The most Enchanting Emeralds Throughout History

If you are a May baby, you are lucky enough to have emeralds as your birthstone.  These deep vivid gems have a rich history and are connected to royalty and celebrities. Here are a few of our favorite and iconic emeralds in various periods throughout time:

Queen Victoria’s  set a popular trend for both serpent jewelry and this vivid gem with her emerald set snake engagement ring given to her by Prince Albert.

Then, during the late 19th century through mid 20th centuries, renowned houses worked with deep green gems including Boucheron, the house which designed pieces for the Maharajah of Patiala, whose emeralds were said to be the ‘size of apricots’.

Elxabeth Taylor in Bulgari in The V.I.P.s Photo courtesy of Rex/Shutterstock

Often times, various houses were linked to the celebrities or royalty who wore their jewels: Elizabeth Taylor and Bulgari’s emerald and diamond pieces: brooch, necklace with detachable pendant, ring and earrings, which she wore in various combinations, to different high profile events and in the film The V.I.P’s.


Elizabeth Taylor Entremblant brooch. and opening photo of Elizabeth Taylor necklace. Photos courtesy of @Bulgari

Marlene Dietrich whose favorite gems were noted to be emeralds and created by some of her favorite house at the time, Paul Flato and Trabert &Hoeffer-Mauboussin were also the pieces she wore in press photos and films such as Desire.  One of my favorite stories about Dietrich’s emerald: During a dinner party held by Katherine Cornell, a story circulated that Dietrich took off her 37.41-carat cabochon emerald ring, while she was helping bake a cake in the kitchen, and then realized that it was gone. The other guests helped her look for the ring, turning the dinner party into a treasure hunt. It was only during dessert that the ring was discovered by one of the other guests—inside a piece of the cake!

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Photo of Marlene Dietrich wearing her two emerald bracelets

And speaking of rings, in England in 1922, when Princess Mary appeared in public wearing an emerald engagement ring, the price of emeralds soared—sealing the gem’s status as a favorite among the stylish in society, long before the term ‘alternative bridal rings’ was coined.

Over a decade later, her brother, Edward Prince of Wales abdicated his throne for Wallis Simpson and proposed to her with a Cartier designed emerald engagement ring, which she eventually updated to meet the changing times but kept the original shank with the sentimental inscription, “We Are Ours Now, 27.x36.”

The re-fashioned version of The Duchess of Windsor’s emerald engagement ring by Van Cleef & Arpels


Then in the 1950s, another style icon received an emerald engagement ring:

Jacqueline Bouvier was proposed to by John F. Kennedy with a Van Cleef & Arpels 2.79-carat cut emerald mounted next to a 2.84-carat diamond, accented with tapered baguettes. In 1962, Jackie Kennedy had the ring reset with additional diamonds to reflect more modern times, just as The Duchess of Windsor did before her.

Jackie Kennedy’s modernized version of her original Van Cleef & Arpels’ engagement ring from John. F Kennedy

Back to the Duchess of Windsor- in addition to a beautiful emerald suite by Cartier and the engagement ring, it was the emerald necklace that The Windsors purchased from Harry Winston in 1956 that caused more of a stir than anticipated. While at a ball in Paris the following year, which was attended by the Maharani of Baroda, all eyes were on The Duchess’s stunning new necklace. The Maharani—the extravagant and beautiful Sita Devi—agreed that it was beautiful: “After all, those emeralds used to be one of my anklets.” This was a shock to The Duchess, who eventually exchanged the piece for another jewel and came to an agreement with Winston. The house could not sell the necklace—which Harry Winston had created from a pair of anklets that he had bought from the Maharajah of Baroda—to anyone who might have known about The Duchess’s brief ownership of it. All was well again in the sparkling land of Windsors and Winston, and The Duchess went on to purchase more jewelry from the renowned house.

Merle Oberon, another major jewelry collector,  owned spectacular jewels, many of which she wore in her films. The story behind Oberon’s acquisition of a  Cartier 1938 necklace would make for an interesting scene in a movie itself. Oberon had seen the emerald and diamond necklace—with its flexible chain and diamond rondelle spacers, and twenty-nine graduated suspended emerald cabochons—in a store in Paris. The shop assistant told Oberon that the jewels had another admirer, apparently the designer Elsa Schiaparelli, but Oberon thought was merely a ploy to pressure her into buying it. Later that day she passed by the store again only to see that the necklace was gone. She told Harlod Korda, her husband at the time, the story and he went back to the shop a few days later, found that it had not been sold, and bought it for her on the spot. Oberon wore the necklace in the 1963 film Of Love and Desire

Merle Oberon’s Emerald Cartier Necklace. Photo courtesy ©Cartier


In 2009, Angelina Jolie created an Oscar moment that lives on in our collective memories when she wore a pair of Lorraine Schwartz pear shaped pendant earrings, which once again brought the green stone back into the spotlight and created more trends. Today Gemfields collaborates with contemporary designers on imaginative and sometimes irreverent designs such in the case of the Gemfields x Muse pieces.

Photo: Rex/Shutterstock

The use of emeralds in modern collections has been on the upswing and they have become a gemstone to watch for engagement rings in the creative hands of international independent designers. We celebrate this vibrant stone with it’s meaning of hope an prosperity and it’s historical and cultural roots and wish everyone born in May a happy birthday!