Hollywood actor Richard Burton once told Elizabeth Taylor, “I love to watch your response and that’s why I just love giving you jewellery”. Her emerald-and-diamond necklace, earrings and the famous entremblant brooch were gifts from Burton during their courtship and eventual marriage. After her death, Taylor’s collection was sold at Christie’s New York auction in December 2011 and fetched about $115 million.
This and many such stories about kings and queens, famous actors who were connoisseurs of fine emerald jewellery, have made it to the coffee table book titled Emerald (Rs 7,784), commissioned by UK-based Gemfields, which deals in precious metals.
One of the book’s four distinguished authors, Joanna Hardy, with over 30 years of experience in gemology, was in the city recently for a masterclass on emeralds at the Delhi Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda. “Emeralds and gold were first discovered in Cairo, Egypt, and queens such as Cleopatra and Empress Theodora adorned themselves with this green stone,” says Hardy, who selected over 200 emerald jewellery pieces to be photographed for the book — many of which had never been seen at any auction or collection before.
Hardy’s selection for the book includes ornaments owned by Empress Josephine, Napolean’s first wife, Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg and jewellery owned by the Maharajah of Kapurthala, Jagatjit Singh. The latter commissioned Cartier to make his famous Kapurthala headdress of emeralds and diamonds. He even got a crescent-shaped emerald headgear for his favourite elephant. “But it was destined to be worn by a woman who stole his heart — a Spanish flamenco dancer named Anita Delgado,” says Hardy.
The contents of the book are divided into three sections with contributions from editor of Vogue’s Italian edition, Franca Sozzani. The first section by Hettie Judah gives a brief history on emeralds, the second by Hardy showcases fine emerald jewellery through time. In the third section, Jonathan Self talks about emerald trade through history.