NEW YORK, NY.- Following the success of the global tour of highlights, Christie’s announces final details of the most anticipated jewelry and objects sale of the season, Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence. This landmark auction is poised to be the most valuable and precious collection of jewelry and Mughal objects to ever come to auction. New confirmed details include availability of illustrated digital catalogues, exhibition dates, and sale details. The specially designed exhibition will be open to the public from 14-18 June and will feature the entire selection offered for auction ahead of the sale on 19 June 2019 at Christie’s New York.
Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence presents an unprecedented group of jewels, gemstones, and decorative objects. Consisting of almost four hundred lots spanning over five hundred years, this landmark auction showcases the illustrious culture of Indian jeweled arts from the Mughal period and the age of the Maharajas, exploring the creative dialogue between India and the West, through to the present day. The collection begins in Mughal India, under the most important dynasty that ruled the country, famous for its emeralds, diamonds, sapphires, rubies, weapons and objects that are bejeweled beyond belief. It traces the history of jewelry from early Mughal India through the Maharajas and their collaboration with the world’s most renowned jewelry houses to create some of the most exceptional pieces of jewelry ever made. The sale is presented in partnership between Christie’s market-leading Jewellery department, led by Rahul Kadakia, and World Art department, led by William Robinson, along with the independent art advisory firm The Fine Art Group.
These objects are offered from The Al Thani Collection. From next year, works of art from this encyclopedic collection will be shown at a new museum space in Paris. In addition to new acquisitions, sale proceeds will support ongoing initiatives of The Al Thani Collection Foundation which extend from exhibitions, publications and lectures to sponsorships of projects at museums around the world.
Guillaume Cerutti, Chief Executive Officer of Christie’s, remarks: “This landmark collection traces the history of Mughal jewels and objects to the present day representing the most significant collection of its type ever to come to auction. The sale of this notable collection will therefore present a truly significant cultural moment and offers a milestone opportunity for collectors. Having shared many of these impressive pieces over recent years through a series of publications and travelling exhibitions, we are honoured that The Al Thani Collection has entrusted us to find new homes for these exquisite objects. From next year, we can look forward to exploring other areas of this diverse and encyclopaedic collection at the new museum space opening in Paris.”
The Mughals and their Empire: Bejeweled Objects, Jewels, and Gemstones
The collection begins in Mughal India, showcasing the sophistication of artistic production from the Royal courts of India from the 17th century onwards. These treasures comprise the most delicate jades, vivid enamels, opulent jewels, gemstones, and magnificent Royal portraits.
Among the many notable Mughal royal objects represented is a jade hilted dagger once owned by Shah Jahan, creator of the Taj Mahal, a jade cup with an ibex head so realistically carved that the Chinese Emperor Qianlong composed a poem in its honor, and a diamond and enamel covered gold huqqa pipe, revealing Indian opulence at its best. Other bejeweled objects include a gem set mace, set on finial with large Mughal-cut diamond, and an emerald, ruby and diamond set gold state pen case and inkwell, a symbol of power at court.
Lot 387. The Shah Jahan dagger (kard), North India, hilt 1620-1630. Estimate USD 1,500,000 - USD 2,500,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
With carved jade hilt and watered-steel blade; 11 5/8 ins. (29.7 cm.) long; hilt 4 3/8 ins. (11.1 cm.) long.
Provenance: By repute, Samuel Morse
Christie’s, London, 17 April 1974, lot 142
Literature: Welch 1985, pp.202-03
Haidar 1991, p.212
Elgood 2004, pp.83-85, fig.9
Jaffer 2013, pp.23, 91, no.4.
Exhibited: Victoria and Albert Museum, London 1982, p.128, no. 406
Paris 1988, pp.93, 182, no.149
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2014, pp.24, 26-27
Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2015, p.62, no.24
The Miho Museum, Koka 2016, p.75, no.46
Grand Palais, Paris 2017, pp.78-79, no.48
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p.99. no.51
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018, p.114. no.52
de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco 2018, p. 82, no. 26
Note: This dagger, one of the masterpieces of Mughal art, demonstrates in one piece so many different elements which, when fused together, gave Mughal Art its character. The jade stone that was used for the hilt would have come from Kashgar in present-day Xinjiang, western China; the trade that brought the jade to the Mughal court is well documented (Markel, 2008: note 5 details the principal sources). The scrolling designs inlaid in gold at the top of the blade, together with the nasta'liq script in which the short inscription is written, are, both stylistically and technically, imports from the Iranian world, part of the substantial artistic input from there to India in the early Mughal period. A recently rediscovered dagger made in Herat in the late 15th century, now in the Wallace Collection shows both these features (Sotheby's, London, 26 May 1933, lot 65).
The carved jade head represents the European contribution, both in its three-dimensional carving, which is thought to have been influenced by and also in the subject matter itself. It has been suggested that it was either created by or else heavily influenced by the work of European lapidaries working at the Mughal court. What is certain is that the subject is of European origin. One scholar posits that it derives from an Indo-Portuguese head of Christ as the Good Shepherd (San Francisco, 2018, no.26). Another suggests that the source was the classic depiction of a young European man, complete with earring, showing its resemblance to an Indian drawing after a European print dating from 1600-1610 now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (London, 2015). It has also been thought to derive from depictions of cherubs which, having been imported from Europe, appear in royal context in many Mughal paintings. None of these options however really account for what is clearly a ruff around the neck; in some ways the most European feature of all. Whatever the most immediate source, there is no doubt that it is a real masterpiece of hardstone carving, entirely consistent with royal Mughal work of the highest quality.
Two Mughal paintings depict a dagger of this form with a human head terminal, in a scabbard hanging from a royal waistband. One is a historical portrait of Prince Salim, the future emperor Jahangir, examining a mirror of very European taste, painted by Bichitr in around 1630, shortly after the subject had died (Minto Album, V -1925; New York, 2014, p.27). A second depiction, again a historical representation, painted about 5 years later, shows a dagger with human head terminal in the waistband of Prince Khurram (the future Shah Jahan) as he greets his father in a depiction in the Padshahnama in Windsor Castle attributed to 'Abid (Jaffer, 2013, p. 22). The blade of the dagger is inscribed with the title sahib qiran thani, the Second Lord of the [Celestial] Conjunction, a title taken by Shah Jahan that also enforced the Mughal lineage since the original Sahib Qiran was Timur, back to whom the Mughals traced their lineage. The parasol (chhatri) motif inlaid on one side of the blade is a further royal indicator. It is an ancient Indian motif indicating royalty or divinity, appearing above the heads of many central figures in mediaeval stone sculpture. Its absence of further titles emphasizes the personal nature of this dagger. The earliest blade yet noted that bears this motif is a sword made for Jahangir dating from early in his reign in 1027/1608; under Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb it was frequently employed on royal edged weapons.
Previous descriptions of this dagger have noted that the closest depiction of a human headed dagger is depicted in the waistband of the young Jahangir, and that the use of a very pale green jade rather than a pure white is another indication of a Jahangiri rather than a Shah Jahani commission for the jade. They have tried to resolve this with the clear inscription on the blade that indicates Shah Jahan. It has been suggested that the blade was replaced when it was inherited by Shah Jahan (London 1982 and others), that the inscription was added to an earlier plain blade (London 2015) or that the commission took place at the start of Shah Jahan’s reign 1629-1636 (Paris 2017 and others). It is true that the taste of the hilt with its color and its use of the human face (Elgood, 2004, pp.83-85) is more what one would expect of the reign of Jahangir. A further possibility is that the hilt was indeed carved under Jahangir, but had not had a blade added at the time that he died. The blade having just been added under his son Shah Jahan would also explain why the posthumous painting of Prince Salim by Bichitr honours him showing him wearing the extraordinary and unparalleled dagger which had just appeared in complete form at the court of Shah Jahan.
Lot 295. An ibex-headed carved jade cup, North India, 1660-1680, carved with a poem in its honor by Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795). Set with ruby eyes framed in gold, silver support-ring on foot; 3 ¼ ins. (8.4 cm.) across. Estimate USD 1,000,000 - USD 1,500,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Literature: Forsyth and McElney 1994, p.413, no.350.
Exhibited: The Miho Museum, Koka 2016, pp.48-49, no,23
Grand Palais, Paris 2017, p.88, no.57
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p.109, no.59
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018, pp.128-29, no.62
de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco 2018, p. 68, no. 16.
Note: The good property in Lutai (Deer Terrace Pavilion) comes from distant lands where this cup was carefully carved and pierced by fine artisans. The design is different from those cups of the Han dynasty as well as from vessels of the Shang. This ladle-cup is carved from exquisite jade. The gourd has many lobes, and flowers as well as leaves are shown. The crooked handle is turned around to resemble a ram’s head. [This design] is fantastic and the concept behind it is comprehensive. The smoothness makes it easy to get close to and the nature is soft. Neither the Dongling [jade - aventurine quartz] nor the [jade from] Guannei is comparable. Imperially composed in the jihai year of the Qianlong reign [1779, the 44th year of the Qianlong reign]. Qianlong Emperor (r.1735-1796, d.1799)
The present cup is similar to a carved jade wine cup made for the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, dated to 1657, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (IS.12-1962).
Lot 206. A Gem Set Mace, India, 17th Century. Set on finial with large Mughal-cut diamond and also set with rubies and emeralds; 21 ins. (53.3 cm.) long. Estimate USD 70,000 - USD 100,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Note: The historic weapon of the mace is considered second only to the sword and played a key role in ceremonies as a symbol of power, authority and military prowess (Mohamed, 2007, p. 235). The shape of the present mace is comparable to an earlier eighteenth century steel mace produced in India in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. no. 36.25.1874). Other examples of ceremonial maces were produced in luxurious materials such as a carved rock crystal example set with a ruby from eighteenth century Mughal India in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. no. 36.25.1884). However, the quantity of the inset stones adorning this mace is considerably higher than other known examples.
The Royal Mace of Iran, although a different shape to this example, shares this lavish ornamentation as it is encrusted with various jewels including diamonds, emeralds, and spinels. This mace was the favorite of Fath ‘Ali Shah who is frequently depicted with it in portraits including one in the British Library (inv. no. F116, see Fellinger and Guillaume, 2018, fig. 1, p.114).
Lot 207. An emerald, ruby and diamond set gold state pen case and inkwell (davat-i dawlat), Deccan, Central India, Late 16th century; 12 ¼ ins. (30.6 cm.) long; inkwell 4 5/8 ins. (11.7 cm.) high. Estimate USD 1,500,000 - USD 2,500,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
A sacred bird (hamsa) engraved under the inkwell.
Literature: Jaffer 2013, p.90, no.1
Exhibited: Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2009, p.142, no.116
Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich 2010, p.142, no.116
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2014, p.50
The Miho Museum, Koka 2016, p.80, no.50
Grand Palais, Paris 2017, p.147, no.110
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p.173, no.113
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018 pp.200-01, no.117
de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco 2018, p. 96, no. 36.
Note: The pen case has been a symbol of power at court throughout the mediaeval Islamic period. One of the very few top quality mediaeval Persian objects that has survived inscribed with a non-royal owner’s name was a pen case made for the Ilkhanid vizier Shams al-Din Muhammad Juvaini that sold at Sotheby’s, London, 30 April 2003, lot 68. At the Mamluk court in Egypt the pen-case became an increasingly frequent element of the heraldry that indicated the position at court of the amir whose bearing it was. Pen cases and inkwells are among the most opulently decorated works of art of the mediaeval Islamic world. In a way they are a mediaeval reflection of the modern maxim that “knowledge is power”.
This tradition continued into the Mughal world. Because of the wonderfully detailed records left by the early Mughal emperors and their courtiers, we know that from Babur’s time until the reign of Aurangzeb, opulently decorated pen cases were given to leading court officials, especially viziers and Chief Revenue Officer. One such was given by Jahangir to Asaf Khan, the official depicted in Lots 338 and 182, on his appointment as Mir Bakhshi (vizier) in 1608. Considerable further examples are noted by Amin Jaffer (Jaffer, 2013, p.90). Such pen-cases were worn with pride, frequently tucked into the waist sash, as depicted in various paintings. One of the best depictions is in the depiction of the submission of Rana Amar Singh of Mewar to Prince Khurram in the Chester-Beatty Library where two courtiers are depicted with pen-cases in their waists (CBL. In 60.6; reproduced in San Francisco 2018, pl.28). Because of the lack of comparable record-keeping we know far less about the practices at the Deccani courts, but it is relatively safe to assume that the pen case was a similarly important indication of status there as elsewhere in the Islamic and Mughal worlds. That the shape was also used in the Deccan is demonstrated by a late 16th century drawing from Ahmednagar of a Scholar mediating before an open book in the Musee Guimet in Paris (E.O.3577 (b); Zebrowski, 1983, pl.18).
The earliest dateable pen case of this form, with the inkwell attached to one side near the end of the tubular pen cases, is a silver and niello inlaid brass example signed by Mirak Hussein Yazdi dating from the early Safavid, early 16th century period in Iran (Benaki Museum, Athens, inv.13172). It is a form that spread, becoming the most popular shape in Ottoman Turkey as well as appearing elsewhere in slightly different forms in the Islamic World. Within India the shape took on regional characteristics. A spectacular gem set jade example almost certainly made for the Mughal court is in the al-Sabah Collection (LNS 84 HS; Keene and Kaoukji, 2002, no.2.17, p.38). Very close in form to the Iranian prototype, the inkwell is compact, of small diameter and with a simple onion dome with ball finial. Here the proportions are very different: the inkwell is of wider diameter, but the really prominent element is the ribbed domed cover. Similarly enlarged and ribbed domed covers are known on brass examples attributed to the Deccan in the Al-Sabah Collection (LNS 637 M and LNS 638 M). The dome in our example is higher and even closer to the proportions of the swelling lotus-bud shaped domes that are such a feature of Deccani Sultanate architecture. The collar below the dome echoes the band of sepals that typically encloses the base of a Sultanate architectural dome.
Just as the proportions here are far more voluptuous than the elegant refinement of the Mughal jade example, so is the decoration. A riot of gold and precious stones, the gold with its scrolls, leaves and swirls running riot like a plant over the surface. These leaves and scrolls are however carefully worked to create claws that help retain the stones. The work, both in terms of the materials and the execution is very similar to that of a flask, probably a case for a ceremonial conch shell, in the Al-Sabah Collection, (LNS XXXV SH; Zebrowski, 1997, pl.45; Keene and Kaoukji 2001, no.13.3, p.144). Both use very pronounced gold, proudly ribbed on the surface, within which the stones are almost enveloped. The stones themselves are comparable, with good colour rubies contrasting with paler emeralds. The diamonds are noticeably primitively cut, some clearly revealing the original crystalline structure. The use of claws extruded from raised gold-work enclosing cabochon tightly packed rubies is reminiscent of the construction of South Indian temple jewels such as the late 17th century Gopalakrishna temple pendant now in Doha (Tan, 2002, no.12, pp.46-49).
The bird on the underside of the inkwell has been identified as a hamsa, a mythical bird that is associated with water, is also the mount of Sarasvati and is very similar to the mount for Brahma. The conch shell cover in Kuwait has as the main element of the design a large bird that is considerably more ferocious; it resembles the simurgh but has a strongly Hindu South Indian face, reminiscent of the large lion supports at the Vitthala temple at Hampi, the capital of the Vijayanagara dynasty in Southern India. While the main dynasty there was strongly Hindu, there were Moslem queens, many of the constructions are very clearly strongly influenced by the Muslim architecture just to the north of their realm, and one of the buildings still standing is a mosque in the Royal Enclosure of pure Sultanate form. This seems the perfect context in which this spectacular inkwell and the conch shell cover would have been created, a site that shows the same fusion of Hindu and Muslim elements as are found here.
A comparable work is also found on a dagger attributed to the royal Mughal workshop under Jahangir (inv.no.R-59; Mohamed, 2007, no.172); also two tawiz type pendants attributed to Deccan late 16th early 17th century in the Al-Sabah Collection (LNS 1902 J; Curatola et. al, 2010 no.283).
From the regional courts within the Mughal empire, the collection encompasses sensational sarpechs (turban ornaments), important necklaces such as a diamond rivière necklace originally from the collection of the Nizam of Hyderabad comprising almost 200 carats of Golconda diamonds and the Nizam of Hyderabad’s diamond encrusted state sword, which illustrate the rich history of bejewelled-ornamentation in India. Also featured are carved Mughal emeralds, ranging in weight from approximately 10 carats to over 200 carats, the famed ‘Arcot II’ diamond, presented to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III by Muhammad Ali Wallajah Nawab of Arcot, and the magnificent ‘Mirror of Paradise’ D colour Internally Flawless Golconda diamond of 52.58 carats.
Lot 22. An antique diamond rivière necklace originally from the collection of the Nizam of Hyderabad comprising almost 200 carats of Golconda diamonds. Estimate USD 1,200,000 - USD 1,500,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Thirty-three graduated old-cut diamonds, the seven central diamonds weighing (from left to right) 10.03, 10.93, 19.19, 24.38, 17.52, 12.28, and 9.90 carats, gold and silver, 15 ins., late 19th century.
Provenance: Nizams of Hyderabad
Christie's, Hong Kong, 25 November 2014, lot 2085.
Exhibited: Grand Palais, Paris 2017, p. 282, no. 211
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p. 296, no. 205
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018, p. 312, no. 209
de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco 2018, p. 130, no. 63
Lot 263. A Ceremonial Sword of the Nizams Of Hyderabad Hyderabad, Central India, 1880-1900. Estimate USD 1,000,000 - USD 1,500,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
inscribed steel blade, gold hilt set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds often mounted in silver; 38 ¾ ins. (98.5 cm.) long; hilt 9 ¼ ins. (23.5 cm.)
Provenance: Nizams of Hyderabad.
Literature: Jaffer 2013, pp.230-32, 233, 273, no.94.
Exhibited: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2014, pp.84-85
Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2015, p.115, no.64
The Miho Museum, Koka 2016, p.141, no.106
Grand Palais, Paris 2017, pp.266-67, no.198
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p.283, no.194
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018, pp.298-99, no. 198
de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco 2018, p. 131, no. 64
Note: Ceremonial swords such as this example often symbolized power and military prowess during royal processions or while holding a durbar. They also signified the presence of a ruler by being placed on the throne. They were also used in the royal courts to solemnize a wedding ceremony, by standing in for the absent groom. This sword follows the Mughal tradition of encrusted edged weapons, although the form of the hilt is strongly influenced by European small-swords which were fashionable in 19th century Europe. The manufacture and design is typical of South India, most probably Hyderabad, where lavishly decorated swords were popular in the late nineteenth century.
An almost identical sword is known to have existed in the Asaf Jah treasury which is documented in a black and white photograph taken by King Kothi, on 29 March 1951 (Jaffer, 2013, p.273).
For another gem set ceremonial sword in this sale see lot 245.
Lot 98. The ‘Arcot II’. Golconda pear brilliant-cut diamond of 17.21 carats, D color, Internally Flawless clarity, Type IIa presented to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III by Muhammad Ali Wallajah Nawab of Arcot. Estimate USD 2,000,000 - USD 4,000,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
GIA, 2019, report no. 1132471891: 17.21 carats, D color, Internally Flawless clarity, Type IIa
Gübelin, 2012, report no. 12020074: 17.21 carats, D color, Internally Flawless clarity, Type IIa, appendix and 'Golconda' letter.
Provenance: Muhammad Ali Wallajah, Nawab of Arcot (1717-1795)
Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), consort of George III, King of Great Britain
George, Prince Regent (1762-1830), later George IV, King of Great Britain, by descent
Rundell & Bridge, London
Auction by Sharp, London, 20 July 1837
Emanuel Brothers, Bevis Mark, London
Robert Grovesnor, 1st Marquess of Westminster (1767-1845)
Hugh Grovesnor, 2nd Duke of Westminster (1879-1953), by descent
Sotheby’s, London, 25 June 1959, lot 20
Baroness Stefania von Kories zu Goetzen (1939-2013)
Literature: Khalidi 1999, p. 67
Balfour 2000, pp. 42-45
Jaffer 2013, pp. 380-81, no. 125.
Exhibited: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2015, pp. 329-30
Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2015, p. 44, no. 6
The Miho Museum, Koka 2016, p. 177, no. 139
Grand Palais, Paris 2017, p. 37, no. 6
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p. 47, no. 2
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018, p. 54, no. 3
de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco 2018, p. 50, no. 2.
Note: When Queen Charlotte of Great Britain, wife of King George III, died in 1818, her will was very precise on what should happen of her personal jewels, and especially some of her diamonds:
‘…I give and bequeath the jewels received from the Nawab of Arcot to my four remaining daughters, or to the survivors or survivor in case they or any of them should die before me, and I direct that these jewels should be sold and that the produce… shall be divided among them, my said remaining daughters or their survivors, share and share alike.’
Five important diamonds had indeed been gifted to her in 1777 by a loyal British ally in South India, Muhammad Ali Wallajah, Nawab of Arcot. Of incredible beauty, they were some of the favorites of the Queen’s personal jewels. Still, against Queen Charlotte’s will, her son, the future King George IV, appropriated the diamonds for a few years before eventually selling them to Rundell & Bridge, who in 1804 had been appointed jewelry and silversmiths to the Crown by George III.
In 1837, the ‘Arcot’ diamonds ended up at auction. The historic sale took place in London at Willis’s Rooms in St James’s. The auction catalogue illustrated all of the five diamonds, giving their weights in grains. 'The Times' stated a few days before the auction ‘We have been gratified with a private view of the extraordinary jewels, for some time past in the possession of Messrs. Rundell, Bridge and Co… The celebrated Arcot diamonds are of great brilliancy, and very large: among them are a superb pair of earrings, which, in volume, shape, and purity we should say far surpass anything of the kind.’.
To be sold by auction, by Messrs. J. G. and G. A. Sharp...on the 3d Thursday of July, 1837...the Nassuck Diamond...and...the celebrated Arcot Diamonds, etc. © The British Library/LEEMAGE/Bridgeman Ima
Arcot I and II, the so-called pair of earrings, were purchased for £11,000 by Emanuel Brothers of Bevis Marks, for their client Robert Grosvenor, First Marquess of Westminster. He was to present them to his wife, Eleanor Egerton, as a present; he had also purchased the Nassak diamond from the same auction
Almost a century later, in 1930, still in the Grosvenor family, the Arcot diamonds were given to Parisian jeweler Lacloche to be mounted into the ‘Westminster Halo Tiara’ for Loelia, third wife of the 2nd Duke of Westminster. She was famously photographed in 1931 by Cecil Beaton wearing the magnificent tiara. It was then passed on to Anne Grovesnor, fourth wife of the Duke, who wore it at the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth. After the Duke of Westminster died, it was not to be seen until it appeared at auction in 1959 in London, sold by order of the executors of the late Duke.
A 1913 advertisement for Lacloche. © The British Library/LEEMAGE/Bridgeman Ima.
The ‘Westminster Halo Tiara’ worn by Loelia, third wife of the 2nd Duke of Westminster. Cecil Beaton/Conde Nast Collection/Getty Images.
Harry Winston purchased the tiara for a then record £110,000. He unmounted the two pear-shaped diamonds, which had probably never been touched since they had been in Queen Charlotte’s collection. Their respective weights were 33.70 and 23.65 carats. The discrepancy between these weights and the weights indicated into the 1837 catalogue is understandable. In 1837, the Arcot diamonds’ weights were stated in grains as 131 1/2 and 92 grains. When translated into carats, it resulted in 32.9 and 23 carats. But these are what we call ‘old carats’, when a carat was about 0.2053 grams, before the United Kingdom, and the rest of the world, adopted a universal metric carat at the beginning of the 20th Century. Once converted to metric carat, weights correspond exactly to 33.70 and 23.65 carats.
Harry Winston had the stones re-cut to improve their symmetry and remove some surface scratches, bringing them to 31.01 carats and 18.85 carats respectively. They were then mounted in separate rings and sold. That is how the famous pair parted for the first time.
Years later, when leaving the collection of Baroness Stefania von Kories zu Goetzen, the Arcot II was slightly recut to achieve the best color and clarity possible, now weighing 17.21 carats, but still carrying the original magic of its Golconda origin
Lot 229. ‘Mirror of Paradise’. D colour Internally Flawless Golconda diamond of 52.58 carats. Estimate USD 7,000,000 - USD 10,000,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Rectangular-cut diamond of 52.58 carats, tapered baguette-cut diamonds, platinum, ring size 7 ¼.
GIA, 2019, report no. 1132889310: 52.58 carats, D color, Internally Flawless clarity, Type IIa
Gübelin, 2013, report no. 13090169: 52.58 carats, D color, Internally Flawless clarity, Type IIa, appendix and 'Golconda' letter.
Provenance: Christie's, New York, 20 April 1988, lot 308
Christie's, New York, 10 December 2013, lot 496.
Literature: Rome 2002, p. 80, fg. 17
Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2015, p. 49, no. 10
The Miho Museum, Koka 2016, p. 180, no. 142
Grand Palais, Paris 2017, p. 40, no. 12
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p. 51, no. 5
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018, p. 60, no. 6
de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco 2018, p. 171, no. 8.
Note: In the words of Venetian explorer Marco Polo (1254 – 1324) “No country but this (India) produces diamonds. Those which are brought to our part of the world are only the refuse, as it were, of the finer and larger stones. For the flower of the diamonds are all carried to the Great Khan and other kings and princes of the region. In truth they possess all the treasures of the world.”
Universally esteemed as the world’s finest diamonds, ‘Golconda’ is a name used within the jewelry world to denote diamonds which possess superb luminousness and transparency and an innate purity. Besides indicating a superior quality, the term also signifies that the diamond is a period gem, mined in the ancient diamond fields of Southern India. ‘The Diamonds of Golconda’ were known as India’s most prized possession, and some of the most famous Golconda stones include the Agra Diamond, the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian, the Koh-i-Noor which forms part of the British Crown Jewels, the Darya-i-Nur in Iran, and The Princie Diamond.
Golconda diamonds have a higher degree of transparency – a quality which is rarely seen in diamonds from other areas, such as South Africa, Russia, Canada or Australia, or even within India. The special whiteness about them is often described as soft, limpid, watery or pure. It is not to be confused with the color grade or clarity – it is rather a quality in which light appears to pass through the stone as if it were totally unimpeded, which gives the stone its soft appearance. In addition, the surface luster appears to have a light softness, more gentle and yet luminous and striking.
For the connoisseurs, the Golconda diamonds which retain their original cuts are the most appreciated. Since the stones may have been mined hundreds of years ago, many exhibit the slightly less than precise cutting styles common prior to this century. ‘The Evening Star’s old mine pear-shaped cut tends to emphasize the limpid transparency which makes Golconda diamonds so special.
It is widely accepted that all diamonds which display this special luminousness are of Indian origin. Although little is recorded of the very early days of diamond mining in India, it is believed that it began about 400BC. For about 200 years, with the exception of a small and protected source in Borneo, this was the only source of the precious gems until about 1725 when diamonds were discovered in Brazil, coincidentally at the same time as the majority of diamond mines in India were depleted.
The Indian diamond fields are found scattered throughout a broad belt of ancient rocks extending nearly one thousand miles in the north-south direction along the eastern half of the country. The vast majority of the diamonds found were from alluvial deposits – a secondary deposit formed by the breakdown of older rocks by the forces of nature and set down in river beds. Within the diamond belt, diamonds were found in five distinct districts, each separated by high terrain. Each district had its own name, the most famous being the Golconda district centered around the area capital, trading center and ancient fort of Golconda.
The Maharajas and Emergence of the British Raj: Conversations between India and the West
These significant historical pieces are complemented by an important selection of creations from the 20th century by the major houses of Bulgari, Cartier, Janesich, Lacloche, Linzeler, Mauboussin, and Mellerio.
The Patiala Ruby Choker created by Cartier in 1931 is a superb example of the fusion between India and the West. Commissioned by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, one of Cartier’s most important Indian clients of the 1920s and 1930s, he often traveled to Paris with trunks of diamonds and gemstones from his treasury for Cartier’s workshops. Another significant example by Cartier is the Carved Emerald Brooch and interchangeable Jigha mounting which uses an impressive 19th century hexagonal carved emerald of 380.98 carats. The two-sided carving depicts Lord Rama, his wife Sita, Hanuman, and a poppy blossom on the reverse.
Lot 272. The Patiala Ruby Choker. An Art Deco ruby, diamond and natural pearl choker necklace, by Cartier, commissioned by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala. Estimate USD 800,000 - USD 1,200,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Ruby beads, oval cabochon and circular-cut rubies, old and single-cut diamonds, natural pearls, platinum (French marks), 13 ins., 1931, restored and restrung by Cartier Tradition in 2012, signed Cartier, 'Paris, Made in France', no. HSA40139, red Cartier case
Cartier, 2012: Certificate of Authenticity, with appendix
Christie's, Geneva, 17 May 2000, lot 417
Literature: Jaffer 2006, p. 77
Jaffer 2013, p. 322, no. 114.
Exhibited: Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2009, pp. 76-77
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2014, pp. 108-9
Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2015, p. 138, no. 81, fg. 63
The Miho Museum, Koka 2016, p. 198, no. 158
Grand Palais, Paris 2017, p. 314, no. 230
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p. 331, no. 230
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018, p. 342, no. 234
de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco 2018, p. 146, no. 76.
Note: Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala (1891-1938), ruled the princely state of Patiala from 1900 to 1938. Best known for his extravagant lifestyle, Bhupindar Singh believed in excess and had an insatiable appetite for women, food, travel, sports, politics and every day luxuries. Legend tells that he had a motorcade of over twenty Rolls-Royce, which would transport the Maharaja along with his countless wives, aides, servants and staff, when traveling in Europe.
Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala (1891 - 1938), 1911. From the photo of Carl Vandyk. © Costa / Bridgeman Images.
Bhupindar Singh was born into a family accustomed to over-indulgence and expenditure. His father, Rajendra Singh (1872-1900) was even more gluttonous with his spending than his son. Often traveling to Europe to acquire new treasures, he was the first Maharaja to marry a European woman and the first to import a motor car to India – specifically a French De Dion-Bouton with the license plate ‘Patiala 0’.
When Rajendra Singh died in 1900, a council of regency took over the state as Bhupindar Singh was only nine years old at the time. Spoilt beyond belief, the young Maharaja enjoyed the same luxuries that his father did, inheriting some of the most incredible jewels of the time, including the De Beers yellow diamond of approximately 234.50 carats – which he later had mounted by Cartier and a grand Western style diamond-set tiara.
Sir Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala, with members of his family. © National Portrait Gallery, London.
A key patron to English and French luxury firms during the early 20th century, the Maharaja of Patiala was a frequent client of Asprey, Boucheron, Cartier, Garrard and many others. Heir to a treasury of the finest gemstones and diamonds, the Maharaja brought truckloads of jewels and stones for the firms to work with.
In the mid-1920s, the Maharaja supplied Cartier with countless gemstones from his treasury to be reset and redesigned. He preferred platinum over gold and requested jewels be made for himself as well as his many wives and concubines.
One of the most impressive jewels to derive from the collaboration between Cartier and Patiala was an incredible ruby, natural pearl and diamond multi-layer necklace. Worn in a famous portrait of the Maharaja and his many wives and consorts, Lot 272, ‘The Patiala Choker’, is a surviving portion of this superb masterpiece.
Three necklaces executed in rubies, pearls and diamonds. Executed for the Maharanee of Patiala, here shown on a wax mannequin. Cartier Paris, 1931. Autochromeplate. 30,5 x 25,5 cm. Inv. Autochrome/49R Archives Cartier Paris © Cartier.
As with many jewels from the 1920s and 1930s, the necklace was eventually reset and restyled to adapt to evolving trends. In 2012, the necklace was restored and restrung to its original design by Cartier Tradition. Considered by the firm to be one of the most important necklaces ever made, the ‘Patiala Choker’ represents one of the greatest relationships that developed during this period and truly captures the romance between the East and West in the early part of the 20th century.
Lot 40. A carved emerald with two interchangeable emerald and diamond mountings, Cartier. Estimate USD 300,000 - USD 500,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Interchangeable brooch set with a hexagonal carved emerald of 380.98 carats, reversible with one side depicting Lord Rama, his wife Sita and their loyal servant, the monkey god Hanuman, the reverse depicting a poppy blossom, circular-cut diamonds, platinum (French mark), 2 ¾ ins., emerald 19th century, signed MT Cartier, maker's mark, no. SC2697
Brooch mounting, cabochon emerald drops, cushion-shaped carved emerald, circular-cut diamonds, platinum and 18k white gold (French marks), 7 5/8 ins., 2012, signed MT Cartier, maker's mark, no. SC2697
Jigha mounting, cabochon emerald drop, circular-cut diamonds, platinum and 18k white gold (French marks), 7 ½ ins., 2012, signed MT Cartier, maker's mark, no. SC2699.
AGL, 2019, report no. 1100391: 380.98 carats, Colombia, minor clarity enhancement, traditional type
AGL, 2019, report no. 1100392: Brooch mounting, 6 emeralds tested, Zambia, moderate clarity enhancement, traditional type
AGL, 2019, report no. 1100428: Jigha mounting, Brazil, minor clarity enhancement, traditional type
SSEF, 2011, report no. 59871: 380.982 carats, Colombia, indications of clarity modification, moderate amount of oil in fissures.
Provenance: Christie's, London, 23 September 2005, lot 168 (emerald, unmounted)
Christie's, New York, 22 April 2010, lot 43 (emerald, unmounted)
The Miho Museum, Koka 2016, p. 204, no. 163
Grand Palais, Paris 2017, p. 375, no. 277
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p. 381, no. 268
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018, p. 383, no. 268.
Note: This 19th century carved emerald depicts a scene from the Ramayana, one of the great ancient epics of India attributed to the Sanskrit sage Valmiki. The hero, Lord Rama, lived his whole life by the rules of dharma; in fact, that was why Indians consider him heroic. When Rama was a young boy, he was the perfect son. Later he was an ideal husband to his faithful wife, Sita, and then an ideal ruler to the Kingdom of Ayodhya.
The name Ramayana literally translates to "Rama's Journey". The Ramayana consists of 24,000 verses in seven books and tells the story of Rama an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, whose wife Sita is abducted by the demon king of Lanka, Ravana. Thematically, the epic explores the tenets of human existence and the concept of dharma.
The Ramayana has over the centuries helped to bind together the people of India, transcending caste, distance and language. Two all-Indian holidays celebrate events in the Ramayana. Dussehra, a fourteen-day festival in October, commemorates the siege of Lanka and Rama's victory over Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, and Diwali, the October-November Festival of Lights, celebrates Rama and Sita's return home to their kingdom of Ayodhya.
A leader of the monkey tribe, Hanuman allied with Rama against Ravana. Hanuman has many magical powers because his father was the god of the wind and his devotion to Rama, and his supernatural feats in the battle to recapture Sita, has made him one of the most popular characters in the Ramayana and later a favorite god amongst Indians.
Though made by Cartier in 2012, Lot 40 incorporates this large 19th century carved emerald, along with other Mughal emeralds from a similar time period. The brooch was inspired by the incredible emerald, diamond and platinum brooch from collection of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Created in 1923, the brooch remains in her collection at the Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens in Washington, D.C.
Portrait of Mrs. Marjorie Merriweather Post Hutton and Nedenia Hutton by Giulio de Blass; she is wearing a shoulder brooch of similar design to Lot 40. Hillwood Estate, Museum, & Gardens.
The Enamel and Diamond Peacock Aigrette, by Mellerio dits Meller, was purchased by the Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala in 1905 during one of his trips to Paris. The Maharaja was captivated by the peacock motif of the aigrette, a bird that is still greatly revered in India today. In later years, the aigrette would be worn by Anita Delgado, his fifth wife, whom he met while wearing the jewel on his own turban.
Lot 131. An Enamel and Diamond Peacock Aigrette, by Mellerio dits Meller. Estimate USD 500,000 - USD 700,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Rose-cut diamonds, blue, green, yellow and golden brown enamel, 18k gold (French marks), 7 ins., 1905, signed Mellerio dit Meller, '9 Rue de la Paix, Paris'.
Provenance: Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala and Anita Delgado.
Exhibited: State Museums of the Moscow Kremlin, Moscow 2014, p. 322, no. 216
Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2015, pp. 122-23, no. 70
The Miho Museum, Koka 2016, pp. 160-61, no. 124
Grand Palais, Paris 2017, p. 293, no. 218
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p. 307, no. 210
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018, p. 322, no. 214
de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco 2018, p. 136, no. 67.
Portrait of Jagatjit Singh (1872-1949),Maharaja of Kapurthala, India, engraving by Cantagalli from photograph by Bourne De Agostini / Icas94 / Bridgeman Images.
Note: In December 1905, before heading to the royal wedding of King Alfonso XIII and Princess Victoria Eugenia of Battenberg in Madrid, the Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala went to Paris to prepare for the event. A great connoisseur of the French art de vivre and culture, the Maharaja was an important client of the jewelry houses of Place Vendôme and Rue de la Paix. Looking for spectacular jewels, worthy of a royal wedding, he entered the Mellerio boutique on December 7th, where he discovered the perfect jeweled ornament.
A multi-century old French jewelry house dating back to 1613, Mellerio’s destiny had constantly been linked with royal families. European queens, starting with Queen Marie-Antoinette, bought jewelry from the firm, as well as many writers, composers, bankers, industrialists and all the great families of the French and foreign aristocracy, as well as the upper-middle class. Fashion icons ordered jewels that became emblematic of their time, avant-garde even.
Details of Lot 131 from the Mellerio dits Meller atelier’s record book. Courtesy of Mellerio archives.
On his quest for an appropriate jewel, the Maharaja of Kapurthala found at Mellerio a magnificent enamel and diamond peacock aigrette. The peacock, that mythical animal venerated by numerous civilizations and especially by India, had been a favorite of Mellerio ever since Empress Eugenie had commissioned a peacock feather brooch in 1868. Emblematic of their artistic repertoire, the bird motif justified the combination of blue and green, which was unconventional in the jewelry of the day. The aigrette purchased by the Maharajah presented the perfect combination of Indian influence with a Western vision.
The Maharaja probably wore the aigrette on his turban at the royal wedding at the end of May 1906, where, during the same visit, he incidentally met a young Spanish flamenco dancer, Anita Delgado. She would become his fifth wife less than two years later. The peacock aigrette, linked to their first encounter, was later seen worn by Anita Delgado, known as the Maharani Prem Kaur Sahiba after their marriage.
Contemporary Jewels: Influence through to the Present Day
The collection continues through present day including contemporary creations inspired by Indian motifs by Bhagat and JAR. Featured contemporary pieces include a Five-strand Diamond and Natural Pearl Necklace, inspired by the multiple-row pearl necklaces worn throughout history by male Indian royalty, created by Bhagat in 2012, and a Diamond, Cacholong, Sapphire and Titanium Brooch, incorporating a Belle Époque style diamond aigrette, relating to the Indian tradition of dressing royal animals with jewellery, designed by JAR in 2013.
Lot 39. A five-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace, Bhagat. Estimate USD 800,000 - USD 1,200,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2019.
Five graduated strands of three hundred and seventy-seven natural pearls of 9.45 to 3.90 mm, twenty-four natural pearls on neckchain, drop-shaped natural pearl on clasp, cushion-cut diamonds of 4.05 and 4.03 carats, oval-shaped diamond of 2.06 carats, pear, circular and baguette-cut diamonds, platinum, shortest strand 25 ins., 2012, unsigned.
SSEF, 2011, report no. 58248: 377 natural pearls, the analyzed properties confirm the authenticity of these saltwater natural pearls; letter attesting to the exceptional characteristics of the pearls
GIA, 2010, report no. 6127870822: 4.05 carats, F color, VS1 clarity
GIA, 2010, report no. 1126870853: 4.03 carats, F color, SI1 clarity.
Exhibited: Victoria and Albert Museum, London 2015, p. 150, no. 92
The Miho Museum, Koka 2016, p. 219, no. 177
Grand Palais, Paris 2017, p. 344, no. 256
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p. 358, no. 248
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018, p. 362, no. 248
de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco 2018, pp. 154-55, no. 82.
Note: Multiple-row pearl necklaces have been worn throughout history by male Indian royalty. Originating in the Persian Gulf, the pearls found their way to India through existing trade routes and were strung in large numbers for Indian rulers to wear in multiple layers.
Lot 148. A Diamond, Cacholong, Sapphire and Titanium Brooch, incorporating a Belle Époque style diamond aigrette, by JAR. Estimate USD 100,000 - USD 150,000.
Designed as an elephant wearing an aigrette, titanium, modified pear brilliant-cut diamond of 2.32 carats, single-cut diamonds, oval cabochon sapphires, tusk-shaped white cacholong, blackened gold and platinum (French marks), 6 5/8 ins., 2013, signed JAR, Paris, pink JAR case.
Exhibited: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 2013, no. 25
Grand Palais, Paris 2017, p. 372, no. 275
The Doge’s Palace, Venice 2017, p. 380, no. 267
The Palace Museum, Beijing 2018, p. 382, no. 267
de Young Legion of Honor, San Francisco 2018, pp. 166-67, no. 93.
Note: The distinguished Parisian jeweler JAR has incorporated historic Golconda diamonds into his unmatched creations (as seen, Lot 147), as well as highlighted Indian motifs in his designs. This incredible titanium elephant brooch is adorned with a Belle Époque style diamond aigrette, relating to the Indian tradition of dressing royal animals with jewelry.