Famous Emeralds

BFP Magazine

The Crown of the Andes

Famous Emeralds

By Margaret Burgon Klemp

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Famous emeralds can be found in museums all over the world, with the largest collections found in the crown jewels of Iran most notably the Pahlabi Crown and the Nadir Throne which contains over a thousand emerald carats. In the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul a connoisseur of gemstones can find some of the world's finest emeralds. The museum is on the grounds of the palace complex of the sultan who lived there---Topkapi Saray. Among the artifacts is the famous Topkapi dagger that has three large emeralds from Colombia embedded in it. This dagger was commissioned by Sultan Mahmud I in 1747 as a gift for Nadir Shah, the ruler of Persia. The Shah died before he could receive it, and it remained in Turkey.

One of the most interesting pieces is known as one of the most famous and finest emeralds is The Crown of the Andes. The crown was never actually worn by any ruler or member of royalty, but instead was made to honor the Virgin Mary by the artisans Popayan, Colombia. It is known that many cultures thought that emeralds warded off disease. But while the people of Popayan wanted to give proper credit to Mary, they also wanted to recognize the importance of the emerald. Legend says the Virgin delivered the town from a plague which started in Ecuador. The legend claims that the Holy Virgin curtailed the spread of the vermin, stopping it from entering their city, and the Catholic Bishop there proposed that the populace do something to thank her for the intervention. Hence, The Crown of the Andes was born.

It took 24 goldsmiths and gem workers 6 years to produce it. It is made out of a 100 pound piece of gold. All of the gems used were originally owned by the Incas, with 447 emeralds included. The largest emerald is known as the Atahualpa, named after an Inca prince who died at the hands of the Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro in 1532.

The Crown made its public debut in a religious parade in 1599. It was stolen, recovered, and then sold to raise money for humanitarian projects such as the building of orphanages and hospitals. Eventually, after a long journey it came to rest in the hands of an anonymous American foundation. As far as anyone knows it is still owned by the foundation.

The Mogul Emerald is over 200 carats, and is considered to be one of the largest emeralds. At an auction at Christie's in New York it sold for $2,000,000 to an unidentified buyer. It is actually a rectangular tablet inscribed with Islamic prayers and also is engraved with representations of flowers. Emperor Aurangzeb was the last great Mogul ruler in India, and the emerald is believed to have its' historical origins during his reign in the 17th century. It was actually discovered in Colombia by the Spaniards, and like so many other emeralds eventually ended up in India.

The Patricia Emerald was discovered at the Chivor Mine in the Andes of Colombia in 1920, and is one of the largest uncut emeralds. The gem was named after the owner's daughter. Today, it is housed at the American Museum of Natural History. What makes this gem different from most other emeralds is that is twelve-sided while most emeralds have six sides.

The 6th Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish, received an incredible gift from Emperor Dom Pedro I of Brazil. The gem he received was a magnificent emerald uncovered at the Colombian Muzo mine just outside of Bogota. It has been known as "The Duke's Diamond" and referred to as The Duke of Devonshire Emerald by collectors. The Duke, who never married but led a rather pleasure filled life accepted the gem into the family collection in 1831. It is a deep green and absolutely transparent in certain areas and greatly flawed in others. For many years it was the largest uncut emerald in existence, and weighs 1383.95.

There are many museums worldwide that have fine emerald specimens. One of the best collections in South America can be found at the famous Museo de Oro in Bogota, Colombia. This particular exhibit of native and ancient artifacts is very closely guarded. The most treasured works are in a large safe-like area. Patrons are allowed to go into that area every half hour. At that time a large door is closed, and is not unlocked until the next half hour. It is not known exactly how much this collection is worth. But, other famous collections of famous gems and ancient crafts it has to be worth millions. One might say that the whole locked area itself is----priceless.

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