Home Emerald Why is the Rockefeller Emerald Famous?

Why is the Rockefeller Emerald Famous?

by Madonna

The gemstone world is filled with remarkable and legendary gems, each with a unique history and significance. Among these treasures, the Rockefeller Emerald stands out for its exceptional quality, intriguing history, and record-breaking auction sales. This article delves into the factors that contribute to the fame of the Rockefeller Emerald, offering insights into its provenance, physical characteristics, and the broader context of its allure.

A Glimpse into the History of the Rockefeller Emerald

The Rockefeller Emerald is a gem with a storied past, closely tied to one of America’s most renowned families, the Rockefellers. The emerald was originally acquired by John D. Rockefeller Jr., the philanthropist and financier, as part of a collection of jewels for his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Abby, a prominent figure in art and philanthropy, was known for her sophisticated taste and appreciation for fine jewelry.


After Abby’s death in 1948, the emerald was passed down through the Rockefeller family. The emerald’s journey continued when it was recut by the renowned jeweler, Raymond Yard, who had a long-standing relationship with the Rockefeller family. The recutting process, undertaken to enhance the gem’s brilliance and color, added to the emerald’s mystique and value.


Exceptional Quality and Characteristics

Color and Clarity

One of the primary reasons the Rockefeller Emerald is so famous is its exceptional quality. The gem is a Colombian emerald, sourced from the Muzo mines, known for producing some of the world’s finest emeralds. Colombian emeralds are highly prized for their rich, vibrant green color, which is often described as “green fire.” The Rockefeller Emerald is no exception, boasting an intense, vivid green hue that is rare even among the best emeralds.


Clarity is another critical factor in the gemstone’s fame. Emeralds, unlike diamonds, typically have inclusions or internal flaws, often referred to as “jardin” (French for garden). These inclusions are generally accepted in emeralds, but the Rockefeller Emerald stands out due to its exceptional clarity. While it does have some inclusions, they are minimal and do not detract from the stone’s overall beauty and brilliance.

Size and Cut

The size of the Rockefeller Emerald is another notable feature. The gem weighs approximately 18.04 carats, making it significantly larger than many high-quality emeralds available on the market. The size, combined with its exceptional color and clarity, makes it a truly remarkable stone.

The cut of the Rockefeller Emerald also contributes to its fame. As mentioned earlier, the gem was recut by Raymond Yard, a master jeweler. The emerald-cut, characterized by its rectangular shape and stepped facets, enhances the stone’s color and reduces the visibility of any inclusions. This precise cut allows the gem to display its full brilliance and color, making it a standout piece in any collection.

Record-Breaking Auction Sales

The Rockefeller Emerald’s fame was further cemented by its performance at auctions. In June 2017, the gem was sold at a Christie’s auction in New York for a staggering $5.5 million, setting a new world record for the price per carat for an emerald. The sale garnered significant media attention and highlighted the gem’s unparalleled quality and desirability.

The record-breaking sale price can be attributed to several factors. First, the provenance of the gem, being associated with the Rockefeller family, added a layer of historical and sentimental value. Collectors and investors are often willing to pay a premium for gems with such illustrious backgrounds. Second, the exceptional quality of the emerald, in terms of color, clarity, size, and cut, made it an extremely desirable piece. Finally, the increasing rarity of high-quality emeralds in the market contributed to the gem’s high auction price.

The Broader Context of Emeralds

To fully understand the fame of the Rockefeller Emerald, it’s essential to consider the broader context of emeralds in the gemstone market. Emeralds have been treasured for thousands of years, with a history that dates back to ancient civilizations.

Historical Significance

Emeralds have long been associated with royalty and luxury. In ancient Egypt, emeralds were mined as early as 1500 BCE and were believed to symbolize eternal life. Cleopatra, the famous Egyptian queen, was known for her passion for emeralds, and she often wore them as part of her royal regalia.

The Incas and Aztecs of South America also held emeralds in high regard, considering them sacred stones. The Spanish conquistadors, upon encountering these civilizations, were captivated by the emeralds’ beauty and brought them back to Europe, where they became symbols of wealth and power among European nobility.

See Also: What Does Oiled Emerald Mean?

Modern Appreciation

In modern times, emeralds continue to be highly valued for their beauty and rarity. The market for emeralds is robust, with significant demand from collectors, investors, and jewelry enthusiasts. The finest emeralds, particularly those from Colombia, command high prices and are considered excellent investments.

The Rockefeller Emerald fits perfectly within this context of historical and modern appreciation for emeralds. Its exceptional quality, combined with its illustrious provenance, makes it a highly desirable gem that stands out even in a market filled with remarkable stones.

Cultural and Symbolic Significance

Beyond their monetary value, emeralds, including the Rockefeller Emerald, hold significant cultural and symbolic meanings. Emeralds are often associated with rebirth, renewal, and growth due to their vibrant green color. They are also believed to bring good fortune and enhance well-being.

In various cultures, emeralds have been attributed with protective properties. For instance, ancient cultures believed that wearing emeralds could protect against evil spirits and negative energies. In modern times, emeralds are often associated with healing and balance, believed to promote emotional and physical well-being.

The Rockefeller Emerald, with its rich history and exceptional quality, embodies these cultural and symbolic significances, adding to its allure and fame.


The Rockefeller Emerald’s fame is a result of a combination of factors, including its illustrious provenance, exceptional quality, record-breaking auction sales, and the broader context of emeralds in the gemstone market. The gem’s rich, vivid green color, exceptional clarity, significant size, and masterful cut make it a standout piece that captivates collectors, investors, and jewelry enthusiasts alike.

The association with the Rockefeller family adds a layer of historical and sentimental value, making the gem not just a piece of jewelry, but a part of American history. The record-breaking auction sale further highlights the gem’s unparalleled desirability and value in the market.

In the broader context, emeralds have been treasured for thousands of years for their beauty, rarity, and symbolic meanings. The Rockefeller Emerald fits perfectly within this context, embodying the historical and modern appreciation for these magnificent stones.

As a gemologist, observing the market and the significance of gems like the Rockefeller Emerald provides invaluable insights into the enduring allure and value of exceptional gemstones. The Rockefeller Emerald will undoubtedly continue to be celebrated and admired for generations to come, a testament to its extraordinary beauty and significance.


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