilliant-cut diamonds, mounted in gold, clip fittings.
CABOCHON EMERALD AND DIAMOND RING, JAR, PARIS – Sotheby’s
The cabochon emerald weighing approximately 27.00 carats, set within a diamond-set surround atop a diamond-set shank, mounted in platinum, size 6, signed JAR, Paris, maker’s mark, French assay mark. With signed box with monogram LMS.
A PAIR OF EMERALD AND DIAMOND EAR PENDANTS – Christie’s
Each suspending a detachable pendant, set with a pear-shaped emerald, weighing approximately 10.82 and 14.48 carats, within a graduated circular-cut diamond surround, joined by a pear-shaped diamond double-link, from a surmount of similar design, set with a cushion-cut emerald, weighing approximately 8.02 and 9.14 carats, mounted in platinum
With reports 95000412 and 95000312 dated 4 May 2009 from the AGTA Gemological Testing Center stating that the data obtained during the examination of the pear-shaped emeralds, weighing approximately 10.82 and 14.48 carats, indicates the probable geographic origin is Colombia. Minor and moderate clarity enhancement, respectively