First mined by the Ancient Egyptians in the days of Cleopatra, emeralds have been prized the world over for their breathtaking green color, healing properties and the promise of bringing good luck to their owners.
One legendary example of May’s official birthstone is the “Mogul Mughal Emerald,” a 217.80-carat precious stone that dates to the reign of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1695. Sourced in Colombia and brought to India by Spanish traders, the Mogul Mughal Emerald is 10 cm (approx. 4 inches) tall and shaped like a rectangular tablet.
One side of the emerald is inscribed with prayer texts in elegant naskh script, a special calligraphic style for writing the Arabic alphabet.
The other side is engraved with magnificent floral ornaments, including a central rosette, poppy flowers and scrolling foliate detail. The beveled edges are carved with cross-pattern incisions and herringbone decoration.
The maharajas and maharanis of the Indian subcontinent coveted emeralds because their holy scriptures anointed the gem with magnificent mystical and spiritual properties.
When Spanish Conquistadors discovered rich sources of large, fine-quality emeralds in Colombia during the 16th and 17th centuries, Spain soon learned that the Royals of Middle East empires and the Asian subcontinent were hungry for their precious gems.
The historic Mogul Mughal Emerald hit the auction block at Christie’s London in September of 2001 and was sold to an unidentified buyer for $2.2 million. Today, it can be seen at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar.
Emerald is the most valuable variety of the beryl family and is known to display a wide variety of visible inclusions, which are referred to as “jardin” (French for “garden”). These imperfections do not detract from the stone’s beauty but, instead, give each stone a unique fingerprint and distinct character.
Colombia continues to be the world’s most prolific producer of fine emeralds, constituting more than half of the global production.
Images of Mogul Mughal Emerald: Christie’s. Colombian emerald jewelry via WikiCommons.