Iranian Crown Jewels

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An elaborate diamond and emerald Aigrette, set in silver. Part of the Iranian Crown Jewels.

The Imperial crown jewels of Iran (also known as the Imperial crown jewels of Persia) include elaborate crowns, thirty tiaras, and numerous aigrettes, a dozen bejeweled swords and shields, a number of unset precious gems, numerous plates and other dining services cast in precious metals and encrusted with gems, and several other more unusual items (such as a large golden globe with the oceans made of emeralds and the latitudes and longitudes marked in diamonds) collected by the Iranian monarchy from the 16th century (Safavid dynasty) on. The collection is housed at The Treasury of National Jewels (the official name) but is known colloquially as the Jewellery Museum. It is situated inside the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran on Tehran's Ferdowsi Avenue. The Imperial crown jewels of Iran are the largest set of displayed jewels in the world that are in state ownership in one location.[1] The museum is open to the public from 14:00 to 16:30 hrs except on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.[2] The museum has onsite guides with knowledge of Persian, English, French and Russian languages. There are also guide booklets available in English, Persian, French, Russian, German, Japanese and Arabic.[3]

Safavid and Afsharid Conquests[edit]

The majority of the items now in the collection were acquired by the Safavid dynasty, which ruled Iran from 1502 to 1736 AD. Afghans invaded Iran in 1719 and sacked the then capital of Isfahan and took the Iranian crown jewels as plunder. By 1729, however, after an internal struggle of nearly a decade, Nader Shah Afshar successfully drove the Afghans from Iran. In 1738, the Shah launched his own campaign against the Afghan homeland. After taking and raiding the cities of Kandahar and Kabul as well as several principalities in northern India, and sacking Delhi, the victorious Nader Shah returned to Iran with what remained of the plundered crown jewels as well as several other precious objects now found in the Iranian Treasury. These included diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and other precious gemstones. Four of the most prominent acquisitions from this conquest were the Koh-i-Noor and Darya-ye Noor diamonds (both originating from India and still amongst the largest in the world), the Peacock Throne, and the Samarian Spinel.

Mohammad Reza Shah crowning his wife, Empress Farah, at their coronation in 1967.

Modern usage[edit]

The crown jewels were last used by the Pahlavi dynasty, the last to rule Iran. The splendor of the collection came to the attention of the western world largely through their use by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his Shahbanu Farah Pahlavi during official ceremonies and state visits.

The Iranian crown jewels are considered so valuable that they are still used as a reserve to back Iranian currency (and have been used this way by several successive governments). In 1937, during the reign of Reza Shah Pahlavi, ownership of the Imperial treasury was transferred to the state. The jewels were placed in the vaults of the National Bank of Iran, where they were used as collateral to strengthen the financial power of the institution and to back the national monetary system.[4] This important economic role is perhaps one reason why these jewels, undeniable symbols of Iran's monarchic past, have been retained by the current Islamic Republic[citation needed].

Public display[edit]

Because of their great value and economic significance, the Iranian crown jewels were for centuries kept far from public view in the vaults of the Imperial treasury. However, as the first Pahlavi Shah had transferred ownership of the crown jewels to the state, his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, decreed that the most spectacular of the jewels should be put on public display at the Central Bank of Iran.

When the Iranian revolution toppled the Pahlavi dynasty in 1979, it was feared that in the chaos the Iranian crown jewels had been stolen or sold by the revolutionaries. Although in fact some smaller items were stolen and smuggled across Iran's borders, the bulk of the collection remained intact. This became evident when the revolutionary government under the presidency of Hashemi Rafsanjani re-opened the permanent exhibition of the Iranian crown jewels to the public in the 1990s. They remain on public display[citation needed].

The Imperial Collection[edit]

Other items[edit]

The Great Globe[edit]

The great globe is a globe studded with diamonds and rubies and is covered with over 50 thousand gemstones. The seas and oceans are displayed with emeralds. Land is mostly shown in rubies and spinels. Iran, Britain, France, and parts of South Asia are shown in diamonds. The base is wood with a layer of gold. Almost 35 kg of pure gold is used in the globe. According to legend, Naser al-Din Shah Qajar ordered the creation of the globe because he couldn't maintain the many loose jems in the treasury. The largest ruby used in the globe is approximately 75 ct. The largest emerald is approximately 175 cts., the largest sapphire is approximately 34 cts, and the largest diamond is approximately 15 cts.

The Sun Throne[edit]

Drawing of the Sun Throne, 1892
Naser al-Din Shah seated on the steps of the Sun Throne in the Mirror Hall of Golestan Palace

The Sun Throne (Persian: تخت خورشید‎‎: Takht-e Khurshīd) is the imperial throne of Persia. It has its name after a radiant sun disk on the headboard. The throne has the shape of a platform (takht), similar to the Marble Throne in Golestan Palace. The Naderi Throne was constructed later and has the appearance of a chair.

It was constructed for Persian king Fath-Ali Shah Qajar in the early 19th century. It was used as the coronation throne until the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. He took Tavous Khanum Taj ol-Doleh as one of his consorts. In English her name translates as Lady Peacock. The marriage ceremony took place on the throne, and Tavous Khanum became his favorite wife. Due to her name, the throne later received the misnomer “Peacock Throne” (Persian: تخت طاووس, Takht-e Tāvūs).[5] It was also theorised that parts of the plundered Mughal Peacock Throne were re-used, such as the legs or other parts, however no conclusive proof exists. Nevertheless, in a metonymic sense, the term "Peacock Throne" also referred rhetorically initially in the West to the institution of the Persian monarchy.

Not a single element on the Sun Throne features a peacock. The Lion and Sun was the ancient symbol of kingship in Persia. When the Shah would be seated on the throne, he symbolised the lion, with the sun symbol behind his back. The Shah himself however could also be seen as the sun. The last Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi carried the title Aryamehr (Light of the Aryans), which was another connotation for the sun.

The throne was probably modeled after the older Marble Throne, with which it shares many features. The throne has the shape of a raised platform to which two stairs led. The steps feature allegories of fierce creatures. Around the platform is a golden railing inscribed with calligraphy with Koranic verses. In the middle of the platform the sovereign would take his seat elevated above the ground. This has strong connotations to the ancient Persian symbol Faravahar, the winged sun. The throne originally also featured two sculptured birds on either side of the sun, facing it. This added to the symbolism of the elevated, floating throne, occupying a place away from earth and towards heaven.

At the end of the 19th century, the sovereign started taking his place on the steps of the throne instead of in the middle of it.

Until 1980 the Sun Throne was located in the Mirror Hall of Golestan Palace. In 1980 it was decided to move it to the vaults of the Iranian Crown Jewels at Iran's Central Bank where it is now on display.

The Royal Mace of Iran[edit]

The Royal Mace of Iran is a jewel-encrusted ceremonial mace, a part of the Iranian Crown Jewels. It was a favorite of Fat′h-Ali Shah Qajar, who is often shown holding it in his miniature portraits.

Fat′h-Ali Shah Qajar with the Royal Mace of Iran at his knees

The mace is encrusted with spinels and diamonds, from end to end. It is 73 cm (2.4 ft) long. The largest diamond weighs 17 carats (3.4 g), and is located on the very top of the mace. The largest spinels are the six surrounding the top of the mace, each weighing 40 carats (8 g).

Nader Shah's Sword[edit]

Picture of Nader shah and two of his sons

Although the inscription on the blade attributes it to Fathali Shah, legend and fact has it as Nader Shah's sword or his All Conquering Sword.

The sword is not visible in any of the portraits of Fathali Shah. There is, however, a mural in the Marble Room of the Golestan Palace which shows Mohammad Shah Qajar, the successor to Fathali Shah, wearing the sword while on horseback.

Both sides of Nader Shah's sword handle and hilt are covered in diamonds.[6]

The reverse side of the sword and scabbard shows a picture of the Shah on the hilt along with a few lines of verse, and the pictures of two of his sons.

Shield of Nader Shah[edit]

The Shield of Nader Shah was made of Rhinoceros skin and did not originally contain any jewels of ornaments. Nader Shah took this shield into battle in his Indian campaign. It was this invasion that allowed him to loot the grande treasures of the immensely rich Mughal empire and his spoils make up the bulk of the Iranian crown jewels. In honor of this grande victory, Nader Shah decorated his shield with many large rubies, diamonds and expensive ornaments.

See also[edit]

Media related to Crown jewels of Iran at Wikimedia Commons


Malecka, A. "The Mystery of the Nur al-Ayn Diamond", in: Gems & Jewellery: The Gemmological Association of Great Britain vol. 23, no. 6, July 2014, pp. 20–22.

Meen, V.B,; Tushingham, A.D. Crown jewels of Iran, Toronto 1968.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°41′21.34″N 51°25′10.83″E / 35.6892611°N 51.4196750°E / 35.6892611; 51.4196750