“Give me songs to sing and emerald dreams to dream and I’ll give you love unfolding.”
– Jim Morrison
Evoking images of Ireland’s luscious green forests and hills, of Cleopatra’s endless adoration, and Catherine the Great’s colossal Colombian creation, emeralds have been a part of human history since the dawn of time. Emerging first in ancient Egypt, some historians suggest the stones have been mined since at least 330 BC. Since then, our love of this precious gemstone has never faltered.
When first seen in jewellery, these beautiful gemstones were often kept in their natural, rough state, sometimes drilled to be threaded onto necklaces and garments. To begin with, polishing of these stones remained minimal, examples of which are seen as cabochon or rounded beads, far-flung from the faceting we know today, which would not be seen for centuries.
Egypt remained the prime source of emeralds for millennia, until the 1520’s and the subsequent emergence of ‘The New World’, and discovery of Colombia’s emerald mines. Before being discovered by the Spanish, emeralds were already revered in native culture, with the gems being worshipped, playing important roles in sacrificial offerings like the infamous El Dorado ceremony. An abundance and appreciation of these gems is evident in Hernán Cortés’ account of first meeting the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II, who described him as being “bedecked in fine emeralds”.
Traversing through time, beautiful emerald pieces appear in some incredible incarnations across the world. These include the unforgettable find unearthed in the Cheapside Hoard, a treasure trove of over 400 pieces of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery found in the basement of a London building, featuring an intricate pocket watch housed in a large Colombian emerald of exquisite quality. Another famous example is the Mogul Mughal Emerald, a large 217.80 carat Colombian emerald, intricately engraved with scripture and floral motifs.
More recently, the image of Elizabeth Taylor donning her epic emerald suite springs to mind, gifted to her by Richard Burton whilst shooting Cleopatra in Italy, a fitting film considering the Pharaoh’s fascination with these glorious gemstones. This beautiful Bulgari creation consists of a brooch, a bracelet, a pair of drop earrings, a colossal cluster ring, and of course the necklace. The necklace is arguably the most iconic piece from the suite, set with sixteen graduated rectangular and square cut emeralds; embodying the elegance of Elizabeth Taylor, capturing the zeitgeist of the sixties in all its splendour.
With a deserving reputation for producing the finest quality emeralds in the world, with particular emphasis on the output of both the Chivor and Muzo mines, one cannot go wrong when choosing a Colombian emerald. These mines are famed for producing emeralds with a naturally saturated pure green hue and superior clarity, an incredibly rare and sought after characteristic amongst emeralds. Whilst Colombia still produces emeralds today, the quality cannot compare to those of yesteryear, making the stones set in antique and vintage pieces an incredible investment. Today, emeralds are heavily oiled to improve their colour, or even filled with resins to mask surface reaching fractures. Here at Berganza we are incredibly particular about the pieces we allow into our collection; every emerald is natural and of the finest quality.
Come and discover the enigma that is emeralds at Berganza today, you won’t regret it…
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