The name emerald comes from the Greek 'smaragdos' via the Old French 'esmeralde', and really just means 'green gemstone'. Innumerable fantastic stories have grown up around this magnificent gem. The Incas and Aztecs of South America, where the best emeralds are still found today, regarded the emerald as a holy gemstone. However, probably the oldest known finds were once made near the Red Sea in Egypt. Having said that, these gemstone mines, already exploited by Egyptian pharaohs between 3000 and 1500 B.C. and later referred to as 'Cleopatra's Mines', had already been exhausted by the time they were rediscovered in the early 19th century.
Written many centuries ago, the Vedas, the holy scriptures of the Indians, say of the precious green gems and their healing properties: 'Emeralds promise good luck …'; and 'The emerald enhances the well-being …'. So it was no wonder that the treasure chests of Indian maharajas and maharanis contained wonderful emeralds. One of the world's largest is the so-called 'Mogul Emerald'. It dates from 1695, weighs 217.80 carats, and is some 10cm tall. One side of it is inscribed with prayer texts, and engraved on the other there are magnificent floral ornaments. This legendary emerald was auctioned by Christie's of London to an unidentified buyer for 2.2m US Dollars on September 28th 2001.