Most World-Famous Emeralds
For over 3,000 years, emeralds have been highly valued, and several of them have gained fame. Below are four of the most famous emeralds, notable for their beauty, size, or historical significance.
The Bahia Emerald
The Bahia Emerald, mined in 2001, is a cluster of approximately eight emerald crystals embedded in host rock, discovered in one of Brazil's two emerald-rich states, Minas Gerais and Bahia. Brazilian emeralds are typically of inferior quality, but this unique cluster is an exception. One of the crystals is the largest emerald crystal ever mined, making it an exceptional specimen. The Bahia Emerald's total weight is 341 kg, and its emerald crystals have an estimated weight of 1,700,000 carats. The emerald's history is shrouded in mystery as it appeared in the United States shortly after its mining, where it was the subject of a legal dispute that lasted nearly seven years. The Bahia Emerald now belongs to its rightful owner, with its fate yet to be determined.
During the 18th century, the Gaekwad Dynasty, a royal family that ruled over Baroda, an early Indian state, owned the Chalk Emerald. The emerald, weighing approximately 38.40 carats, was mined in Columbia and was the centerpiece of a delicate emerald and diamond necklace. The maharajas and princes of Baroda passed the Chalk Emerald down from generation to generation until the dynasty ended, and the state of Baroda joined India in 1949. At that point, the Chalk Emerald was sold.
After changing hands a few times, the Chalk Emerald gemstone eventually made its way to the United States, where it was re-cut and set in a ring designed by Harry Winston, Inc. The emerald now has a cushion cut and is surrounded by sixty pear-shaped diamonds.
In 1972, the Chalk Emerald found a permanent home at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, thanks to the generosity of its then-owners, Mr. and Mrs. O. Roy Chalk. Today, the Chalk Emerald continues to be admired by thousands of visitors to the museum.
The Crown of the Andes
The Crown of the Andes, made of gold and emeralds, was a votive crown used to express gratitude to a deity for a blessing received. Votive crowns were commonly used in the past. This particular crown was crafted in Popayán, Columbia, in the late 1500s. During this time, there was a devastating smallpox outbreak in Columbia, but Popayán was miraculously spared. To show their appreciation, the people of the city gifted the Crown of the Andes to the statue of the Virgin Mary in the local cathedral. The crown stands at 34 cm tall and weighs slightly over 2 kg, boasting 450 emeralds. In the early 1900s, the crown was sold and it is now housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
The Cambridge Emeralds
During her travels in Germany in 1818, Augusta of Hesse-Kassel, the Duchess of Cambridge, participated in a charity lottery and emerged as the lucky winner of a set of more than 30 cabochon emeralds. Unlike other gems, cabochon emeralds are polished and shaped instead of being cut and faceted.
Augusta bequeathed the Cambridge emeralds to her daughter, who later passed them on to her own daughter, Queen Mary. Fifteen of the emeralds were incorporated into the Vladimir tiara, which was composed of gold and diamonds. The remaining gems were transformed into various pieces of jewelry, including brooches, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, by the royal jewelers at Queen Mary's request.In 1953, Queen Elizabeth II became the new owner of all the Cambridge emeralds, and she continues to wear them regularly.