While India is rich in beryl minerals, emeralds were historically imported from Egypt. With the discovery of emerald mines in Colombia, the Mughal Emperors, who were passionate collectors of precious stones, went to great lengths to acquire these stones. Formed with the typical inclusions expected in an emerald, and resembling a garden, it is not clear where the present example originated. The style in which it was carved is interesting as the Mughal lapidaries were careful to keep the shape of the original crystal, which in this case must have been quite large. Of slightly concave form, the exterior features a naturalistic floral stem which undulates with the contours of the stone, whilst the reverse is carved throughout with a petal design. As Usha Bala Krishnan notes: “The motif of the flowering plant, reminiscent of the pietra dura surface of the Taj Mahal, was vitually a logo of the reigns of Jahangir and Shah Jahan. It appears in architecture, in textiles and in jewellery” (U.R. Bala Krishnan and M.S. Kumar, Dance of the Peacock: Jewellery Traditions of India, India Book House Limited, 2001, p.46).
Mughal emeralds became popular in the nineteenth century with jewellers such as Cartier who remounted them to form new superb creations. Whereas the present example was later set in a simple mount, it speaks to the continued fashion for carved emeralds. See E. Shcherbina, India: Jewels That Enchanted the World, London, 2014, pg.196-7 for similar examples of carved Mughal emeralds, pp.272, 286-293 and Keene 2001, pp.111-114, for carved emeralds in the Al-Sabah collection, Kuwait National Museum.