Mrs. Alisa Moussaieff of Moussaieff Jewellers uncovers some of the mystery surrounding emeralds – one of the most enigmatic gemstones known to man

Over the years, London-based Moussaieff Jewellers has held the distinction of being one of the most prominent high jewellery houses in the world. It is a name synonymous with the finest and rarest jewels, which adorn those in the know: Members of royal families and heads of state, as well as celebrities and discerning jewellery collectors.

For decades, the jewel in its crown is Mrs. Alisa Moussaieff, Managing Director and creative mastermind. While she is known in the industry as the doyenne of diamonds, Mrs. Moussaieff doesn’t necessarily play favourites when it comes to gemstones. “Everything beautiful is my favourite,” she exclaimed in an interview with Solitaire a few months ago. However, in another conversation, we discovered that the enigmatic emerald has deeply captivated her, which is why it has always held special place in both her memory and designs.


Moussaieff High Jewellery necklace with 26.83cts of Colombian emeralds and 97.03cts of diamonds, set in platinum
Moussaieff High Jewellery earrings with 25.34cts of Colombian emeralds and 7.24cts of diamonds, set in platinum

My earliest memory of emeralds was when at the age of seven, in my home city of Vienna, my parents took me to the Shatzkammergut (treasury) to see the crown of Charlemagne and the papal crown,” she recalled. “The former, with its deeply saturated emerald in the centre, left a profound and lasting impact on my young mind. The attendant explained that having been invested with papal authority, the crown is said to be sacred. I distinctly remember feeling a special energy emanating from it!”

To uncover some of the emerald’s mysterious allure, Mrs. Moussaieff shares insider knowledge with us.

For those unfamiliar, tell us about the historical significance and allure or emeralds.
I can tell you that emeralds are special in Egyptian and pre-Colombian mythology. The gemstone is believed to have religious significance and perceived to possess spiritual powers. They were set as the eyes of deities and even under torture, the Colombians did not reveal the location of the emerald mine to the conquistadors. Nonetheless, the best specimens found their way to Goa where the maharajahs and ruling class soon became captivated by their sheer beauty.

Do you still remember early jewellery pieces you designed that featured the gemstone prominently?
The first few pieces I designed that featured emeralds prominently was a headdress comprised of old mine Colombian cushions in the centre. It was surrounded by seed pearls and barrel-shaped emerald beads, which the bride wore around her forehead for her wedding. The matching drop shaped earrings, which also featured seed pears and barrels, also adhered very strictly to the traditional Indian design motif favoured by the maharajahs.

What role does the emerald play in the Moussaieff brand?
Emeralds play a prominent role in our brand. They became an integral part of the Moussaieff DNA in the 1970’s as political reshuffles took place and Moussaieff, through its close ties with the maharajahs, bought some truly magnificent emerald-centric jewellery. With increased exposure came increased knowledge and expertise. Since then, Moussaieff has been buying Indian emeralds from major auction houses.

There is perhaps no other place in the world that produces emeralds as beautiful as Colombia, with local history and mythology woven into it. What makes the emeralds here so highly sought after? 
Colombian emeralds are highly prized for their rich green saturation and super clear transparency. Their internal landscape is evocative of very clean seawater and in the best quality, they have the ability to emit a pure green sheen even in the dark.

High Jewellery ring with an 8.66ct Colombian emerald, 1.62cts of diamonds

Where else can one find emeralds aside from Colombia? How do they differ from their more famous counterpart?
Africa and Russia both produce emeralds, which on occasions, have been highly prized by connoisseurs. However, these varieties possess a slightly darkened tone and their internal landscape is typically not as clear. These emeralds have traditionally proved to be a good alternative for those on a budget.

Further afield in Asia, emeralds are also highly valued and appreciated. As someone who has spent decades working with these precious stones, why do you think it appeals to the Asian market?
We find that our Asian friends are extremely sensitive to spirituality embodied in objects. Emeralds are deeply embodied in the Asian sense of spirituality and aesthetics, and some emerald Buddhas we have seen border on the sublime.

In the last few years, with increased communication, exposure, and marketing, the Asian clientele has become increasingly sophisticated in their investment choices, so much so that most of the emeralds highlighted at auctions end up with Asian owners.

High Jewellery bangle with 62.74cts of Colombian emeralds and 42.61cts of diamonds

What can you tell us about the jewellery pieces featured in this issue of Solitaire? Walk us through the emeralds used and the design.
We sought to create an unconventional design that would appeal to someone a little younger. The stone’s intensive fringes are an excellent marriage with the deeply saturated emeralds, perfectly contrasting with the very white diamonds.

For those looking to invest in emerald jewellery, can you share some important tips before they go ahead with their purchase?
If investment is a priority, we recommend the best quality Colombian material that any particular budget allows. Thus, at the top end is the Muzo crystal with minimum intrusive inclusion, with a perfect balance between bluish- and yellowish-green tones. The texture of the colour shouldn’t be too pale, not oversaturated, or dark. It should possess clear transparency and a shape that is pleasant to the eye. On top of all this, a certificate from a credible gemological laboratory is highly advisable.


Photography by Chino Sardea
Makeup and hair by Nikki Fu, using Urban Decay Cosmetics and Schwarzkopf Pro
Outfit by Versace
Model: Paris / Mannequin