The speculators from Bonham's London jewelry auction were thrown for a loop on September 24th, when a historical piece sold for far beyond their estimations. The item was a brooch containing a magnificently carved Columbian emerald which sold for more than double its estimate before the auction. The stone was given as a gift to Mary Elizabeth Frederica Mackenzie, an aristocratic heiress, and Victorian adventurer that inspired the character of Ellen in the Walter Scott narrative poem entitled "The Lady of the Lake."
The brooch once belonging to her, was estimated to sell for $50,000 to $75,000. However, it wound up, leaving the auction block for approximately $187,000. Mackenzie went by other names like Mary Hood, Lady Hood Mackenzie, Mrs. Stewart Mackenzie, and sometimes the sobriquet of "The Hooded Lassie.” The piece was believed to have been a gift given to her at around 1813 by Mughal Emperor Akbar II during her travels in India. Akbar reigned from 1806-1837. At the center of the piece is a Persian-engraved emerald.
The five lines scribed onto the stone are carved in a Persian calligraphic script known as nasta’liq, among other small floral designs. The case contains a brass plaque which reads, “This emerald is engraved in Persian with the following words: cream of the pillars of the state, Queen and music of the age, Mary Frederica Elizabeth Hood, noblest of women, Princess, child of the Majesty of Mahommed Akbar, the Emperor, the Warrior. 1813.”
Mary Hood passed away in 1862. According to Bonhams, before being laid to rest at Fortrose Castle a five-mile-long column of mourning Scots was led by pipe players echoing the clan lament in what was considered one of the last great highland funerals. The Columbian emerald was bequeathed to her youngest daughter Louisa Baring, Lady Ashburton. It has been passed down for generations within the family and now resides with a direct descendant as its current owner. The stone was initially thought to have been created in 1925 by British society jeweler Hennell. It sits within a black enamel frame among brilliant and single-cut diamonds, calibré-cut emeralds and platinum.
Information Originally Sourced From National Jeweler.