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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The "Spanish Inquisition Necklace"


The Spanish Inquisition Necklace
Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals Collection at the
National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution



Earliest Cut Gemstones?

There are a multitude of legends surrounding this necklace...indicating that it was worn by the lovely ladies of Spanish and French royalty. In the early 20th century, it was purchased by the Maharajah of Indore, whose son eventually sold the necklace in to Harry Winston. Winston dubbed it the “Spanish Inquisition Necklace”, for reasons known only to him, and the name stuck.

Many of the gemstones in this stunning necklace date back to the 17th century, when Spanish conquistadors shipped large quantities of emeralds from South America to Europe and Asia. Unfortunately very little is known about the provenance of this spectacular double row of diamonds and emeralds ending in the chandelier like drape of unique ”football-shaped” diamonds and emeralds.

The large diamond and emerald gems were probably cut in India in the 1600s. Stringing the gems was an extremely delicate procedure that entailed drilling small holes in the large emeralds and the 16 largest diamonds. It is believed that the large diamonds and Columbian emeralds were most likely cut in India in the 17th century, making them one of the earliest examples of cut gemstones in the Smithsonian's Collection.


Characteristics of the Spanish Inquisition Necklace

The lower-half of the necklace which is double-stranded consists of two concentric semi-circles, made up of smaller diamonds interspersed with pairs of large barrel-shaped diamonds and emeralds, placed symmetrically on the strands. There are eight pairs of larger diamonds and four pairs larger emeralds on these strands. A chandelier-shaped pendant made up of five large emeralds is placed centrally on the double strand, with the largest emerald in the necklace centrally placed on the lower strand.




The upper-half of the necklace is single-stranded made up of smaller diamonds only. At the two points on the necklace where the upper-half and lower-half meet, two large emeralds have been placed. Altogether, there are 15 large emeralds, 16 large diamonds, and around 120 smaller diamonds in the necklace.
The largest emerald in the necklace is an old Indian-cut, 45-carat, barrel-shaped emerald placed centrally in the necklace. According to the Smithsonian, "The rich velveteen color and exceptional clarity place the large emerald among the world's very finest quality emeralds. The shape closely approximates the form of the original elongated hexagonal crystal, suggesting that the crystal faces were simply rounded off to yield the largest possible gem."


Ownership Timeline

Designed for a Maharajah - the first known owner of the necklace was Tukoji Rao III of Indore

1926 - Yashvantrao II, the son of Tukoji Rao III, ascended the throne of Indore after the abdication of his father, and inherited the crown jewels

1947 - Yashvantrao II sold diamond and emerald necklace to Harry Winston

1947 – Katherine Hepburn wears the necklace when she attended the 19th Annual Oscars at the Shrine Civic Auditorium

1955 - Harry Winston sold the "Spanish Inquisition Necklace" to Mrs. Cora Hubbard Williams of Pittsburgh

1972 - Cora Hubbard Williams bequeathed the necklace to the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution

Currently - the "Spanish Inquisition Necklace" is displayed in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals of the NMNH of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC
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