Lot 220. A drop-shaped Colombian emerald bead of 50.41 carats, 20.48 x 15.58 x 23.15 mm, mid-17th century. Estimate USD 150,000 - USD 250,000. Price realised USD 350,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
AGL, 2019, report no. 1100310: 50.41 carats, Colombia, minor clarity enhancement, traditional type.
Exhibited: The Miho Museum, Koka 2016, p. 175, no. 137
Grand Palais, Paris 2017, p. 46, no. 24
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p. 61, no. 15
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018, p. 73, no. 16
Note: Fine large emeralds were unknown until their discovery in Colombia by the Spanish Conquistadors during the 16th and 17th centuries. They were extremely popular in all three of the great Islamic empires of the time: the Ottoman Turks, the Safavid Persians and the Mughal Indians; so much so that none appear to have been retained at the time in Europe. They reached India via Spain and Portugal as trade goods during the Mughal dynasty. They were highly prized by the Indians who used them mainly as beads or in gold artifacts.
Centuries of tradition have held certain precious stones to be imbued with powers radiated by celestial bodies. A logical inference was to augment this phenomenon by carving the stone with a suitable image of a deity, with symbols or with writing, transforming the stone into a talisman or an amulet. By the 17th century the master carvers in Jaipur were producing wonderful varied emeralds with floral motifs that were derived from the 17th century architecture, as well as to bring out the full color and beauty of the stone.