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The Mughal Emerald and Diamond Spectacles: An extraordinary and unique piece of history

The two pairs of extremely rare Emerald and Diamond spectacles with alleged healing properties, dating back to India's 17th century Mughal dynasty to go under the hammer on October 27, 2021. These extraordinary and unique pieces are expected to fetch up to $5m and commissioned by an unknown prince or emperor, according to Sotheby's. An individually, flat-cut Mughal emerald was sold in 2004 at Sotheby's London for £1.9m. These remarkable spectacles fashioned from gemstones originally weighing 300 and 200 carats, the flat-cut emeralds and diamonds in the spectacles are highly unique pieces of history.

These remarkable spectacles come from the great Mughal period, during the 18th century and the late 17th century when the Mughals were great commercial super power. According to the great deals of studies by specialists and by some highly technical multitude of scholarly research these spectacles come from high Mughul period. The high probability is from the reins of Jahangir Shah, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. Especially, Jahangir Shah and Shah Jahan were considered to be the greater connoisseurs of gemstones. Jahangir Shah had introduced the new Navrus festival where all the Nobels were meant to present the new year present as gemstones. Incredibly sophisticated collectors of gemstones and art to the world and all these things are represented by these incredible spectacles created during the one of world's great periods of connoisseurship of gemstones.

Professor Ebba Koch speculates on the reasons why looking through such emerald spectacles might have been needed: “The eyeglasses with lenses of emeralds may have had a more specific meaning for Shah Jahan. Emeralds were held to have miraculous healing powers and to ward off evil. For Shah Jahan, in his extreme mental state of mourning for a lost beloved, looking through emerald glasses could have been… meant to strengthen and heal his vision. And beyond that, green was the colour of the popular Islamic saint Khwaja Khizr, who was believed to have found the water of eternal life. Eternal paradisiacal life was what Shah Jahan envisaged for himself and Mumtaz Mahal, and looking through the green emerald spectacles may have provided him with a foretaste of it.” - Professor Ebba Koch Institute of Art History, Vienna, Austria

These two pairs of remarkable spectacles, set with emerald and diamond lenses, were thought to be originally formed from gemstones that would have weighed over 300 and 200 carats, respectively, beyond the imagination.

The emeralds originated from the Muzo mines of Colombia, whereas the diamond lenses most likely came from the famous Golconda deposits of Southern India. These extraordinary spectacles represent not only a technical feat in their cleavage but also impressive boldness and invention which are also embedded in tradition.

“This is the work of a supreme master, both of gemstones and of optics. This is a slice of diamond and a slice of emerald; through which you can see… they were definitely created to be worn” William Dalrymple, Writer & Historian.

Emerald being the most admired stone and sought-after gemstones in the world the first pair of spectacles; "Emeralds for Paradise: The Astaneh-Ye Ferdaws"- The association of the green colour is the symbol of salvation and eternal life in Islam and peering through these emerald lenses would have been the ritual that brought the wearer closer to the paradise. Each of the lenses is of approximately 20mm with, 30mm length and 2.95mm thickness within a teardrop shape cut and sourced from the same stone. Both are matching in their deep green saturation and colour, both weigh twenty-seven carats, combined, with a well defined flat lens with well-defined angles around the upper surface these lenses are the hearts of the spectacles and with the unique emerald spectacle lenses, no other examples are known to exist.

On the contrary, the diamonds 'Diamonds for Light: The Halqeh-Ye Nur" - associated with light and the Muslim symbol of light with the presence of go. Each diamond lens is cut flat, flawless, transparent, pale yellow coloured with ovoid-like shape and approximately 26mm in length and 1.60mm in thickness. The combined weight of the lenses is about twenty-five carats, taken from 200 carats of a stone originally this represents a huge loss. The sides of the diamond lenses were polished, beautifully faceted, crafted to retain transparency through the lenses while allowing light to be highly reviewed along the edges.

Tobias Kormind is the managing director of Europe's largest online jeweller 77 Diamonds, offers his expert comment on this story. He says: "These dazzling Mughal spectacles are reminiscent of the infamous Rothschild Surrealist ball of 1972, an event that saw fancy dress taken to new extremes with costumes designed by the likes of Salvatore Dalí. They'd make the perfect early Christmas present for someone who values extravagance, opulence and turning heads. I expect strong demand from within a coterie of niche collectors, against a backdrop of the buoyant pent-up demand we're currently seeing in the fine jewellery market. These are exceptional pieces thanks to the technical prowess they display and not least because they were created to be worn not simply admired, an enormously daring proposition in itself. Given their provenance and rarity, if a bidding war ensues between wealthy collectors, the price could approach the £10m mark."

Jewellery Pursuer
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