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Jewelry collectors of the world know that often a piece of jewelry's value lies not only its karat worth but also its past - where it came from, how it was acquired and the intrigue it has created through the years. These individual pieces, brought together, form prized collections that hold stories of conquest and mystery.

Considered to be one of the world's most valuable and largest collections, the Imperial Crown Jewels of Iran is comprised of an exhaustive number of tiaras, crowns, thrones, and the world's largest collection of emeralds, rubies, spinels, and yellow diamonds. Representing nearly 2,500 years of Shah rule in Iran, most of the items were acquired by the Safavid shahs who ruled from 1502-1736 A.D. The collection is so invaluable it backs Iranian currency as a reserve.

This Persian treasure also boasts the world's largest spinel. The Samarian Spinel is a 500-carat, blood-red stone currently held at the National Jewelry Museum of Iran in Tehran. Like many treasures of its magnitude, the Samarian Spinel has a unique legend which tells of its use around the neck of the gold calf built by the Israelites while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments.

Equally breathtaking, the collection's Pahlavi Crown sports a 60-carat brilliant-cut yellow diamond and was created in the early 1920s for the last ruler of the Imperial Dynasty. The crown is also studded with 3,380 diamonds which total 1,144 carats and is made with red velvet. The official crown of the Qajar Dynasty, which ruled from 1796 to 1925, the Kiani Crown features 1,800 pearls and rubies, as well as emeralds and diamonds.

During the Iranian Revolution in 1979 that caused the collapse of the Pahlavi Dynasty, rumors spread that the Imperial Crown Jewels had been stolen and sold abroad. While a few smaller pieces had indeed been stolen and smuggled out of the country, most of the collection remained intact. Unfortunately, while the smugglers and their booty were caught by Pakistani authorities, the stolen items have yet to be returned to Iran.

One of America's most famous jewelers, Harry Winston created a jewelry empire that now includes salons in New York, Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, Dallas, Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. Winston really began his collection with the acquisition of Arabella Huntington's jewelry collection. Wife of railroad magnate Henry Huntington, Arabella's collection was one of the world's most prestigious. The jewelry, whose style was considered largely old fashioned, was redesigned by Winston into more contemporary styles.

In addition, Winston was the owner of some of the world's most precious diamonds known to man. The Hope Diamond, which appears brilliant blue to the naked eye, was donated by Winston to the Smithsonian Institution. A curse was believed to have been placed on the diamond, creating financial ruin and heartbreak to anyone who owned it. Winston never believed in the curse of the diamond, which was once owned by Marie Antoinette. Today it is part of the Smithsonian's National Gem Collection.

Also in the collection, the Napoleon Diamond Necklace was given to Empress Marie-Louise by her husband Napoleon. Made of 47 diamonds weighing a total of 275 carats, the necklace was passed down through the Empress' family for generations. It eventually reached Winston in 1960 who sold it two years later to Marjorie Merriweather Post. Today, it is also on display at the Smithsonian Institute.

Purchased by Winston in 1935, the Jonker was originally discovered as a 726-carat rough crystal and represented the first a diamond of its caliber to be cleaved in the United States. The Jonker, the largest diamond of the crystal, was much beloved by Winston who refused to sell it for many years. Instead, he displayed the diamond at exhibitions. Winston eventually sold the diamond to King Farouk of Egypt, who sold the diamond to the Queen of Nepal. Eventually, the Jonker was sold at a Hong Kong auction for $4 million.

The personal jewelry collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is conservatively valued at $57 million. Most of the pieces were given as gifts to the Queen. A magnificent piece of the collection is the Timur Ruby, a splendid 352.50-carat spinel. The piece is inscribed with the names of previous owners who were Mughal emperors. The Prince Albert Brooch is a magnificent sapphire which was presented to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert on their wedding day. Other notable pieces include a suite of emerald jewelry, large ruby earrings owned by Queen Mary, and a handful of diamonds cut from the Cullinan, which produced the Stars of Africa and other well-known diamonds

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