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The Taj Mahal Jewels

The Taj Mahal Emerald
The Taj Mahal Emerald

Some of the most splendorous jewels came from the Mughal emperors of India; for example, the Peacock Throne and the Koh-I-Noor Diamond. The fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan reigned during what was considered to be the Mughal Golden Age. He loved large and beautiful jewels and was known for producing some of the most incredible architecture in India, including his white marble resting place known as the Taj Mahal. Various gemstones in existence today came from the Mughal emperors, and at least two of these have been named after the famous mausoleum.

The Taj Mahal Emerald is one of the beautiful jewels of the Mughal rulers. It is a hexagonal gemstone weighing around 141 carats that was decorated on one side with flower carvings sometime between 1630 and 1650; the time of Shah Jahan; though the Taj Mahal of Agra was not completed until 1653. The flowers depicted on the gemstone are chrysanthemums, lotuses and poppies. Since the precious gemstone carving is reminiscent of the Taj Mahal, it was later named after the grand architectural masterpiece. During the Art Deco era, the Taj Mahal Emerald featured as the centerpiece of a neck ornament by Cartier, which was known as the Cartier Collier Bérénice and was exhibited at the Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs at Industriels Modernes, in 1925. The Taj Mahal Emerald was auctioned by Christie's, New York, in 2009 and achieved $794,500. It was acquired for the Qatar Royal Al-Thani Collection of jewels and fashioned into a Cartier brooch.

The Taj Mahal Diamond is a gemstone which is thought to have been owned by Mughal Emperor Jehangir, the father of Shah Jahan, and passed from the ruler to his son. It is a heart-shaped, table-cut diamond inscribed with the name of Shah Jahangir's wife, Nur Jahan. Therefore, it is also referred to as the Nur Jahan Diamond. The gemstone is set into a pendant of grey jadeite and gold, and surrounded by red gemstones which could be red spinel. Around the red gemstones are thirteen diamonds. The original necklace was made of silk and is believed to have been given by Shah Jahan to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who tragically died while giving birth to their 14th child. Shah Jahan's grief for his wife inspired the construction of the grand mausoleum known as the Taj Mahal. Sadly, it could be that the jewel given to Mumtaz Mahal may never have been enjoyed by her due to her untimely death.

The Taj Mahal Diamond
The Taj Mahal Diamond

Many years later, the Diamond was given to Elizabeth Taylor on her 40th birthday by Richard Burton, after which it was set into a Cartier gold pendant necklace and embellished with rubies. In 2011, after Elizabeth Taylor's death, the gemstone was auctioned for $8.8 million in New York. However, according to one news report, the auction house later canceled the sale at the request of the buyer because of a lack of proof that the gemstone had belonged to the Mughal emperor, and asked for the proceeds to be returned. The trustees of the late Ms. Taylor's estate filed a complaint against the auction house, stating that a contract was breached.

The ownership of these incredible jewels may change over the years, but their beauty does not fade. Wherever the Taj Mahal gems may appear in the future, they shall continue to be remembered for their connection to an important and prosperous period of human history; the time of the great Mughal rulers of India.

  • First Published: November-06-2015
  • Last Updated: February-07-2022
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