Jewelry art is a magical and wondrous fusion of human creativity and nature. Consider the diamond, which “matures” in the depths of the earth for up to 4 billion years before it is discovered and transformed by a jeweler’s skilled hands. Yet, the value of a piece of jewelry is not merely a reflection of its origins; rather, it also derives from its rich history and artistic merit.
Over the course of centuries, humans have been captivated by the diamond’s dazzling brilliance, regarding it as the ultimate symbol of luxury.
IN 1905, a uniquely large diamond was discovered in South Africa and named after the owner of the mine, Cullinan. Weighing in at 621 grams, or 3,106 carats, and with dimensions being 3 78 inches long, 2 14 inches wide, and 2 58 inches high, the treasure was estimated by experts at 8 million pounds (94 tons of gold was worth the same!). It was decided that the diamond would be sent to King Edward VII of England as a present for his birthday. Despite the press making a fuss that the diamond would be transported on a carefully guarded warship with a safe in the hold (!) to divert robbers’ attention, the truth was much simpler. In reality, the diamond was sent as an ordinary parcel. Due to a crack inside the stone, it was impossible to cut the diamond in its natural form, and so it had to be split into pieces by a skilled cutter who spent several months preparing for the task. When the diamond finally cracked, the master exclaimed, “That’s all, it’s so simple… I destroyed the greatest wonder of nature!” before fainting from the intensity of the moment.
The jewelry collection of American diva Elizabeth Taylor, whose life could be described as “Hollywood, love, diamonds,” was adorned with several legendary jewels. Among these was an emerald necklace that once belonged to the Romanov imperial dynasty. Another was the pearl La Peregrina, which had belonged to Mary Tudor , the 16th-century Queen of England, nicknamed Bloody Mary. This famous pearl was known for its capriciousness, and its ability to “escape” from its owners. The Tudors , Bonapartes, and Hamiltons had all reportedly lost possession of the precious relic at some point. Elizabeth Taylor had her own brush with misfortune when her puppy almost swallowed the pearl. Another piece that held a special place in Taylor’s collection was an emerald and diamond flower brooch by BVLGARI. It was a marvel of jewelry technology: emerald leaves and diamond petals were set on springs and trembled like living things. There was gossip that Liz loved her jewelry more than she loved men, and to a certain extent, this was true. To refresh the feelings of his Queen, Richard Burton put a huge 33-carat Krupp diamond on Elizabeth’s finger. She did not remove it from her hand almost until the day she died. The stone, with its impeccable shape, cut, and transparency, had a bad reputation and did not bring happiness to its owner. Elizabeth had gone through eight divorces, about 100 operations, had skin cancer, struggled with alcoholism, and suffered a cardiac arrest. “Misfortunes came over me like trains. But I always faced fate, even if it was sometimes so unkind that I wanted to look away. And yet I love my life! ” admitted the actress. One of Richard Burton’s last gifts to Elizabeth was a heart-shaped yellow diamond that had belonged to the beloved wife of the Shah of India in the 17th century. The ruler built the Taj Mahal mausoleum in honor of his extraordinary wife. This monument of love is the eighth wonder of the world, with the inscription on the stone reading “Love is Everlasting.”
American jeweler Harry Winston once quipped, “A cobblestone is a tool of the proletariat, and a precious cobblestone is a tool of celebrities .” Obsessed with the beauty and mystery of gems, Winston candidly admitted, “Not I, but they own me.” He recounted the story of the small emerald that “winked” at him one Christmas night. In the window of a dingy store, on an old tray, there was a pile of discounted rings, and suddenly one flashed with incredible brilliance. Winston, who was only twelve years old at the time, had only 25 cents in his pocket. However, the inexperienced shopkeeper did not haggle and gave up the “green piece of glass” as a gift to his mother. A few days later, the Winstons sold the stone for $800 and saved themselves from poverty for a long time. Thus, the young Winston embarked on his lifelong love affair with precious stones and ultimately became known as the King of Diamonds.
However, not all jewelry has a happy story behind. Once, Queen Victoria was trying on a strange diamond called the Idol’s Eye, and when she approached the mirror, she was frightened to see her deceased husband’s ghostly reflection. She immediately left a Christie’s sale, attributing the apparition to the diamond. “The stone shows the beloved,” people whispered. In the mid-20th century, the Idol’s Eye found its way to a new owner, American millionaire May Bonfils Stanton, after years of wandering. Though she could afford any luxury, May found no solace in her opulence. But what was the use of Marie Antoinette’s gilded bed when loneliness was chilling her soul? “It’s not my time now! My man lived in the past!” she lamented, feeling a deep loneliness. Despite her wealth, May had no friends and even struggled to find servants for her magnificent castle, which according to legend, was once the site of an alchemist and witch doctor’s home, where he brewed an elixir of immortality. One day, May approached an ancient Venetian mirror and a shadow suddenly flashed before her. From then on, her daily routine changed. She stopped hosting guests and dressed up in luxurious clothes every day, referring to herself as “we” as she said things like “we wish cognac for lunch” and “we are tired and taking a seat in the boudoir.” The servants would sigh and bless themselves, for although no one saw the mysterious guest, everyone knew that May was constantly stroking her “terrible” diamond and peering into the mirror. Fifteen years later, May Stanton’s mysterious seclusion ended with her death, which brought her ill fame and led to the Idol’s Eye nearly halving in price.
This is the story of another treasure – the Ring of the Fisherman, an official part of the regalia worn by the Pope. It depicts the Apostle Peter pulling a fishing net from the depths of the sea. In obedience to the covenant of Jesus Christ, His disciples and followers are meant to become “fishers of human souls” to lead people on the right path. The first mention of this sacred relic dates back to 1265, and the Ring of the Fisherman is not handed over from one Pope to another. After the pontiff dies or abdicates, his ring is destroyed in the presence of the cardinals, and a new ring is made for the newly elected Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church. Due to its feature to “die and be reborn,” this piece of jewelry is also known as the Phoenix Ring. For centuries, the symbol of papal power was cast from the purest gold. However, in 2013, when an Argentine friar, Pope Francis, ascended to the Holy See, he requested that his ring be made of silver, as he named himself Francis in honor of the protector of the poor.
Did you know that…
…ruby is considered the most prominent gemstone among the gorgeous tetrad of “diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires?” A laser beam shot through a ruby can even reach distant stars. In ancient times, the Jews believed that only wisdom and a chaste girl could be more valuable than a ruby. Alchemists held it in high esteem and referred to it as “the devil’s eye.” It was said that a ruby dipped into a glass of poison would detect it by changing its color, and as a result, kings and nobles always wanted to have it with them.
…unlike the ruby, the sapphire was referred to as the “stone of the gods.” It was considered a stone of the prophets, bishops, and wise men, and those who wore sapphires were believed to be under the protection of higher powers. Interestingly, ancient travelers discovered a peculiar use for sapphires, using the stone to quench their thirst by holding it in their mouths.
…the emerald, known as the “stone of immortality,” is the most enigmatic of all. Aphrodite’s belt was said to be woven with threads of emerald, which gave her eternal youth and beauty. Queen Cleopatra was a fervent believer in the emerald’s magical power. Even Roman emperor Nero, infamous for his extreme cruelty, defended himself against the death’s energy and watched gladiator fights through polished emeralds. But emeralds are unlikely to help evil and sinful people. It is said that a stone can crack, not wanting to belong to a villain.
Journalist, art expert Liudmyla Baganova