India draws in travellers from across the globe, her rich culture and heritage captivating many visitors. Her history and mythology are filled with images of deities and royals who all seem to share one common interest- a deep love for jewellery.
This 'deep love' was said to be ignited by the country's bountiful supply of lavish precious stones. For many years India was popularly known as the world's gem cornucopia. Until diamonds were discovered in Brazil in 1725, the mines of Golconda were the only major source of diamonds to the world. Many famed diamonds like the Regent Diamond and the Nur-Ul-Ain, were believed to have been excavated from here.
Soon jewellers such as Cartier, Chaumet and Van Cleef and Arpels, turned to India; enraptured by the array of sumptuous gems. Among their main clients were some of India’s Emperors and Maharajahs, and for them they crafted jewellery; combining the country's exuberant colours, motifs and forms with refined European elegance and techniques. For centuries, some of these magnificent creations have become royal heirlooms, trickled down through generations, while others were lost, auctioned off or even stolen.
Fortunately some have survived to tell the tales of inspiration and the craftsmanship of skilled lapidaries, who cut and transformed stones into the awe- inspiring jewels that we see adorned by tsars, maharajahs, kings and queen; meticulously woven into the country’s extraordinary history.
Here are some of the extravagant jewels commissioned by India's royalty, and their intriguing stories.
The Maharajah of Baroda, Khande Rao Gawkar, was one of the most notable jewellery collectors. Among his prized possessions was an extraordinary necklace composed of seven strands of perfectly matched and graduated natural pearls- The Baroda necklace. It was later inherited by Sita Devi, the Maharajah’s flamboyant second wife.
This necklace was auctioned off by Christie’s in 2007. The necklace featured two strands with the largest and most perfect pearls, all perfectly matched in colour, lustre and shape, from the renowned seven-stranded necklace, joined by a cushion-cut diamond Cartier clasp.
The Patiala necklace
This massive Art Deco necklace was commission from Cartier by the Maharajah of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh, in 1926. He was said to have arrived at Cartier laden with trucks of exquisite jewels to be transformed into a ceremonial necklace. The necklace is made of platinum, studded with over 2,000 diamonds, including the large (234.65 carat) central yellow De Beers diamond, amounting to a total of 926.25 carats, and could be one of the most expensive pieces of jewellery ever made.
Stolen only once in its history, the necklace was restored to its former glory with substitute stones after it was found, partly damaged, in London. It is now safely under lock and key in the Cartier archives.
Star of the south
Image: Internet Stones.com
The Maharajah of Baroda, Khande Rao Gawkar, was known for his unparalleled collection of state jewels. One of the most remarkable pieces of jewellery in his collection was the famous Star of the South diamond- a 129 carat Brazilian diamond- and the English Dresden- a 78.53 carat pear-shaped diamond- both of which were set together in a triple-tiered diamond necklace worn by the Maharajah. “The Indian Simpson Wallis”, Sita Devi, inherited the necklace after she married the Maharajah.
The emerald and diamond necklace commissioned from Cartier by the Maharajah is a masterpiece in Art Deco jewellery creations. The extraordinary piece contains 20 large emerald-cut Colombian emeralds surrounded by small round brilliant- cut diamonds. Just the emeralds mounted on to the necklace total up to over 300 carats.
Do you want to know more about the fabulous jewels that are making history? Check out 10 of the most expensive pieces of jewellery in the world.
The Orna-mentals is a blog by Radiant Bay with a mission to bring you expert opinions, news, ideas and inspirations about fashion, jewellery and all its nuances. Register with us for all the BEST deals & NEW arrivals at Radiant Bay.