Rahul Kadakia, Christie’s International Head of Jewellery, introduces some of the many storied pieces from an incredible collection of royal jewels and jewelled objects that’s set to make auction history in New York this June
‘This is living history in your hand,’ says Rahul Kadakia, International Head of Jewellery at Christie’s, of a stunning trove of jewels that date back nearly 500 years to the early part of the Mughal dynasty, which ruled in India from 1526 to 1857.
India’s rich culture of jewellery is partly the result of natural circumstance. The mines of Golconda yielded the highest grade of diamonds; Kashmir produced the rarest and most beautiful sapphires; while the greatest emeralds arrived in India from Colombia through commercial exchange via the Portuguese-controlled ports of Goa.
Jewellery in the Mughal tradition was an integral aspect of articulating authority, with eyewitness accounts from the height of the Mughal Empire revealing the extent to which rulers valued gems for their rarity, physical properties and provenance.
Eyewitness accounts demonstrate how highly Mughal rulers valued gems for their rarity, physical properties and provenance
Imperial fashions in jewellery and jewelled objects were subject to local, regional and external influence, evident in the introduction of enamelling, which most likely arrived at the imperial court via Renaissance jewels presented as gifts by Western ambassadors. The influence of the West can also be seen in the gem-cutting and metalworking technology introduced by European jewellers, who were welcomed at court and in some cases went on to play a role in imperial workshops, and in the design of jewels from the second half of the 19th century, in particular.
Indian royal treasures
Among the many Indian royal treasures in the collection is a white gold, diamond-encrusted jigha (turban ornament) that would probably have been worn on formal occasions by a Maharaja from an important state.
The finest gems in an Indian treasury would have been mounted into impressive jewellery for a ruler to wear. The necklace (kanthu) shown below is defined by seven foiled emeralds in closed gold settings, separated by diamond clusters.
Created during the mid to late 19th century, the necklace exemplifies the social dynamics among Indian princes in this period, in which the ownership of magnificent jewels assumed great importance.
In the film we see a gold pen case and inkwell (1575-1600), jewelled with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. The symbolic importance of ceremonial inkwells was well known in the medieval Islamic world, where they were the insignia of both imperial rank and governmental office.
It carried even greater resonance in a Muslim context because of the importance of the written word of the Qur’an. Pen cases were prized possessions of sultans and their chief ministers — the royal pen box implied learning and reinforced authority.
During the Mughal dynasty, jewelled pen case and inkwell sets were presented by emperors as a sign of the highest distinction……………..
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