Lot 314. The Royal Emeralds of India. A superb pair of antique emerald bangles, 1900s, India. Estimate CHF1,500,000 – CHF2,000,000 ($1,573,871 - $2,098,495). Price realised CHF 1,625,000 © Christie's Image Ltd 2015.
Each set with twenty-three graduated rectangular-cut emeralds, in a raised openwork scrolling gold mount, 1900s, India, inner circumference 16.2 cm, each in a red leather fitted case bearing the initial 'B'
Accompanied by report no. 79094 dated 18 March 2015 from the SSEF Swiss Gemmological Institute stating that the 46 emeralds are of Colombian origin, with indications of none to moderate amount of oil, and an Appendix letter for the 'Exceptional Pair of Emerald Bangles' stating that 'The pair of emerald bangles is exceptional not only due to the matching quality of their colour and quality, but also based on the provide information, due to the fact that they have remained in pristine original condition for over one hundred years.' (2)
Provenance: Christie's New York, Magnificent Jewels, 19 October 2005, lot 389
Christie's Geneva, Magnificent Jewels, 16 November 1989, lot 609
Emeralds of India
History sometimes makes inextricable links between places and gemstones, as India shows. Although the Spanish controlled the great emerald mines of Colombia throughout the apogee of their production from the 16th to the 18th century, most of the output was exported to India to be used for jewels commissioned by the Royal families.
When these stones appeared in Western markets in the early 20th century, they became known as Old Indian Material. The Indian character of the emeralds set in these superb antique bangles is accentuated by their cut and also their rich color that was much favored by the Royals.
In India, the emerald has always been one of the most treasured of all gemstones and since the days of the Mughal Emperors, they have been fashioned into every possible form of objects and wearable jewellery. From exquisitely carved wine cups and amulets to magnificently decadent necklaces, ear pendants and of course bangles.
In the first half of the 20th century, the Princes of modern India, descendants of the Mughal rulers, began to have some of their beautiful emeralds re-cut and re-set by the leading jewellers of Paris, London and New York. Many of the stones had first been drilled and smoothed, others were carved in the shape of leaves, fruits and flowers. It was said that the Indian jewel merchants forced the European dealers, including the houses of Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, to purchase large quantities of the smaller carved emeralds if they wanted more important gems that now appear in the market from time to time.
The present bangles, set with large emeralds of exceptional richness of color would have been worn spaced with other gem-set bracelets in the style that would have been particularly in accordance with the fashion of the Art Deco period in the 1920's and 30's. Accompanied with fitted red leather cases and embossed with a gold 'B' on each of them, they have possibly descended from one of the more prominent Indian Royal families that were known to have some of the most superb collections of emeralds in their treasury. They are one of the few old Indian jewels that have not been taken apart for their gem content and offer the rare opportunity to own a piece of history in its original condition.
Christie's. GENEVA MAGNIFICENT JEWELS, 13 May 2015, Geneva