Among the fabulous collection of jewelry in the Iranian Crown Jewels exhibited at the Museum of the Treasury of the National Iranian Jewels there are several jewel-studded ornaments that were used by the Shahs and Shahbanous that ruled Iran over the centuries, particularly after the period of the Qajar king Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834). Some of the important items of jewelry that come under this category are :-
1) The emerald and diamond necklace 2) Bracelets 3) Pearl brooches 4) Diamond and platinum necklace 5) Sapphire and diamond brooch 6) Pearl necklaces 7) Emerald bead necklace 8) Emerald brooch and necklace 9) Jeweled armband 10) The emerald belt 11) Flat diamond brooches 12) Coronation necklace.
1) The emerald and diamond necklace
The diamond and emerald necklace in the Iranian Crown Jewels is a unique piece of jewelry, noted for its perfect symmetry and mathematical precision combined with artistic beauty, that has become a living monument to the artistic skills of the jewelry designers of the distant past. The necklace undoubtedly belonged to the period of Fath Ali Shah who ruled from the end of 18th century to the mid-19th century. Documentary evidence shows that this beautiful necklace once belonged to a young lady with the respectable title of Ghamar-o-Saltaneh. Historians believe that this is a reference to none other than the Qajar Princess, who had descended from the family of Fath Ali Shah, who subsequently married Nasser-ed-Din Shah the great-grandson of Fath Ali Shah. In other words the necklace belonged to the mother of Mozaffar-ed Din Shah, the son and successor to Nasser-ed Din Shah.
The necklace is made of silver, but the diamonds and emeralds are mounted on frames of gold. The upper half of the necklace is single stranded, but the lower half is double stranded. From the double stranded section of the necklace seven single stranded loops arise, out of which six loops are placed symmetrically, three on each side. The seventh loop which is placed centrally carries a pendant made up of a large cushion-shaped emerald surrounded by smaller cushion-shaped diamonds. All strands are made up of cushion-shaped or oval-shaped small diamonds, with similar emeralds placed symmetrically at regular intervals on the strand. Cushion-shaped similar emeralds are also placed symmetrically at the intersections of the loops. Similar drop shaped emerald pendeloques (pear-shaped drop-cut) and briolettes (elongated pear-shaped drop-cut) are placed at symmetrical positions on the necklace. A careful study of the necklace brings out the mathematical precision and perfect symmetry of the necklace.
Most of the pieces of jewelry in the Crown Jewels of Iran, contain a combination of jewels such as emeralds, rubies, spinels, diamonds, and sometimes turquoise. These are the gemstones commonly used in the settings. Pieces containing gemstones other than the above commonly used ones are very rare. The two bracelets shown in the photograph seem to be exceptions.
The bracelet shown above contains a large clear red garnet weighing 70 carats as its centerpiece. The garnet is a cabochon-cut, oval-shaped stone, surrounded by a layer of small white diamonds. Two pearls are set on either side of the garnet, surrounded by a leaf-shaped row of small white diamonds. A hexagonal row of white diamonds broken on either side by leaf shaped row of diamonds, completes the main setting of the bracelet. The remaining part of the bracelet is a simple gold band without any setting.
The second bracelet shown below is a half-round, multicolored bracelet made up of a variety of gemstones, surrounded by a row of small white diamonds. The centerpiece of this bracelet is an oval-shaped, 35-carat, cabochon-cut blue sapphire.
The gemstones to the left of the centerpiece are an oval-shaped 20-carat cabochon-cut tourmaline and an oval shaped, cabochon-cut sardonyx of unknown weight. The gemstones to the right are an oval-shaped, cabochon-cut, 25-carat chrysoberyl, and another sardonyx of unknown weight, but closely matches the first sardonyx in size.
3) Pearl Brooches
The pearl and diamond brooches in the Museum of the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels are unique artistic creations designed in the form of swans while swimming or in flight. The body of the swimming swan is made up of large white pearls, and the neck, wings and tail are made of enameled metal and studded with white diamonds. The webbed feet and beak are perhaps made out of gold. The body of the flying swan is made up of a large black pearl.
Nothing much is known about the history of these pearl brooches, such as their period of origin or the persons who used them.
4) Diamond and platinum necklace
Reza Shah Pahlavi the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty who ascended the throne of Iran in 1925, sent his son Mohammed Reza to Switzerland where he received his formal education. In 1935, Mohammed Reza returned to Iran, and soon after his return his father Reza Shah Pahlavi arranged for his marriage. On the occasion of this marriage a group of Iranian and French jewelers were assigned the task of designing and manufacturing jewelry for the royal wedding. The diamond and platinum necklace of the Iranian Crown jewels, was designed and manufactured for this wedding, for the use of the Shahbanou’s mother (Queen mother).
The necklace is a two-stranded necklace made out of platinum. Both strands are studded with diamonds. The inner strand is studded with smaller diamonds and the outer strand is studded with larger diamonds. Altogether there are 469 diamonds on the necklace. Nine of the diamonds are drop-shaped briolettes hanging from the lower strand. The central briolette is 45 carats in weight, and the remaining eight briolettes arranged symmetrically according to size as four briolettes on the right and four on the left, weigh between 10 to 35 carats.
5) Sapphire and diamond brooch
This brooch is also of unique design and made out of gold, sapphires and diamonds. The brooch consists of two sections, a lower oval-shaped wreath-like section, and an upper section in the form of a bouquet of flowers. The wreath-like section is made up of two oval-shaped concentric rings, made out of gold. The center of the wreath-like section is occupied by a large blue sapphire weighing 12 carats. the space between the two rings, and the inner ring and the central sapphire are occupied by diamond blossoms and leaves. Blue sapphires are also mounted between the two rings along the vertical and horizontal diameters of the rings.
The bouquet of diamond and sapphire blossoms arise from the region of the upper blue sapphire along the vertical diameter. The blossoms have a long curved flower stalk made out of gold, and the blossoms themselves are made of diamonds or sapphires, subtended by bracts made out of diamonds. The height of the brooch along the vertical axis is 12 cm.
6) Pearl necklaces, belts, rosaries, and brooches
In the Museum of the Treasury of the Iranian Crown Jewels there are three special display cases allocated for the display of jewelry and other items made out of pearls. The items on display in this case include necklaces, belts, rosaries and brooches, besides a row of curtain tassels hanging at the top.
The necklaces seven in all and of different sizes are exhibited on the plastic mould of the neck and chest at the bottom center of the picture. Long emerald belts formed by stringing together pearl beads of uniform sizes, with tufts of wool on either side are exhibited at the center and sides. The belts at the center are made of larger pearls, and ones on the sides are made of smaller pearls. A large number of pearl rosaries are hanging on the center right of the display case. The row of curtain tassels hanging horizontally at the top of the display case are made out of hundreds of thousands of tiny pearls strung together and has a total weight of 20 Kg.
Most of the pearls used in the above settings were sourced from the famous and historic pearl fishing grounds of the Persian Gulf, noted for the production of the finest oriental salt water pearls. The pearls are found at a depth of 8 to 20 fathoms (48 to 120 feet). Even though white is the commonest color in which pearls are formed, depending on the species of the mollusk and the environment, pearls can also be formed in a variety of colors such as black, rose, gray, cream, green, blue, yellow, lavender (pale bluish purple), and mauve (pale reddish purple). Pearls also vary in size. The tiniest pearls weighing less than a quarter grain (12.5 mg) are known as “seed pearls” as the ones used in curtain tassels above. On the other hand some pearls like baroque pearls can grow to enormous sizes and weights up to 1860 grains have been recorded.
It is said that Fath Ali Shah was a lover of pearls, and several portraits of him, depict him virtually covered with strings of pearls. Whenever Fath Ali Shah went on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Qom, he removed all his jewelry adornments in keeping with tradition, but carried only a pearl rosary when he entered the city.
7) Emerald beaded necklace
A miniature portrait of Fath Ali Shah show him wearing a broad belt with a number of emerald beads hanging along its length, but this belt is not among the collection of Iranian Crown Jewels exhibited at the Museum of the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels. The fate of this belt is not known, but it appears that the beads on the emerald beaded necklace shown below are the same ones depicted on the lost belt. Thus experts who studied the Iranian Crown Jewels have suggested that the belt was dismantled at some stage after Farh Ali Shah’s rule and then re-assembled into the beaded necklace. At what time this transformation took place and the identity of the royal personality who used it are matters of conjecture.
The necklace is made up of 39 beads and an equal number of natural pearls. All beads are uniform and are equal in size and shape. They are spherical in shape with vertical ridges running from one end to the other. It is indeed puzzling how the jewelry craftsmen of the time were able to cut such beads of uniform size and shape, which in modern days is achieved only with state-of-the-art precision equipment. A hole seems to have been drilled along the length of the bead as well as through the small spherical pearl below it. A gold wire passing through both holes secures the pearl firmly to the bead, and ends in a hook on the other side of the emerald bead. The 39 emerald and pearl combinations are then strung together by a gold wire that passes through all the hooks, forming the beautiful necklace.
The emerald and diamond pendant shown above is exhibited together with the emerald beaded necklace, and was meant to be worn as a pendant to a necklace. It is set with three large emeralds and diamonds. The largest emerald weighing 80 carats, is drop shaped like a pendeloque and is suspended at the bottom of the pendant, from the frame set with diamonds. The second largest emerald is spherical in shape with ridges running longitudinally from one end to the other, and mounted horizontally at the center of the diamond studded frame at the top of the pendant. The smallest emerald is a 15-carat spherical emerald mounted horizontally somewhere in the middle of the pendant. The entire frame of the pendant is studded with small white diamonds.
8) Emerald brooch and necklace
The emerald brooch and necklace are each made up of a large emerald weighing approximately 250 carats. An inscription on each of the emeralds dates it back to 1811, the period of rule of Fath Ali Shah who reigned between 1797 and 1834.
The centerpiece of the brooch is the 250-carat perfectly rounded cabochon-cut emerald, surrounded by a star-shaped diamond-studded frame, which in turn is surrounded by another oval-shaped diamond-studded frame. The gaps between the emerald and the star-shaped frame are studded with rubies, and so are the gaps between the star-shaped frame and the oval-shaped frame.
The centerpiece of the necklace is the 250-carat hexagonal-shaped cabochon-cut emerald, surrounded by a hexagonal golden frame. From the lower side of the hexagonal frame three drop-shaped (pendeloque) emeralds are suspended, out of which the central emerald is a little larger than the one on the sides. The larger emerald weighs around 60 carats and the smaller ones around 30 carats each. The hexagonal emerald is suspended by three vertical golden chains interspersed with gold florets, mounted with small spherical white pearls. The three vertical chains are suspended from a single-stranded gold chain, and the design of the florets mounted with pearls is continued for some distance along the V-shaped part of the necklace, until it becomes free of florets, and only the bear chain remains.
9) Jeweled arm band
Armbands were a fashionable item of jewelry used by the monarchs of Iran in the past. Armbands at that time seemed to have served a dual purpose; one as a highly decorative ornament, elevating the status of the monarch and the other as an ornament of mystical significance, as provision was made in the armband to hold a small amount of soil from Karbala, the holy site in Iraq, where Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, and the second Imam of Shi’ite Muslims was martyred. Armbands were so fashionable among the Iranian monarchs, that at one time the most valuable jewels in the treasury were used for this purpose. It is said that the Darya-i-Nur, the table-cut, pink diamond, which according to Sir John Malcolm was considered to be the diamond of the finest luster in the world, was at one time incorporated in an armband for the monarch. But, armbands fell out of fashion during the middle of Nasser-ed-Din Shah’s rule.
The jeweled armband shown in the picture and displayed in the Museum of the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels, was probably designed just before armbands fell out of fashion, around the middle of the 19th century and therefore does not show signs of wear and tear. This armband consists of a jewel-studded shield-shaped front, with a decorative and jewel-studded band on either side. The shield-shaped center is enameled with a blue background on which jewels like spinel, rubies and diamonds are studded on decorative regions. Two large spinels are incorporated on the design of the central shield. The larger spinel which weighs 15 carats is mounted somewhere on the top of the shield along the median vertical line, just below a large white diamond situated right at the top. The spinel is surrounded by a row of smaller white diamonds. The largest diamond weighing 20 carats is situated below the largest spinel, somewhere at the center of the shield, and is surrounded by a row of eight smaller diamonds, in a floral pattern. The second largest spinel is situated below this diamond, still along the median vertical line, but below the halfway point along this line, and is also surrounded by a row of smaller diamonds. Another large white diamond is situated just below this. The floral patterns in the gaps are all studded with small white diamonds. The edges of the shield and the decorative bands on either side are studded with rectangular and square shaped rubies. The decorative design on the shield is perfectly symmetrical with respect to the median vertical dividing line, and thus conforms to the symmetrical designs in other settings of the Iranian Crown jewels
10) The emerald belt
The emerald belt had been a part of the coronation regalia of the Shah’s of Iran since the time of Nasser-ed-Din Shah (1848-96), and can be seen in photographs of Nasser-ed-Din Shah taken in the second half of the 19th century. Perhaps the belt would have originated even earlier during the time of Muhammad Shah the father of Nasser-ed-Din Shah who reigned between 1834 and 1848. The length of the belt is 119 cm and perhaps might have been made either for Nasser-ed-Din Shah or Muhammad Shah, both of whom had wider waists. But the belt undoubtedly was not made for Fath Ali Shah who had a very narrow waistline.
The whole world witnessed the use of the emerald belt in 1967, as a coronation regalia during the coronation of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi. After the religious ceremonies associated with the coronation, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi stood up from the Naderi Throne on which he was seated, and then an officer carrying the coronation belt on a cushion covered tray approached the Shah. The Shah took the belt and tied it around his waist. Then another officer carrying the royal sword approached the Shah. He took the sword and hung it from the belt, which he had just worn. Then two of the Shah’s relatives brought the coronation robe, which they placed across the shoulders of the Shah. Then came the climax of the ceremony, when an officer carrying the Imperial Crown of Iran approached the Shah, who took the crown in his hands, and while still facing the invitees, placed the crown on his head, in effect crowning himself as the Shah of Iran.
The emerald belt is woven of gold and has a length of 119 cm. A 175-carat oval-shaped cabochon-cut emerald is mounted on the belt buckle. This emerald of enormous size has a length of 5 cm along its longest diameter, and is surrounded by a row of smaller cushion-shaped diamonds. Before being mounted on the buckle of the royal belt, the emerald might have been used on a different setting. Nothing much is known about this enormous emerald but there is evidence to show that it once existed in the court of Jehangir Shah (1605-27) the Moghul Emperor of India, son of the great Mogul Emperor Akbar the Great (1556-1605), and father of the Mogul Emperor Shah Jahaan (1628-58) of Taj Mahal fame. Thus the emerald would have been part of the enormous booty carried away by Nadir Shah after his Indian campaign of 1739.
The same golden belt was also used for the coronation of Reza Shah Pahlavi, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1925, but for the coronation of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi a different belt band was used even though the belt buckle was the same.
11) Flat diamond brooches
Flat diamonds known as lasque is a type of table-cut developed by ancient Indian diamond cutters, in which the diamond is cut in the form of thin sheets or slabs of different shapes such as rectangular, square, pear, etc. with both upper and lower surfaces polished, and simple facets on the sides. The diamonds being thin and flat and having polished upper and lower surfaces are usually transparent and light can be transmitted through the diamond.
The two brooches shown in the picture and exhibited at the Museum of the National Iranian Jewels have a flat diamond incorporated as their centerpiece. The brooch above has a pear-shaped transparent flat diamond weighing 20 carats, as its centerpiece and is surrounded by a gold frame of similar shape, studded with smaller white diamonds. Several diamonds on this frame are missing. From the upper part of this pear-shaped frame nine linear rows of diamonds radiate, one row placed along the median vertical line and four rows placed symmetrically on either side. The median vertical row is the longest and bears four rounded brilliant-cut diamonds. The other eight rows are shorter but equal in length and bears three rounded brilliant-cut diamonds each. The height of the brooch is 7.5 cm along the median vertical line.
The second brooch shown above has a 15-carat flat diamond incorporated in the center, having the shape of a combined square and trapezium. The diamond is surrounded by a golden frame of similar shape, studded with a row of white diamonds. The frame has a set up similar to the famous Darya-i-Nur frame designed on the orders of Nasser-ed-Din Shah (1848-96), but on a smaller scale. The frame is surmounted by the crown and two lion symbols on either side, which signify the Aryan origins of the Iranian people. The height of the brooch is 8 cm along the median line.
12) The coronation necklace
The necklace worn by Empress Farah Diba at her coronation on October 26th, 1967, is a single-stranded necklace composed of white diamonds, yellow diamonds, emeralds and pearls. The precious metal used for the frame is not known, but it appears to be silver or white gold, The single strand right round is studded with small white cushion-cut diamonds. The main pendant hanging from the center of the strand is composed of a large hexagonal-shaped cabochon-cut emerald surrounded by a row of white diamonds interspersed with yellow diamonds. Above the hexagonal-shaped pendant is a spherical setting composed of centrally placed emeralds surrounded by diamonds.
Symmetrically placed appendages arise from the main strand, but the larger of these appendages are set only half way up the circumference of the necklace starting from the main pendant. Considering the appendages on the right hand side of the main pendant, first we see a pearl appendage combined with a spherical setting of emeralds and diamonds. This is followed by an emerald appendage consisting of a large square-shaped emerald, surrounded by diamonds. The third appendage is a pearl appendage like the first one, and the fourth appendage is a large emerald appendage like the second one. Similar appendages are placed on the left side symmetrically and in the same order. There are four large square-shaped emerald settings and four large pearl settings placed alternately on either side of the main pendant.
The upper half of the circumference of the necklace have shorter appendages, which are of two types alternating with one another. The first type is a spherical setting with a spherical emerald surrounded by smaller diamonds. The second type is a square setting. with a square emerald surrounded by smaller diamonds. There are six settings of the spherical type and six of the square type alternating with one another.
1) The Crown Jewels of Iran -Dr Victor E. Meem (1968)
2) The Legacy of Persia – A. J. Arberry (1968)
3) A History of Persia – Percy Sykes (1969)
4) Encyclopaedia Britannica – 2006
5) Iranian Crown Jewels – Wikipedia