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Learning Library

Cleopatra’s Emeralds

For thousands of years, royalty have been renowned for having fabulous collections of gems and jewellery. One of the most famous collections was that of Cleopatra, who was said to be fanatical about Emeralds. Egypt was the earliest known location for Emerald mining, not far from the Red Sea. This mine was claimed by Cleopatra as her own, taking it from the Greeks.

Cleopatra also laid claim to the oldest source of Peridot in the world, which was found on the desert island of Zeberget. This probably explains why a lot of Cleopatra’s Emerald collection actually turned out to be Peridot.

As well as using the stones for lavish jewellery, Cleopatra and the Ancient Egyptians believed Emeralds could be used to treat eye diseases and that the green colour represented fertility and rebirth. The dead were often buried with Emeralds to symbolise eternal youth. When visiting dignitaries left Egypt, Cleopatra presented them with her likeness carved into large Emeralds.

In 1817, the ‘lost’ mines of Cleopatra were rediscovered. However, due to heavy mining between 3000 and 1500BC, the supply of Emeralds there had long been exhausted.

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