It’s May, and with this blooming month in Spring comes the lush greens of the emerald. History shows that emeralds have been worn by some of the most influential women in time, like Jackie Onassis Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth II, just to name a couple. Our search takes us a little further back in time, to some of the biggest and boldest emerald pieces known to man.
The Chalk Emerald
The superb clarity and color of the Chalk Emerald ranks it among one of the world’s finest Colombian emeralds. This 37.8-carat emerald exhibits the velvety deep green color that is highly prized. According to legend, the Chalk Emerald was once the centerpiece of an emerald and diamond necklace belonging to a Maharani of the former state of Baroda, India. It originally weighed 38.4 carats, but was recut and set in a platinum and gold ring designed by Harry Winston, Inc., where it is surrounded by 60 pear-shaped diamonds totaling 15 carats. It was donated to the Smithsonian by Mr. and Mrs. O. Roy Chalk in 1972 and is on display in the Gem Gallery at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.
Diadem of the Duchess of Angoulême Marie Thérèse of France
The history of this exquisite tiara is almost as complicated as that of its famous owner, the Duchess of Angouleme. It’s value is immense not only because of the exceptional stones used for its creation but also because of the fact it is one of the few pieces of jewelry of the period that remain in their original state.
This tiara was commissioned in 1819 by Louis-Antoine, the Duke of Angouleme for his wife Marie-Therese, the Duchess of Angouleme. According to Bernard Morel’s masterpiece “Les Joyaux de la Couronne de France” (Crown Jewels of France), pictured below. The final work on the tiara was completed in late 1819 or early 1820. After a long list of owners the diadem finally became the property of the Louvre Museum, where it is displayed today.
The Moghul Emerald
Indian culture has a long tradition of appreciating gems and jewelry, and emeralds were no exception. The rulers of India were passionate about the green gem which was supposed to bring good luck. One of the most unique artifacts from India is the Moghul Emerald. Dating from 1695, The Moghul Emerald is a 217.80 carat square gem which was carved on both sides. The front side features an elegant Arabic script with a Shi’a Muslim prayer. On the reverse is a naturalistic floral carving design of a rosette surrounded by poppies. As the Moghul rulers were Sunni Muslim, the carved emerald talisman is not thought to have belonged to the Emperor himself, but rather to one of his officers. The gem itself is believed to have been mined in Colombia. It was sold at auction by Christie’s of London in 2001 for $2.2 million.
The Guinness Emerald Crystal
The Guinness Emerald Crystal was discovered in the Coscuez emerald mines. It is one of the largest gem-quality emerald crystals in the world—1759 carats—and is the largest emerald crystal in the collection of emeralds belonging to the Banco Nacionale de la Republica in Bogota, Colombia.
The Seringapatam Jewels
One of the most breathtaking suites of emerald jewelry in existence is the Seringapatam Jewels, which is housed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in England. The ornate set consists of a necklace, brooch, bracelet, and pair of drop earrings created from emeralds, diamonds, gold, and platinum. The emeralds were originally a reward given to British Major-General George Harris, following a victory at the Battle of Seringapatam in India in 1799. The emeralds remained in the family, and were eventually set into the spectacular suite of jewelry for the wife of the fourth Lord Harris, Lucy Ada. The gems were made into jewelry over a period of years, beginning with their marriage in 1874 and continuing until 1887.
Do you have a favorite emerald in history? Tell us about it in the comments!