At 1,363 carats and nearly 36cm tall, the fantasy-cut Dom Pedro aquamarine can certainly hold its own – even when on display at the Smithsonian’s Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, which houses other highly valuable gems like the Hope Diamond and the De Young Red Diamond.
The Dom Pedro was cut from part of a meter-long, 45kg aquamarine crystal that was discovered in the 1980’s in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. While in transportation, the crystal actually fractured into three separate pieces. The two smaller pieces were eventually cut into many smaller gemstones, but the largest was kept intact as it embodied an exquisite greenish-blue hue and amazing clarity. This largest piece was sold to none other than legendary gem-cutter Bernd Munsteiner, known as the “Father of the Fantasy Cut” and “the Picasso of Gems”.
According to the Smithsonian, the first time that he laid eyes on the gem he proclaimed that it was love at first sight!
Munsteiner spent over four months studying the rough and making hundreds of sketches before he settled on the aquamarine’s final pattern. It was to be his most famous “fantasy cut” gem, a cutting technique where negative cuts are faceted into the back of a gemstone to reflect the light within.
During the six months it took to hand cut the gem, he was never concerned about the final carat weight; he opted instead to cut for beauty and brilliance, rather than price. “When you focus on the carat weight, it’s only about the money,” said Munsteiner. “I cannot create when I’m worried about the money.”
The finished masterpiece was unveiled at the 1993 Baselworld Gem Fair, and later bought by private collector Jane Mitchell and her husband Jeffrey Bland. They gifted the stone to the Smithsonian’s National Gem and Mineral Collection in 2011, and by the end of 2012 Dom Pedro was added to the permanent exhibition and continues to be a top attraction.