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Emerald Unguentarium

1641, Artist: Dionysio Miseroni



Emerald Unguentarium

This giant emerald was found in Colombia's Muzu mine, which had been discovered by the Spanish in 1558. The uncut stone, consisting of a larger and a smaller crystal that had grown together, was probably purchased by Emperor Rudolph II. It is first documented in the inventory of the estate of Emperor Matthias in 1619. Emperor Ferdinand III commissioned Dionysio Miseroni to cut a vessel from the stone, which naturally caused heavy loss of material, although the cutter tried to follow the natural form of the stone to a large extent and thus created an irregular shape. Nonetheless, the four decorative leaves hanging from the vessel's shoulder and the acanthus leaf on the bottom led to the loss of a great many carats. The lid is cut from material removed from the inside; its underside is set in gold, engraved with flowers, and glazed with translucent green enamel. This lid rosette alone is 3.6 cm high and measures 4.9 cm in diameter. Because the rim of the vessel remained uneven, the goldsmith added a green enamelled gold ring in order to provide horizontal support. This difficult and demanding work was completed in 1641, and the emperor paid the truly princely sum of 12,000 guilders in instalments. When Miseroni brought the piece to Vienna, he still had fragments of the emerald, for which jewellers apparently offered him gold or precious stones worth 2,500 guilders. Today one must regret the reduction in this emerald's unique size. The emerald vessel immediately entered the Treasury, where it was much-admired. In the 17th century visitors to the Treasury were told that "the Muscovites offered several chests of pearls" for the vessel, while the grand duke of Florence was willing to exchange three tonnes of gold for it.

Location: Kaiserliche Schatzkammer Wien Raum 7

Object data

Object Name







Dionysio Miseroni (um 1607 Prag - 1661 Prag)


Smaragd (aus der Mine Muzo/Kolumbien); Fassung: Gold, Email


10,9 cm × 8,5 cm × 7,2 cm

Image rights

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Kunstkammer

Inv. No.

Kunstkammer, 2048

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