Emeralds at Sotheby’s Spring Auctions: A May Birthstone Report

Emerald Parure
Van Cleef & Arpels Emerald Demi-Parure. Photo Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Whoever nominated emerald to be the May birthstone knew exactly what they were doing. Emerald’s vibrant green color personifies renewal and regrowth, serving as a symbol of nature’s bounty in spring. This spring, more than 15 dazzling emerald jewels are among the top lots at Sotheby’s Magnificent and Fine Jewels sales in Geneva, London and New York. In fact, the premier auction house reports that emeralds at Sotheby’s are more popular today than they have been in years.

Jewelry historian Vivienne Becker explains in Sotheby’s May 2 online magazine: “The emerald is, after all, the perfect answer to a collector’s quest for individuality. It is an arch-individualist of a gemstone: Each one is endowed with its own imposing aristocratic personality, each is made dramatically different by its internal structure. It is really no wonder that the age-old lust for the stone’s hypnotic beauty has been rekindled.”

Emerald and Diamond Brooches, Circa 1960, by Suzanne Belperron
Emerald and Diamond Brooches, Circa 1960, by Suzanne Belperron. Photo Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Platinum, Emerald and Diamond Ring, France
Platinum, Emerald and Diamond Ring, France.
Photo Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Emerald Parure
de Grisogono Emerald Parure.
Photo Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Emerald and Diamond Bracelet
Emerald and Diamond Bracelet. Photo Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Legendary Emeralds

Unmounted emeralds and emerald jewels are known to have been collected as far back as 300 B.C. It is said that the emerald was Cleopatra’s favorite gemstone (and, let’s face it, she could have any jewel she wanted!).

53-Carat Unmounted Emerald
52.32-Carat Unmounted Emerald. Photo Courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Jacqueline Kennedy Wedding Photo
Jacqueline Kennedy Wedding Photo. Courtesy of I Dream of Jackie, Pinterest.

The list of 20th-Century emerald fans includes legendary tastemakers Wallis Simpson, aka the Duchess of Windsor, and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who both wore Colombian emerald engagement rings.

Socialites Marjorie Merriweather Post and Mrs. Walter Annenberg also collected precious emeralds, some of which they left to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

More Emerald Engagement Rings

Speaking of socialites, Town & Country, the respected chronicler of society weddings, recently declared that emerald and diamond engagement rings — so popular in the 1930s through the 1950s — are making a big comeback among millennial brides-to-be.

These lucky women and their betrothed will have several stunning examples from which to choose when Sotheby’s holds its fine jewelry sales on May 17 in Geneva, June 6 in London, and June 10 in New York City.

You can follow all the emerald auction action in real time at www.sothebys.com.

What Makes an Emerald Green?

According to the expert gemologists at Sotheby’s, emeralds are a bluish-green variety of the mineral beryl. When chromium, vanadium and iron are present in beryl, emeralds are created, and the varying degrees of these three elements result in a range of colors.

Chromium and vanadium lead to intense green, while iron produces a blue tint. If the stone’s hue is too yellow or too blue, it is not an emerald but rather a variety of beryl. Highly transparent and vividly saturated green emeralds are extremely rare…and extraordinarily valuable.


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