The Worlds Finest Emerald Treasures

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Emeralds were once more valuable than diamonds. Many of the worlds finest emerald treasures are in museums and royal collections.

Up until the sixteenth century there were only two mines that produced emeralds; the Wadi Sikait mine on the Red Sea in Egypt and Habachtal in Austria. That all changed with the Spanish conquest of South America and the subsequent plundering of riches from the palaces of the Aztecs and Incas. The emerald's flowed into Europe where they were extremely desirable because of their rarity and exclusiveness.

Moreover, the emeralds from the mine at Muzo were larger and their green color more vibrant than had been seen before. As a result Colombian emeralds from this period are an integral part of Royal and museum collections worldwide.

The Hooker emerald: this is a 75.47 carat, square, inclusion-free Colombian emerald that was originally the property of Abdul Hamid II, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The emerald was used by the sultan to decorate a belt buckle until it was purchased by Tiffany & Co in 1911 and was made into a brooch. The brooch has 109 round diamonds and twenty baguettes, the combined weight of the diamonds are 13 carats. Mrs. Janet Annenberg Hooker (sister of Walter Annenberg) purchased the emerald brooch from Tiffany in 1955 and donated it to the Smithsonian Institute in 1977.

The Spanish Inquisition necklace: neither the origin nor the name of this necklace can be substantiated. We know that parts of the original necklace are over three hundred years old, and some believe its jewels to have once belonged to the Spanish royal family. Its 374 diamonds must have come from India, as India was the only diamond source at that time. There are 15 emeralds, the largest of which is 45 carats, all of which came from Colombia. According to experts the necklace that exists today was probably created in the twentieth century, judging from its style. The Maharaja of Idore owned the necklace until 1948 when it was purchased by Harry Winston. The necklace became part of the National Gem Collection when it was donated to the Smithsonian Institute by Cora Hubbard Williams in 1972.

The Emerald Unguentarium: At the History of Art Museum in Vienna there is a curious looking, yet magnificent jug that was cut from an enormous emerald. The vessel is about the size of a fist and weighs 2,205 carats. The original emerald weighed 2,680 carats and it was carved out with the idea of maintaining as much of the emeralds original size as possible. The humongous emerald originated from the Muzo mine in Colombia and is valued at over 100 million dollars. The rough emerald was purchased from the Spanish by the Hapsburgs in the 17th century. The Emperor Ferdinand III commissioned the gem-cutter Carver Dionysio of Prague to create the vessel which took over a year to make.

A necklace from the Imperial Collection of the Iranian crown jewels.

The Iranian Crown Jewels: also known as the Crown Jewels of Persia, this is one of the largest and most valuable collections in the world. The collection contains a box made of emeralds and diamonds, the quality of which is unparalleled. There is also a globe made with 51,000 emeralds, sapphires, diamonds and rubies. The Kiani Crown is decorated with 1,800 pearls and features large emeralds. The Iranian crowns jewels are on display at the Treasury of National Jewels, which is located inside Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

The Emerald jewelry box; from the collection of the Iranian crown jewels.

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