October 27, 2021 Live Auction in London. Arts of the Islamic World & India including Fine Rugs and Carpets.
A statement by Sotheby’s said that a diamond and an emerald were shaped into the two spectacles.
“The quality and purity of the gemstones is extraordinary and stones of this size would no doubt have been the reserve of an emperor,” it added.
The diamond lenses – cleaved as a pair from a single natural diamond – are thought to be from the mines of Golconda in southern India. The teardrop-shaped emeralds originate from a single natural Colombian emerald.
“While ordinary lenses merely function to improve sight, these filters were aids for spiritual enlightenment – with diamonds thought to illuminate and emeralds believed to have held miraculous powers to heal and to ward off evil,” Sotheby’s said.
According to the auction house, the “most famous evocation” of such glasses in history and mythology can be found in Pliny the Elder’s “Natural History”, which recounts the ancient Roman Emperor Nero observing gladiatorial contests through the surface of a precious green stone.
Nero’s tutor, Seneca, was an expert in light refraction, mirrors, and optics, and those were thought to be one of the first-ever spectacles, the statement said.
Lot 213. A pair of Mughal spectacles set with emerald lenses, in diamond-mounted frames, India, lenses circa 17th century, frames 19th century.
Lot 214. A pair of Mughal spectacles set with diamond lenses, in diamond-mounted frames, India, lenses circa 17th century, frames 19th century.
Estimate: 1,500,000 – 2,500,000 GBP each. $2,000,000 – $3,400,000 each.