Coveted jewels – Emeralds have adorned wrists and necks of the rich and the famous for thousands of years, from Cleopatra to modern-day royalty and stars of the big screen. Recently, their value has started to balloon, reaching many times their estimates at auctions. The gems modeled in this picture once belonged to the world-famous Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida.
Smashing estimates – The intricate emerald and diamond earrings were made by the Italian jeweler Bulgari in 1964, and were auctioned by Sotheby's in May.
Rare gems – The value of emeralds stems, in part, from their scarcity - they are over 20 times rarer than diamonds. Today they are mainly mined in Colombia, where this deposit is from, as well as Brazil and Zambia. The raw stones are then sent to Jaipur, the emerald capital of the world, where they are cut and polished.
Mythical powers – Historically, jewelers set the emeralds in yellow gold, which was thought to be the purest form of metal and the closest thing to Godliness. Emeralds on this funerary mask from Lambayeke, Peru, are meant to represent eyes.
Token of affection – This necklace is believed to have been made of emeralds Catherine the Great, empress of Russia, gave to the second Earl of Buckinghamshire who was the British ambassador to her court. The two were rumored to have had a love affair (the earrings were made from different stones).
Eastern opulence – The Maharajas often commissioned valuable emerald jewelry for both themselves and their wives from top Paris jewelry houses. In this picture The Maharani of Kapurthala (born Anita Delgado) wears an emerald harem of the crescent in London in 1912.
Divine stones – The head-piece that the Maharani wore was later adapted as a brooch. Apart from using the stones for jewelry, the Maharajas often asked for verses of the Koran to be carved into the stones, giving them a divine aspect.
A cup of emeralds – Indian artisans did not just craft jewelry but also made objects out of emeralds, such as this seven emerald cup made of three separate emerald sections with a 408.5 carat bowl consisting of six fish-scale patterned sides.
Hollywood glamour – Hollywood actress Merle Oberon, pictured here at her home in the 1950s, commissioned a valuable Cartier necklace that she is wearing in the picture, in 1938.
Green with envy: Why emeralds make some of us mad with desire – Cartier emerald necklace commissioned in 1938 by Merle Oberon. Flexible chain in round-cut diamonds with 29 graduated emerald cabochons, tipped with diamonds, suspended from it.
Jet-set favorite – Emeralds continued to be popular with the jet-set well into the 20th century. Here, one of the greatest fashion icons of her time Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis is wearing her Van Cleef & Arpels emerald necklace, in a photo with her husband Aristotle Onassis in 1971.