Emeralds between myths, curiosities and jewels that have made history
A gem that refers to elegance, perfection and refinement. It will be the bright and bright color, with a blue background, the octagonal cut that enhances beauty and brilliance, the tiaras and the parure of a bright green, worn over the centuries by royalty, the fact is that emerald is the symbol par excellence of wealth , spirituality and kindness.
50 shades of green
Emerald is a variety of beryllium, characterized by an intense green color given by a particular presence of chromium. This gem actually varies in its color shades, from bluish-green to a more tending to yellow-green color. The most prized color is an intense green, and although most of the stones have glassy luster, only the best qualities are diaphanous.
Imagine a shining green garden dotted with a few flowers and twigs: it must be what even the experts who assigned the inclusions and subtle fractures of the gem the name “jardin” must have done. And just as a garden is all the more enchanting as the color details are expertly proportioned, so the emerald will be more valuable if the inclusions will not occupy a preponderant portion of the stone.
From the beginning it was desired that the emerald was always so beautiful: i treatments to improve the appearance of the stone in fact they have very ancient origins. One of these consists in heating the stone to improve its color intensity and purity (this treatment is recognized by professionals and must be specified in the certificate of the gemology laboratory that examined the gem).
The charm of the color and the atmosphere of royalty suggested by the emerald have always meant that attempts have been made to reproduce the gem. We speak of a brace if the imitation consists of two parts of different material (for example, colorless beryl and green glass), cemented together by a transparent mastic, and triplet if the constituent parts are three. The first attempts to create one synthetic emerald they date back to 1848 with experiments documented by J. Ebelmen, director of the French porcelain factory in Sévres, famous for its blue and green porcelain of refined elegance.
A golden cave where emeralds were hidden: myths and meanings of this gem
Emerald, in Latin smaragdus, in Greek smaragdos, from the Chaldean samorat or from the Semitic baraqt or, again, from the Sanskrit barag (flashing); in Persian emerald it means “heart of stone“.
One of the first images that cross our mind when thinking about green is a lawn. Green evokes the natural kingdom and all its laws. But green is not just nature: emerald is in fact a gem rich in meanings, between myths and legends.
“Per aspera ad astra”: beauty, you know, is achieved by overcoming adversity and myths are the first to report it. It is said that it was the emerald, the gem that Lucifer loved to adorn himself, that broke away from his forehead during the fight with the Archangel Gabriel. Separating from Lucifer’s forehead, the emerald witnessed the taking away from evil. Lucifer’s emerald plays a crucial role even in one of the most evocative myths of the history of the times: the Angels collected it and obtained a Chalice, the Holy Grail. In India, as in the Nordic sagas, dragons, griffons and winged snakes keep the precious gem in caves and caverns.
The imaginary is filled with mystical wealth if we think of the Kingdom of Ancient Egypt: legend has it that its caves, the “Cleopatra mines”, were all gold, dotted with emeralds, and guarding them were guardians with large claws . Only those who communicated with the spirits and souls of the dead had the privilege of venturing to take them away from their place of origin.
With such a mythology behind it, the emerald could not therefore exempt itself from a wide range of meanings. Gem that defeats evil, symbol of divine revelation, emblem of chastity, wealth, spirituality is kindness. With its intense green color it has become synonymous with spring, rebirth, hope; it also means beauty, honor, goodness and faithfulness. Here the emerald can be given as engagement ring, symbol of truth and faithfulness (tradition has it that if the bride had betrayed her future husband, the gem would have crumbled into a thousand fragments). Among the celebrities is a four carat emerald mounted on satin yellow gold and brilliant cut diamonds, to sign the link between Olivier Martinez and Halle Berry.
The most important sites
“There is only one noble origin for emerald: Colombia“. So says Criaco Leo, Christie’s Jewelery specialist. “For centuries a source of the most beautiful emeralds in the world, Colombia has several mines such as those of Chivor, Casquez, La Pita or Cunas famous for its large emeralds. In the department of Boyacà, about 150 kilometers from the capital, there are the mines of Muzo from which gems of stupendous beauty come“.
The mines are located in one valley near the Andes, at almost 800 m altitude: in its veins there are stones of great beauty, of a very intense green; the presence of chromium and iron oxides and high pressure have contributed to creating precious stones of rare intensity.
The other large deposit is that of Chivor, located at 1,850 meters above sea level: the presence of a greater percentage of iron oxide in the soil has given rise to warmer emeralds.
Few specimens can compete with Colombian emeralds, certainly more precious than the gems found in other extraction sites: Brazil, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Russia, Afghanistan, India.
“In the current marketand “, continues Criaco Leo,”the emeralds of Zambia are taking hold, which however still do not reach the prices of the Colombian cousins, and rarely their quality; the same goes for the Brazilian ones. A separate discussion is for the Afghan emeralds which are very rare: the “Afghan Emerald”, sold at Christie’s auction in 2015, at the time made about $ 200,000 per carat“.
Elegant, refined, refined, simply unique, it is the cut that distinguishes this gem. The reasons why it was adopted are technical but the result is incomparable for the brightness of the stone.
Due to the impact sensitivity for the emerald, a special step cut has been devised, in which the four corners of the rectangular belt are replaced by short edges.
The lighter and clearer stones can be cut to brilliant, while the opaque stones are suitable for cabochon cut. Sometimes emeralds are also masterfully engraved or star-cut.
Pendant / brooch with cabochon cut emeralds from Colombia. Collection around 1925. Sotheby’s auction, 2019
© Tristan Fewings
Jewels of extraordinary beauty between past and present
Beauty has no time. Cleopatra understood it well: fervent supporter of the emeralds, the Egyptian queen, adored these jewels so as to infuse them with a further allure of royalty that has accompanied them for centuries. So visceral love for these gems (and for himself), Cleopatra he used to present a special gift to visiting dignitaries: a great representation of himself, carved in large emeralds.
Tiaras, bracelets, necklaces, rings, worn with skillful elegance by princesses and queens, transport us in a dimension of equal elegance. Magnificent is the tiara created for the consort princess Katharina Henckel von Donnersmarck, whose diadem is made with Shizuka diamonds for a total of 101.27 carats and a value of 12.76 million dollars.
Emerald tiara by Katharina Henckel von Donnersmarck
© ADRIAN DENNIS
The liaison of Wallis Simpson and King Edward is one of the greatest love stories ever. To frame it was the beautiful Cartier bracelet in white and black diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires. There Art Deco necklace which belonged to the Spanish flamenco dancer Anita Delgado, who became the princess of Kapurthala, is made up of diamonds, emeralds and crystals and was the most important piece that the Christie’s auction house in London has ever beaten. The necklace of emeralds and diamonds of the last queen of Italy Maria José is the result of the inspiration of the Van Cleef & Arpels fashion house.
The chocker by Lady D, which belonged to Queen Mary, shines with the purity of its diamonds and emeralds. Princess Diana wore this jewel on many occasions, even adapted the choker into a sort of hair band: an example of how the princess wanted to integrate royalty and tradition into the modern world.
There Bulgari parure of Elizabeth Taylor it is a hymn to the jewel that is self-surpassed for originality, richness of gems and singularity of forms. This marvel contained sixteen octagonal Colombian step cut emeralds, all wrapped in pear-shaped diamonds. It was given by Richard Burton on the occasion of the shooting of the film Cleopatra.
Liz Taylor with the Bulgari necklace
During the Academy Awards 2009 Angelina Jolie she wore a pair of $ 2.5 million emerald teardrop earrings by Lorraine Schwartz. Wonderful for the purity and size of the gems (115 carats), ton sur ton with the deep eyes of the actress.
Angelina Jolie with Lorraine Schwartz earrings
© Steve Granitz
The Cartier necklace signed with majestic and scenography, with diamonds and emeralds to draw a crocodile, worn by Monica Bellucci at the Cannes Film Festival 2019. A jewel that is more than an ornament, it is almost a sculpture.
Cartier necklace, worn by Monica Bellucci (cover photo)
© Vincent Wulveryck @ Cartier
The value of emeralds
We asked Criaco Leo for some clarification on the value of emeralds: “In my opinion, the emerald is the most difficult of the four precious stones – ed. Emerald, ruby, sapphire, diamond -. It has a very wide spectrum: a Colombian can go from $ 500 to $ 200,000 per carat. In addition to the origin, also for the emerald, a lot of attention is paid to the cleaning of the stone, keeping in mind that unlike the other stones, being a much more fragile and generally included mineral, it is almost impossible to find it “clean”. Precisely for this reason, for emerald treatments to improve its appearance are much more accepted than for other stones. The carat record for an emerald was achieved by the famous Rockefeller: Colombian emerald, without any treatment, of approximately 18.04 carats, sold at around $ 305,000 per carat, for a total of $ 5,500,000“.
We could not resist asking Criaco Leo which emerald had a particular meaning for him: “it is that of Catherine the Great, whom I have personally worked on“. This emerald has an imaginative history because it crossed the globe passing from the hands of the empress of Russia, to the Cartier maison to the entrepreneur Rockefeller: two centuries of history enclosed in a very precious gem.
Emerald of Catherine the Great
“Last December in New York, we sold the most beautiful emerald I have ever seen: the Dupont, sold for almost $ 180,000 per carat. A wonderful stone, in color and purity. The Tiffany frame was also splendid“. An immersion in the Belle Époque, in the brilliance of diamonds, in the poetry of the Tiffany fashion house and in the unique emerald green.