Exhibition Jewels of India

Dazzling jewels of the Maharajas

Jeweled crown set with pearls, diamonds, emeralds, rubies and bird of paradise. Nepal 1900 Al Thani collection

Entering the dimly lit halls of the Grand Palais set in an imaginative contemporary style are the fabulous jewels illustrating the magnificence of the great Mughal rulers of India. From the dynastic Mughal period founded by the Turco Mongol conqueror Babur descendant of Tamerlan and Gengis Khan in the sixteenth century till the fall of the great Indian empire to the extravagant lives of the Maharaja is impressively reflected through the fabulous and dazzling Al Thani collection. The exhibiiton gathers around some beautiful gem stones depicting Indian jewelry used at court. From jade and rock crystals to precious stones gives us an image of how these fabulous gems played an important role at the courts. Whether it be wine cups, furniture or ornamental stones worn as part of their royal regalia, these jewelry are beautifully created while depicting figurative symbols of power and prestige. Portraits made of these rulers from Humayun and Akbar to Jahangir and Shah Jahan till Bahadur Shah II, the last Mughal emperor exiled by the British to Burma in the nineteenth century, are always accompanied by richly ornamented embroidered costumes and bejeweled turban studded with precious stones. If these gems are worn by women they were more often worn by men to illustrate their power and wealth. One of the most impressive is an array of uniquely cut diamonds seen upon entering the treasury halL. Among them is the Idol’s Eye, a flawless 70,21 carat Golconda light blue diamond which has legends attached to it. One of the legends tell of how the diamond was stolen from the eye of a Hindu statue from a sacred temple. Another is the rosy pink Agra diamond which originated as far back as the sixteenth century re cut in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The famous historic diamond is perhaps the Arcot II, one of the two diamonds given to Queen Charlotte in the mid eighteenth century by Nawab Mohammed Ali Khan WalaJah of Arcot, a close ally to the British. These diamonds part of Her Majesty’s personal jewels were supposed to be sold at her death and funds divided between her daughters, but was kept by her son George IV who later set it as part of his crown. The diamonds were later set for the crown of Queen Adelaide consort of William IV, son of George III. These two flawless Arcot diamonds undoubtedly came from the Golconda mines were later sold to the Duke of Westminster who made it as a tiara. He then re sold it to Harry Winston, who dismantled the two Arcot’s diamonds and sold it as two separate stones to private collectors. Arcot II acquired by Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah now part of the Al Thani collection is shown at the exhibiton. Alongside diamonds is an array of engraved emeralds such as the emerald of Shah Jahan with his name inscribed in Persian.

Glittering ornamental gems decorate garments and turbans. A typical Indian style of jewelry making popular in the Mughal era is known as the kundan technique or setting precious stoned in gold using enamels. Stylized turban decorations have been specially created by famous jewelers such as Cartier. The spinel rubies are often used in jewelry making such as seen in the North Indian style turban decoration where the name of Shah Jahan is inscribed in Persian on the two spinel stones.

The fine peacock brooch is another piece of historic gem. Set in gold, diamonds and enamel the brooch was by created by Mellerio in 1905 for the Maharaja of Kapurthala who gave it to his fifth wife, the Spanish flamenco dancer Anita Delgado. Nose ornaments are also beautifully made such as that made at the beginning of the last century, stunningly carved dagger set in gold and gemstones, necklaces,rings and gold bracelet set in rubies from Jaipur. If in the past Indian jewelers worked closely with the court, by the beginning of the last century, European designers such as Cartier successfully catered to the extravagant taste of the Maharajas. It is the merging of both traditional Indian and western styles using modern European methods that gave birth to some of the most spectacular jewelry, reflecting courtly continuity of treasured gem stones as bodily ornaments. After exhibitions in New York and London and for the first time shown in Paris, a pageantry of exquisite jewels of the Indian royal courts from the Al Thani collection displayed alongside contemporary pieces is certainly not be missed. The exhibition is accompanied by an in depth richly illustrated catalogue.

From the great Mughals to the Maharajas
Jewels from the Al Thani collection
Grand Palais, Salon d’Honneur
29 March – 5 June 2017
Open daily except Tuesday 10 a.m – 8 p.m
Late night opening Wednesday till 10 p.m
Closed Monday 1st May

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