A $2.2 Million Emerald

The Mogul Emerald—a magnificently carved tablet weighing 217.8 cts.—sold for £1,543,750 (US$2,272,400) at Christie’s London auction house on Sept. 27, setting a new world’s record for a carved emerald from the Mogul Dynasty, which ruled India from 1526 to 1857.

The rectangular cushion-shaped Colombian gem is inscribed with a Shiite prayer and dated 1107 A.H. (1695 A.D.), placing it during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb (1658-1707), the last great Mogul ruler.

Prior to their discovery in Colombia by the Spanish conquistadors in the late 1500s, fine large emeralds like this were unknown. According to Fred Ward, author of Emeralds, between 1567 and 1800, there were more large fine-quality emeralds coming out of Colombia than could be consumed by the world’s royalty. And while this particular gem is beautiful and rare, many emeralds of this period were carved—the art of faceting had yet to be developed.

The Christie’s sale, which was devoted to the arts of India, included not only the Mogul Emerald but also a spectacular sarpech (turban ornament), circa 1795. It was set with approximately 300 cts. of diamonds, mainly from the legendary Golconda mines of India, and approximately 300 cts. of fine Colombian emerald beads. The sarpech sold for £1,323,750 (US$1,948,560), a world’s record for a single piece of Indian jewelry.