The Tehran National Jewels Museum is truly over-the-top, with a staggering collection of gem encrusted artifacts.
I had missed this when I was in Tehran in 2008, so I made sure to catch it this time.
The collection is in 37 large display cases, full of many lavishly decorated items. There are bright crowns, covered in pearls, a red and green encrusted globe, endless small artifacts covered with small red, green, and white stones.
OK, my first reaction on seeing all of this was to assume it couldn’t all be real. There is just too much stuff. And too many bright colors. It looks like costume jewelry. It can’t possibly all be real. Can it?
Then I stopped, and thought, and read the guide book. This is the accumulated collection of the Shahs of Persia. For several centuries they were the wealthiest potentates of the region, avidly buying up the best gems for their treasury. And that collection was never broken up. The 19th c. shahs added to it, including many large South African diamonds. The 20th c. Pahlavi shahs added further jewels and the collection survived the 1979 revolution intact. So, yes, the Museum is hosting the centuries old accumulated collection of very wealthy rulers. So, gulp, it is probably mostly real. (Even the best museums have the occasional imposter.)
Some of the more striking pieces include
- the Reza Khan crown (with 3380 diamonds and 368 matched pearls)
the Darya-i-Nur “Sea of Light” 182 carat pink diamond
- a large globe with the land marked with rubies and the seas with emeralds
- a sword scabard entirely covered in 1869 rose-cut diamonds
- a circular shield decorated with giant rubies and emeralds
- just outside the vault proper is a display room holding the jewel encrusted Peacock Throne.
Some items do look rather gaudy: I guess when you use large emeralds and rubies, it is hard to look restrained.
The Museum is not sign posted. It is in a bank vault underneath the Melli Bank on Ferdossi Street, but to reach the Museum you need to enter via the the Central Bank building just to the North. They store your bag (and camera), run you through a metal detector and then send you South across a courtyard to the vault.
The Museum hours are 2:00-4:30 pm on Saturday to Tuesday. It is definitely worth trying to visit if you are in Tehran.