Stray Jewels with Susan Rumfitt: Jewellery fit for royals


Last updated Nov 24, 2020

Stray Jewels is a monthly column written by BBC Antiques Roadshow jewellery specialist, Susan Rumfitt. Susan started her career working for Christie’s auctioneers in Glasgow before establishing her own jewellery department, The Gallery in Harrogate.

In 2006, she joined the Antiques Roadshow and has since built up an extensive knowledge of and passion for fine jewellery. In this month’s column, she delves into the history of emerald jewellery sold at Tennants Auctioneers.


Looking through the current auction catalogues online, I was excited to see that Tennants Auctioneers have their Fine Jewellery Sale on November 14. A beautiful pendant of diamonds, amethysts and red enamel associated with the Delhi Durbar of 1911 and some emerald pieces caught my eye.

The Auction world is fascinating, and sales are always full of beautiful jewels that brighten up these dark Autumn nights.

The Splendour of India

The pendant was of particular interest, as I was writing and talking about The Maharani’s and their fabulous jewellery collections at The Gallery last month. The Delhi Durbar or ‘Court of Delhi’, was held in 1877, 1903 and 1911, each time to celebrate the succession of an Emperor or Empress of India.

The Delhi Durbar Pendant

The 1911 Durbar was to mark the succession of George V as Emperor of India. King George and Mary of Teck were at the ceremony and this was the first time a monarch actually attended. Such festivities were a perfect opportunity to acquire and wear jewels as well as receive jewellery to mark the occasion. The pendant in Tennants sale was presented to Frances Irene Campbell whose husband Archibald Campbell was Private Secretary to the Governor of Madras Sir Thomas Gibson Carmichael at the time of the Durbar.

The Delhi Durbar Pendant is quite a treat; with only two others having come up for sale in recent years, it is well worth a view.

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Saleroom Gems

Two other pieces that appealed to me in the Tennants jewellery sale are a Victorian emerald and diamond brooch, which has a certificate with it stating that the origin of the emerald is probably Colombia. The stone is a beautiful colour and is set off fabulously by the pearl and diamond mount. I also love a Georgian ring set with a gorgeous emerald within a charming setting. The Georgian period was one of charm and elegance and the ring oozes both.

Victorian Emerald and Diamond Brooch

What is it about emeralds that people find appealing?

Well to start with, their vibrant bottle green through to pale green colour variations provide a variety of choice and prices to meet tastes and budgets.

The countries of origin provide a sense of magic and mysticism. Cleopatra owned extensive mines in Egypt. The Ural Mountains in Russia provided a healthy supply in the 19th century and Colombia has produced some of the finest examples and is still a name desired on a Gemstone Certificate today.

In the mid-20th century, there was a rise in popularity for the delightful bottle green Columbian emeralds – made popular by glamorous and topical women such as the Duchess of Windsor and Elizabeth Taylor.

By the 1970’s suppliers of these beautiful stones just couldn’t meet the demand and therefore emeralds of very poor quality would be heavily treated and enhanced to hide flaws and improve colour and be sold as ‘Colombian Emeralds’ when they were clearly not. This naturally effected the value of emeralds and the confidence in the market fell. Today confidence is good, and emeralds are definitely back in favour and deserve serious consideration.

Throughout history gemstones have been associated with spiritual or medical healing, prosperity and celebrations. Emeralds are associated with hope and love – both of which we all need in abundance right now.


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