The alluring green of emerald has fascinated some of the world’s most powerful men and women. Queen Cleopatra, the great Mughal Emperors, the Maharajas of India and Queen Elizabeth II- all have coveted this exquisite stone. Throughout history, royalty have worn emeralds to showcase their wealth and power. A reason for its enduring lure besides its stunning depth of color is its association with eternal life, wisdom, wealth, love and as a protection against enchantment and spells. Now let’s take a look at some of the most dazzling emerald pieces owned by royalty:
These jewels belong to the personal collection of Queen Elizabeth II and were inherited from her grandmother, Queen Mary. The tiara belonged to Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, wife of the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, the third son of Czar Alexander II. It was bought by Queen Mary from the daughter of the Duchess. As much as the Vladimir Tiara was Queen Mary's favorite, it also became the favorite tiara of Queen Elizabeth II. She has been wearing this tiara on formal occasions since the time of her coronation in 1953. She wears them with the matching Delhi Darbar necklace and a pair of matching emerald earrings.
This was a gift by the Maharanis of India to Queen Mary when she visited India in 1911 with King George V to attend the Durbar organized in Delhi for their proclamation as the Emperor and Empress of India.
The Timurids of Iran, the ancestors of the Mughals started the tradition of engraving titles, names and sacred text on precious stones including emeralds. As much as symbols of opulence, these stones were also worn as protective talismans. The most famous among them were the Taj Mahal emerald and the Moghul Emerald. The Taj Mahal Emerald, circa 1630-1650: So named because like the Taj Mahal it is carved with chrysanthemum, lotus and poppy flowers. This intricately carved stone was commissioned possibly during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan.
Dating back to 1695, this is one of largest emeralds ever recorded, measuring 10 cms and weighing 217 carats. What makes the Mogul emerald unique is the inscription of five lines of Shiite prayer written in calligraphy on one face and an ornate carving of poppies on the other. Originally mined in Colombia, it was then sold in India to one of the Mughal emperors. There exist some more mesmerizing carved emeralds from the Mughal period.
1. Marjorie Merriweather Post’s platinum brooch from the 1920s features a spectacular 60 carat carved Mughal emerald surrounded by diamonds.
2. The second carved emerald dates back to the late 17th to early 18th century, and was set within the elegant and understated mounting by Cartier in the 1920s.
3. An inscribed Mughal emerald personal seal set in a diamond encrusted gold bangle, bearing the name of Major Alexander Hannay, an East India Company officer.
The Maharajas of India had extravagant tastes in jewellery and were connoisseurs of precious stones. Among one of the most magnificent pieces of emerald jewellery was the Baroda Necklace gifted by Maharaja Pratapsingh Gaekwad of Baroda to his wife, Maharani Sita Devi. He is said to have showered her with more than 300 jewels from the family treasury, apart from collecting more precious stones during their multiple trips to jewellery houses in Paris.
American jeweler Harry Winston, who named the necklace, claimed that it was owned first by Spanish royalty though the first recorded owner of the piece was Maharaja Tukoji Rao III of Indore. The necklace is now on display at the Smithsonian museum in Washington DC, USA.
Spanish-born Anita Delgado was wooed by Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala when she was just 16, finally becoming his fifth wife in 1907 at the age of 17. Though they eventually separated as a result of her extramarital affairs, the young queen was showered with riches by her husband. Her beautiful diamond and emerald art-deco necklace was commissioned in 1925.
This was created by Cartier in 1926 for the Maharaja of Nawanagar. Just the 6 main emeralds mounted on the necklace total over 224 carats in weight!