Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Medival Inheritance of Jewelry

Opposite: A wall painting of one I( the illustrious maharanas of Udaipur, in the famous lake palace of jag Niwas, by Maharana jagat Singh II 51)in the mid-I8th centuryFabled from Afar For centuries after the rise of Islam, the Indies figured but hazily in the known world of the Christians of Europe. Until they mastered the seas, their explorations to the east rarely broke through the cordon of Islamic peoples ranged on the far shores of the Mediterranean and atop the steppes of Central Asia. What they understood of the lands beyond the Levant was an amalgam of ancient memory and medieval fancy. Facts and fictions mingled to produce ever-shifting images of a distant and mysterious place, but of one thing medieval Europe was sure: India and her neighboring kingdoms were lands of priceless riches. Early reports of Indian wealth survived from Alexander of Macedon's conquests in the Punjab in 327-5 BC, and folk memory recalled the gems, silks, and spices imported from India at the height of the Roman empire. But after the seventh century eye-witness accounts of the sources of these luxuries had dried up. In the eleventh century, Marbodus, Bishop of Rennes, had to resort to Pliny's Natural History.

Already a thousand years old, to catalogue the gem wealth that was reputed to lie beyond the infidel:

Foremost of all amongst the glittering race, Far India is the diamond's native place.
'
Other medieval authors were less restrained than Marbodus in writing of India. Did Sir John Mandeville ever see the shores of Asia? Probably not, but this mysterious English knight was the most widely read 'explorer' of the late Middle Ages, and his Travels, initially written in French, found a place in the libraries of such adventurous thinkers as Leonardo Da Vinci and Christopher Columbus. To readers in the fourteenth century, his account of the jewel-bestrewn Vale Perilous in India, sited near the River Ganges, was eminently believable. Gold and precious stones littered the valley floor, reported Mandeville, but woe to the wavering Christian who entered within, intent on plunder, for a hundred hideous devils awaited him, eager to punish his covetousness. Indeed, asserted Mandeville in verification of its terrors, five of his own party who ventured in was never seen again.' 

This mixture of half-knowledge and myth characterized even the prosaic memoirs of Marco Polo, an intrepid and doggedly curious Venetian merchant who did succeed in penetrating to the other side of Islamic world. His Divisament dou Monde (Description of the World'), compiled at the close of the thirteenth century, provided Europeans with their first new reports of India for six hundred years. On his last trip to southern India in 1293, Polo visited the gem-bearing kingdom of Maabar (perhaps Tanjore on the Coromandel Coast). Twice a year, reported Polo, the king of Maabar ordered that all the best stones found in his realm be produced at court, whereupon he agreed to pay double for any that he selected for his treasury. The fruits of this policy were spectacular:

You may take it for a fact that [the king] too goes stark naked, except for a handsome loin-cloth with a fringe all round it set with precious stones rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and other brilliant gems so that this scrap of cloth is worth a fortune. Slung round his neck is a cord of fine silk which hangs down a hill pace in front of him, and strung on this necklace are 104 beads, consisting of large and beautiful pearls and rubies of immense value. ... it is his task every day, morning and evening, to say 104 prayers in honour of idols.

A young Indian mistress European, possibly the Anglo-Italian artist 'Francesco RenaIdi, who painted the original from which this Indian copy was taken. The Indian artist has lovingly accentuated the bibi’s jewelsHe also wears ... bracelets of gold studded with precious stones and pearls of great size and value ... ank-lets adorned with costly pearls and gems ... on his toes splendid pearls and other jewels, so that it is a mar-vellous sight to behold. What need of more words? Suffice it that he wears in all so many gems and pearls that their price exceeds that of a fine city. Indeed no one could compute the total cost of all the jewellery he wears.'

What need of more words, indeed? Here was evidence of a heathen king adorned for his daily prayers beyond the dreams of Christendom's mightiest sovereigns. Later descriptions of the jewels favoured by southern kings’ show that Polo's account was not an exaggeration.

Polo also accurately described the pearl fishery that lay off the coast of Tuticorin, and he ventured information about that most precious of stones the diamond. At the close of the thirteenth century, India was the world's only known source of diamonds. The adamantine riches of Borneo, Brazil, Africa, and Russia were as yet unknown. Diamonds, the most prized of all the earth's offerings, were rare beyond imagination, which is perhaps why the imagination featured so much in the accounts of their creation and discovery. Even the unflappable Polo was not immune to the diamond's powers to quicken the heart, for it was here that elements of the fantastic began to creep into his account. 

To the north of Maabar, he said, was the kingdom of Motupalli (Telingana), a land in which diamonds 'were got'. This was the region of the Golconda diamond mines, the finest in India. First Polo described the alluvial nature of many of the finds, whereby diamonds were exposed to view after they had been dislodged from the hills by the heavy seasonal rains. Then, departing from his own sure knowledge, he explained that the valleys in which the diamonds lay were infested with venomous serpents of enormous girth. Only by stealth could man gather them in:

They take many lumps of flesh imbrued in blood and fling them down into the depths of the valley and the lumps thus flung down pick up great numbers of diamonds, which become embedded in flesh. Now it so happens that these mountains are inhabited by a great many white eagles, which on the serpents. When these eagles spy the flesh lying at the bottom of the valley, down the  and seize the lumps and carry them off The men observe attentively where the eagles go, and In as they see that a bird has alighted and is swallowing the flesh, they rush to the spot as fast they can. Scared by their sudden approach, the eagles fly away, leaving the flesh behind. And they get hold of it, they find diamonds in plenty embedded in it.'

This story of using eagles to 'catch' diamonds was an old one. Versions of it eared in Greek and Roman writings,, and an Arabic retelling could be found he adventures of Sinbad the Sailor. Two hundred years later the Italian traveller  Nicolo di Conti also reported that Indians used eagles to wrest diamonds from the overlordship of serpents.' The story's origins are unclear, although it ,ears to have drawn in part on Hindu mythology which depicted sacred snakes, Nagas, as the guardians of the earth's treasures, and the eagle god, Garuda, as the Nagas' per petual enemy.' 

A detail of a miniature of a Mughal durbar: ambassadors and warriors ring jewels in tribute to e court of the Emperor, Shah Jahan. What is noteworthy about its currency in Europe is that, as with Mandeville's account of devils and the jewels in the Vale Perilous, a Christian audience was taught to associate these distant les with danger and sinful temptation. Such warnings, however, were insufficient to quell a rising d-lust. When in 1498 Portugal's Vasco da Gama sailed around the bottom of Africa and across to India's malabar coast—thus skirting the Islamic heartlands he succeeded in opening up India to Europe’s. direct gaze. In his wake trailed thousands of adventurers eager to locate the fabled riches of the East.

Portugal's Asian Triumph


The Portuguese came to India to trade but, unlike the Arab merchants they hoped to supplant, they intended to establish permanent trading colonies there. Backed by the military might and religious zeal he expanding Portuguese empire, they negotiated mercantile treaties with accommodating kings, fought with those who opposed them, so that within forty years of Vasco da Gama's arrival, they dominated India's international trade in horses, guns, and spices, with a string of fortified settlements ranged along India's western coast, from Diu in the north down to Cochin in the south. They also made Dads into the gem trade. In 1510 Afonso de Albuquerque captured the island of Goa for the portuguese. By the end of the century it had become India's principal gem-dealing city and the port of departure for most of her export diamonds. Like the other Europeans who came after them, the Portuguese had discovered that diamonds were the surest way of remitting-their profits its home.

Given their stake in this lucrative trade, it is unsurprising that Portuguese ',- merchants and officials recorded many impressions of the quantity and type of  jewellery worn by Indians. In the memoirs of Duarte Barbosa, a Portuguese official who served in India from about 1500 till 1516, few pages pass with reference to precious stones or jewels and the castes involved in their production.' Visiting the wealthy southern kingdom of Vijaynagar in the late 1510s countryman, Domingo Paes, marvelled at the jewellery worn by the ladle the court on festive days. 

Sixty royal maidservants were bedecked in caps, colars, sashes, bracelets, armlets, girdles, and anklets, all in gold and studded v emeralds, diamonds, rubies, and pearls, the weight of them being such that women were unable to walk without assistance. In helpless admiration I concluded: 'Who is he that could tell of the costliness and the value of NN each of these women carries on her person?' It was not only royal women v were sumptuously adorned. An Italian visitor to Vijaynagar in the early 1500s Ludovico de Varthema, observed that even the king's horse wore a city's  in jewels, while in the diamond-rich kingdom of Bijapur he saw the ruler ‘servants wearing gems on their shoes.' 

One of a pair of table-cut diamond, )cabochon ruby, pearl, and emerald karnphul, I (literally 'ear flowers'), worn by women at the Mughal court. North lndian early 17th century. The message seemed clear. If rubies and diamonds could be spared for horses' harnesses and servants' shoes, what jewel untold magnificence must be reserved for the kings themselves? ( Portuguese who saw for himself was the commander Pedro Alvares Cabral 1500 he was granted an audience with the Zamorin of Calicut, who was as every bit laden with jewels as Marco Polo's southern king of two centuries be& Besides the bracelets and anklets of gem-studded gold that sheathed his arms and legs, and number rings on his fingers and toes, he wore spectacular earrings of gold, hung with rubies, diamonds, z pearls as large as walnuts, and around his waist two heavy belts of gold studded with rubies—all price in Cabral's estimation.

Many of these fabulous riches, the Portuguese discovered, were ripe for the plucking, but not al them. In the 1290s Marco Polo had observed that diamonds of the finest clarity and brilliance did reach Europe. They were destined instead for the Great Khan and other kings and noblemen of Asia NN had the money and the might to procure them. In the mid-sixteenth century, at the height Portuguese power, the situation was little changed. A new Asian potentate had emerged in the no Indian plains to swallow up India's finest gems. As the century advanced, the Portuguese and or Europeans could only gaze in wonder at the jewelled splendor of his court.

Mughal Magnificence the Envy of Europe


The Mughal were Muslim conquerors of Turkish and Mongolian decent who counted among their formidable ancestors both Genghis khan, scourge of Christendom in the middle ages, and timur (Tamurlance), who had swept down from Afghanistan in 1398 to sack the ancient northern city of delhi in 1526 timur’s descendant, Babur, came to delhi to stay, and ,at its zenith in the seventeenth century, the empire established by him covered anal of the Indian subcontinent expect for its southernmost tip. Art ported Persian ways and the indigenous tradition of the ancient Hindu kings of Rajasthan, the Rajput. 

Above: A jaunty portrait, of Bhim Singh, Maharana If the ancient Rajput state "Udaipur. Early European visitors to India were intrigued combination of rich jewels and the scantiness of cloth in royal dress. It emerged as a confident impearl culture, distinctively Indian but, at its best, flexible and open to ideas from the world outside. The third emperor, Akbar (r.1556-1605), was famed for his eclecticism, drawing to his court a number of European doctor’s priests, and craft men to learn what he could of their beliefs and skills. This tradition continued under his son, the pleasure seeking Jahangir (r.1605-27), and his grandson, shah Jahan (r.1627-58), so that Mughal painting, decoration, and jewellery gradually absorbed subtle touches from the west. Whatever insights they brought to the Mughal , however ,the European visitors did not dominate at the court. 

They were guests rather than trusted advisers, and could be dismissed at will. This attitude of spirited but wary inquiry was exemplified in the Mughal, treatment of the growing number of European trading missions dotted around India’s fingers. The foreigners were suffered to remain as long as they promoted trade beneficial to the empire and caused no dissension or rebellion among its subject’s states. Periodically, as a reminder of the emperor’s power, they were brought before him to offer tribute, a situation in which they more closely resembled prisoners than ambassadors of sovereign nations.

There were formal embassies from Europe as well, especially as news of the wealth of the Mughal court spread beyond India. In 1615 king lames I of England sent sir Thomas roe to India to solicit trading concessions from the Emperor Jahangir. The English East India Company had begun dealing in an goods in 1600, mainly in spices and textiles, but, like the rival Dutch company, its agents often id that the Portuguese blocked their access to Indian suppliers. An imperial order in favour of the English, it was hoped, might encourage local merchants to break free of their trade agreements with the portuguese. In this objective, after many false starts and raised hopes. Roe failed. 

A procession of maharajas on elephants for the Delhi durbar of 1903. Nevertheless, he was lived courteously by Jahangir, and was granted many opportunities to marvel at the magnificence of: court. On the occasion of Jahangir's birthday celebrations in 1617, Roe was stunned at the sight of the) error, who appeared clothed, or rather loden, with Diamonds, Rubies, Pearles, and other precious vanities, so great, so glorious! his Sword, Target, Throne on correspondent; his head, necklace, breast, clones, above the elbows, at the wrists, his fingers every one with at least two or Rings, fettered with chains, or dyalled [drilled?] Diamonds, Rubies as great as Walnuts (some greater), and Pear/as such Inc eyes were amazed at."

More succinctly, Roe coined an aphorism used by historians of the Mughal empire ever since: 'In lls he is the treasury of the world.'

Roe’s impressions were confirmed by many later European visitors to India, but for a sense of the sheer e oh he Mughals' wealth it is hard to surpass the report of another Englishman, William Hawkins,. ) resided in princely style at Jahangir's court in Agra in the years 1609-11. In assessing the extent of Jahangir’s treasury, he resorted to the use of the `battman', a Turkish measure typically reserved for grain. other bulky goods, which was equal to 55 English pounds. By this reckoning Jahangir had 82 pounds (More than 30 kilograms ) of diamond, none smaller than 2 carats. There were twelve battmans of pearls, five of emeralds, and two of rubies, plus five thousand pieces of cornelian, two thousand spinals, and an apparent infinity of semi-precious stones. And this just the loose stones. From there Hawkins moved on to counting jewels wrought in I. Jewelled swords and daggers he numbered in their thousands, gem-studded saddles at one thousand. 

Spectacular thrones, royal umbrellas, and lances all existed in multiples For personal adornment, there were two thousand 'brooches for their heads' meaning turban ornaments), and uncountable 'chaines of pearle, and chaines of all :s of precious stones, and ringes with jewels ... which only the keeper thereof know-.' For plate Hawkins settled at a guess of two thousand battmans of silver and one thousand of gold. Even in the relatively spartan atmosphere of his prayer room, Jahangir could call on eight 400-bead rosaries strung with pearls, spinals, diamonds, emeralds, jade, and coral.' Little wonder that Hawkins had approached the mighty Mughal with trepidation, for he had been robbed of his gifts to the emperor on way to Agra and had only some coarse woolen cloth to lay before him. England it’s have seemed a poor nation indeed.

A khanjar, or curved covered in sheet gold and with table-cut diamonds, pearls, and cabochon rubies and emeralds. north Indian, 19th century.
In his journal, the Tuzuk-i-jahatigiri, Jahangir himself testified to the importance that gems and jewels T in the empire. Military servants who captured diamond-bearing territory were liberally praised, 711 as Ibrahim Khan whose 'excellent exertions' in the spring of 1616 brought the eastern province of khukra (in Bihar) and its alluvial diamond deposits into the empire's grasp. Henceforth all diamonds found in Khukra were to be sent direct to the imperial court, an outcome which Jahangir viewed with viable complacency: 'If a little pains are taken, it is probable that good diamonds will be found and iced in the jewel-room:13 European onlookers confirmed the nature of Jahangir's expectations, Hawkins noting that 'he cannot abide that any man should have any precious stone of value, for it is lath if he know it not at that present time, and that he bath the refusal thereof'.'' 

Jahangir also documted all the treasures that his subjects had the 'good fortune' of bringing him in tribute, and the veiled ornaments, weapons, and harnesses which he distributed in return. Towards the end of 1617 he order his pleasure that his own son, Shah Jahan, had presented him with the single largest tribute of reign, a mountain of rubies, diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and pearls, which, when added to a able population of elephants and horses and their jewelled harnesses and armor, totaled in value 60,000 rupees. Much of it had been extorted from the semi-independent rulers of the Deccan who were in to ward off the Mughals' overlordship, a fact which further increased the father's affection for his son who is worth grace and kindnesses. Jahangir's journal also reveals the dynastic role assumed by individual stones. In November 1617, he: imprecated Shah ShahJahan’s display of loyalty with a gift of his own:

On this day I made a present to my son shah Jahan of a one colour, weighing 9 tanks and 5 surkh {184carats], of the value of 125,000 rupees, with two pearls. This is the ruby which was given to my father at the time my birth by Hazrat Maryam-Makani. Mother of His Majesty, Akbar, by way of present when my face was show, and was for many years in his sarpich (turban ornament). After him I also happily wore it in my sarpich.
 
from its value and delicacy, as it had come down as of auspicious augury to the everlasting State, it was bestowed o my son.'

Opposite: The Shah diamond, now in the Kremlin, Moscow. Looted from the Mughal by Nadir Shah in 1739, it was sent the Persians as a peace offering the Tsar of Russia in 1829. It is superb example of the Indian lapidaries' skill in inscribing diamondsOther noteworthy stones that passed from empror to emperor included the Agra, a pinkish diamond of 311/2carats; the Akbar Shah diamond, allegedly a stone of 116 carats and in scribed with the names of Akbar's son and grandson. Jahangir and Shah Jahan; and the, Jahangir diamond of 83 metric carats, also inscribed with the names of Jahangir and Shah Jahan. (The inscription of diamonds was notoriously difficult and its perfection by the Mughal lapidaries was a measure of their consummate skill.) Large spinals inscribed with the possessor's name and imperial titles were similarly handed on in dynastic succession. These often strung as single pendants, or were combined with pearls in necklaces or bazubands (jewel led ties encircling the upper arm). The big diamonds could also be strung as pendants or necklaces. Alternatively, like the(auspicious ruby Jahangir mentions in his journal, they could be displayed in the ornament that adorned his turban. The journal is replete with mentions of different turban ornaments a range of jewelled plumes, aigrettes, and turban fringes which formed a central part o Mughal royal dress and featured prominently in imperial iconography. Almost without exception, Indian kings who came after the Mughals, Hindus as well as Muslims, adopted a version of their turban ornamentation as a symbol of their own royal status.

Mughal Turban Ornaments


Only the emperor himself, his intimate relations, and select members of his entourage (beasts as well as men) were permitted to wear a royal turban ornament. As the empire matured, differing styles of ornament acquired the generic name of sarpich, from .scar or sir, meaning head, and peach, meaning fastener. Initially, however, in Akbar's time, the principal turban ornament appears to have been the kalgi, a relatively simple gold or jewelled stem of Turco-Persian origin, into which was inserted a plume of feathers. Ideally, the feathers were those of a heron. Royal portraits from Jahangir's reign show a more elaborate style of kalgi, often with noteworthy gems clustered at the base of the plume and with a pendent pearl encouraging a gentle droop from the plume itself. 

During Shah Jahan's reign an entirely mineralogical version of the kalgi appeared—an ornate, heavily jewelled brooch, in which a stylized 'plume' as well as the stem was composed of gems set in gold and backed by polychrome enamel. Even when solid, how-ever, the 'plume' often affected the droop of Jahangir's kalgi and was adorned by one or more pendent stones. In this form the turban ornament was known as a jigha, although it is important to note that most jighas retained a stem (tana) at the back for the insertion of the original feathered plume. In a more elaborate form still, the jigha acquired a wide jewelled base, a sarpartilf three, five, or seven panels Which was secured to the turban by silken or jewelled ties? Sarpattis of five or seven sections often sported three or five /iv/as-respectively.

Following pages Left: Two Garuda-headed bracelets in gold. Rubies, and emeralds South Indian, 19th century. Ii Hindu mythology, Garuda, eagle god, is the deadly enemy the Nagas, serpents who guar the earth's treasures.There is considerable debate about the origins of these new designs. Susan Stronge has argued that the development of the Mughals' jigha owed something to the influence of the jewelled hat aigrettes of sixteenth and early seventeenth-century Europe. Illustrations of these would have been available to the emperors and their goldsmiths in the portraits of their sovereigns and patrons that European visitors presented at court." Recently, Oppi Untraeht has countered that it may have been the Europeans who derived their aigrettes from India, noting that portraits of nobles travelled in both directions and that the Europeans took some time to replace the turban-friendly stem of the kalgi with a pin that was more suited to European hats.'" At the very least, the debate serves to high-light the interchange of artistic ideas between vibrant cultures. 

It is certain that Europeans noticed both the ornaments and the symbolism of kingship they radiated. In the 1660s, Francois Bernier (1620-88), a French physician who resided at the court of Aurangzeb, witnessed a state occasion in which the emperor's sarpech dazzled: 'A turban, of gold cloth, had an aigrette whose base was composed of diamonds of an extra-ordinary size and value, beside an oriental topaz, which may be pronounced unparalleled, exhibiting a luster like the sun.'" Another French traveller, Jean de These not (1633-67), observed that in Golconda the local sultan had expanded turban ornamentation to prodigious—even grotesque—dimensions:

This Prince [Abdullah Qutb Shah (1626-72)] wears on the Crown of his head, a Jewel almost a Foot long, which is said to be of inestimable value; it is a Rose of great Diamonds, three or four Inches diameter; in the top of that Rose there is a little Crown, out of which issues a Branch fashioned like a Palm-Tree Branch, hut is round; and that Palm-Branch (which is crooked at the top) is a good inch in Diameter, and Foot long; it is made up of several Sprigs, which are (as it were) the leaves of it, and each of which have at their end a lovely long Pearl shaped like a Pear; at the Foot of this Poise, there are two Bands of Gold in fashion of Table-bracelets, in which are enchased large Diamonds set round with Rubies, which with great Pearls that hang dangling on all sides, make an exceeding rare shew; and these Bands have Clasps of Diamonds to fasten the Jewels to the head."

Above: Nadir Shah, ruler of Persia and scourge of Delhi. The Mughal bazubands which he wears on his arms, part of his Indian loot, put the painting's date after the sack of Delhi in 1739. Golconda was the diamond-bearing territory in the Deccan which eluded the Mughals' grasp until 1687, when its acquisition was almost too late to benefit the empire. In the sultan's fantastic interpretation of his enemies' headdress there is more than a hint of defiant pride.

European Jewels and Jewellers in Mughal India Of the six principal Mughal emperors, Jahangir and his son Shah Jahan were the ones most famed for their love of decoration and show. Foreign visitors who sought to win their favour brought as gifts for them top quality loose stones and also jewels set in the fashion of their own country although, as Sir Thomas Roe noted sourly in 1618, Jahangir was increasingly hard to please: 'The King hath no content.

Who expects great presents and jewelles, and reguardes no trade but what feeds his unsatiable appetite after stones, rich and reare pieces of any kind of arte.th At the time, Dutch and English traders found it hard to compete with the Portuguese in the gifts they presented at court. From their trading forts in Mozambique the Portuguese brought gold, amber, and ivory, and fro rpain they imported Colombian emeralds, a treasure which had been opened up to the world by the Spanish conquests in South America. Emeralds were highly prized by the Mughals, often as much as or more so than diamonds, and their lapidaries raised to an art the skills of inscribing, carving, and drilling them. 

Part of their attraction lay in their rarity, for the emerald was the one precious stone that the subcontinent did not produce in any quantity (and not at all until small deposits were found in Rajasthan in the mid-twentieth century). By 1660, so many Colombian emeralds had arrived in India that, in spite of having been shipped there via Europe, they cost twenty per cent less in India than in France.

Opposite: A pearl and emerald necklace, featuring a hexagonal emerald (161.20 metric carats) which was probably carved in north India in the early to mid 17th century. Portugal's advantage in flattering the Mughals was not to last for long, however, as Portuguese power in India had peaked in the late sixteenth century. During the following century other foreigners, principally the Dutch and the English, but also the French and the Danes, vied for the Mughals' favour, and as a result samples of the jeweller's craft poured into India from all over Europe. Most, of course, contained stones that had originally come from India or neighbouring countries. Documentary references to these diplomatic gifts are commonplace. From Jahangir's journal, for example, we learn that in December 1619 Shah Jahan presented him with a jewelled sword of Venetian workmanship." 

As the news spread of the Mughals' willingness to hire Western craftsmen, European jewellers began to venture to India in the hope of receiving patronage at their court, usually taking with them representative examples of their work. At least one European worked at the court of Jahangir, a man whom the emperor named Hunarmand, meaning 'skilful', on account of his creation of an ornate jewelled throne of gold and silver. 

His patron graciously allowed that he 'had no rival in the arts of a goldsmith and a jeweller' Other European jewellers and gem merchants known to have had dealings with the Mughals include Jacques de Cotter, a Flemish dealer who visited Jahangir's court in 1619, and Augustin of Bordeaux, who was employed at the court of Shah Jahan. Noted for his skill in producing synthetic stones and apparently held in high regard as a silversmith by Shah Jahan, Augustin was rumored to have been poisoned by persons jealous of his abilities." No proof of this has been found, but the theme of tensions between court goldsmiths and European interlopers appears in other contemporary accounts. 

The enamelled reverse of the jigha opposite reveals the gold stem, or tana, into which a plume of heron feathers was insertedLater still, a Venetian diamond cutter, Hortensio Borgio, was resident at Aurangzeb's court in Delhi. According to one source, Aurangzeb (r. 1658-1707), the last great Mughal emperor, entrusted Borgio with the cutting of a massive Golconda diamond—and angrily fined him Rs. 10,000 when he botched the job. The diamond in question, the Great Mogul, has tentatively been identified as the Orlov diamond in the Russian imperial scepter, but the story of Borgio's unhappy involvement with it is probably untrue. At the time Indian lapidaries disparaged the skills of their European counterparts, and they disagreed with the Europeans' willingness to sacrifice weight when cutting a stone in pursuit of maximum fire and brilliance. It is highly unlikely that Aurangzeb would have entrusted such a precious stone as the Great Mogul to a European cutter.' 

Another European jeweller to try his luck in Mughal India was Jean Chardin (1643-1713), a French Protestant who eventually settled among the Huguenot exiles in London, where he became court jeweller to Charles II, by whom he was knighted in 1681, and an adviser to the English East India Company. He first Visited India in 1665, on business for his father Daniel, also a gifted jeweller. He returned there on his own account in 1679, after a sojourn of four and a half years in Persia. Alas, he did not publish anything from his Indian experiences, but his account of his Persian stay says much about the difficulties that a European jeweller might have met at any great Oriental court.

In June 1673 he arrived at the court of Shah Abbas Ill in Isfahan, laden with four years' investment in jewels, swords, clocks, and watches. He had been encouraged to believe that the Shah was waiting to purchase whatever he could bring, but bitter disappointment awaited him: 'I was in a manner Thunderstruck when I cast my Eyes on what the King had set apart, which was not one Quarter of what I had brought. I became Pale and without Motion.'

Worse was to fallow. The shah’s advisers pointed out that the large chardin had brought, such as a Sabre and a looking-glass, were 'not well made according to the Fashion of the Country', and the city's adding jewellers, some eighteen or twenty Muslims, Armenians, and Indians who had been called to the to appraise his jewels, declared that they were al I grossly overpriced." Chardin eventually succeed-in selling everything he had carried with him, but only at great cost to his patience and pocket. Two inbred and fifty years after Chardin, a new wave of French jewellers who ventured to the East would counter similar problems: alien tastes in jewellery and t he suspicion and envy of the local jewelers.

Jean-Baptist Tavernier: Father of the Diamond Trade


An elegant jigha of table-cut diamonds and ruby petals set in gold with pendent emeralds. North Indian, 18th centuryOf the many European jewellers and gem merchants to visit Mughal India, none left a better record of s adventures than Jean-Baptist Tavernier (1605-89), a French Protestant who, his religious affiliation withstanding, was made a baron by Louis XIV in return for his acquisition of diamonds and other gammas for the French crown. Tavernier's Six Voyages (1676), an account of the six journeys he made to the between 1631 and 1668, have justly earned him a reputation as the father of the modern diamond. On his travels he visited India five times and the famous diamond mines of Golconda four times, many details of the Indian gem trade (and much political and social information as well) with the article, clear-sighted eye of a professional merchant. 

He had little formal education, a fact for which mmologists and historians of India have been ever grateful, for it spared his observations the philosophi-1 digressions and Classical analogies commonplace in contemporary travelogues. Tavernier was not the European to visit India's fabled diamond mines. In 1626, William Methods (1590-1653), a servant of e English East India Company, described what he had seen at the Kollur diamond field on the banks of e River Kistna (Krishna) in Golconda. Eagles and serpents were at last dispatched to the realm of myth; their place thirty thousand men, women, and children were reported to slave in deep water-logged pits, sling up to the surface heavy basketfuls of mud to be spread out in the sun and sifted for diamonds." visiting the diamond mines of Panna in Bihar in the 1860s the French photographer Louis Rousselet found e method unchanged.) Tavernier's achievement lay in the meticulous detail and wide-ranging nature of s observations. 

He documented and illustrated the different diamond cuts in vogue in India and catagued numerous noteworthy gemstones that he either saw or bought, including prized gems belonging the Emperor Aurangzeb. His descriptions and measurements were sufficiently accurate that they are 11 used today to identify particular stones; the tentative matching of the Great Mogul diamond with the rlov hinges on Tavernier's account of the Great Mogul. Of the many diamonds that he purchased, the famous was the Tavernier Blue. Reputedly the first blue diamond seen in Europe, it is now better lown as the Hope, a cushion-shaped brilliant of 45.52 carats which is housed in the Smithsonian stiattion in Washington. In 1668 Tavernier sold it and 44 other large diamonds to Louis XIV, along with 122 smaller ones and sundry other precious stones. With the sale, the jewels of the Sun King became the ivy of Europe, and Tavernier, who was paid handsomely for his merchandise, should have ended his days

A designed for a 20th century sarpich of emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and diamond set in gold, with twin pearl turras. Design conceived and drawn by ambaji shinde, for a royal client in central india,c.1948A wealthy man but a nephew squandered his fortune, and at the age of 84 he set out on a final journey to the East, hoping us losses. He died at Moscow in 1689 and was buried. In the protestant cemetery there. !r had been in India when the Golconda mines were at peak production, and when European demand for appeared insatiable. By 1650 Portuguese traders had i control of the export market in rough diamonds ch East India Company (the Vereenigde Oost-)indische or VOC), a shift which marked the rise am and Antwerp as the world's premier centers for and polishing of diamonds. Fifty years later, the I overtaken the Dutch as the most prolific exporters of diamonds, and had transformed the ty of Madras, which they governed, into India's diamond capital. 

They offset the cost of the dia-1 imports of silver bullion and Italian red coral; the latter had a rarity value for Indians that died and was in strong demand for beads and religious charms!' The Dutch never lost the prelacy had established in Europe for cutting diamonds, but the shift in the control of the export ted the changing balance of power among the different European trading companies in India. or rather the British, for by 1700 the English East India Company employed both money and ;Cortland, Ireland, and Wales as well as England—were never to surrender control of the export idée while it lasted. By the mid-eighteenth century output from the Golconda mines was dwin-he focus of the trade had shifted northwards to the smaller diamond mines in Bihar. Even in however, the East India Company was still exporting a massive quantity of diamonds annually.

The Regent Diamond 


For foreign traders, diamonds were the most compact and convenient way of remitting their Indian proof Lome to Europe. Throughout the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, thousands of bulses, or pack-of rough diamonds were shipped out of India every year, a seemingly inexhaustible flow of stones that Autionized jewellery design in Europe. Often the exports brought individual merchants into conflict with trading companies who employed them, for the companies' shareholders wanted to limit the amount of e the private trade that each employee pursued on his own account. The Regent diamond, the theist star of the old crown jewels of France, is probably the most famous diamond to have been acquired ugh private trade. The Regent was originally dubbed the Pitt, after the man who exported it to Europe. Thomas Pitt 53-1726) was a long-serving employee of the English East India Company who had repeatedly fallen foul hem because of the extent of his private deals. 

A tram is a jewelled tassel which hangs from a turban by means of a jewelled or enamel stem. In t his 19th-century example of enamel, seed pearls, and diamonds, the stern takes the form of a parrot's head. In the late 1690s, while he was governor of the English element at Madras, Pitt acquired a huge Golconda diamond, still in the rough and weighing 410 carats. His r claimed to have bought the stone for £20,000 from an eminent Indian diamond merchant. In letters to  His English agents, pit always referred to his big diamond as the’ great concern”. An opposite title given the trouble it was to bring him. In October 1702 he shipped the great concern to London, with instruction that,, after cutting ,it was to be sold for not less than 1,500 percent the cutting by Joseph Cope of London, was an unqualified success.

From two years' labour a cushion-shaped brilliant weighing 140.5 metric carats emerged the largest, finest polished diamond that had then been seen in Europe. At £5,000, however, it had been a frightfully expensive process, and the costs were to mount as Pitt defended himself against malicious rum ours that he had acquired the diamond fraudulently, and sought with increasing desperation a buyer wealthy enough to take it off' his hands. At last, in about 1717, Philippe II, Duke of Orleans, then the Regent of France, bought Pitt's diamond for the French crown jewels. The sale, for 2,500,000 livers (£135,000), instantly restored Pitt's fortunes an irony given that it was to be his grandson. 

Pitt the Elder, who led Britain in the Seven Years' War against France (1756-63), and his great-grandson, Pitt the Younger, who rallied Britain against Napoleonic France. Once in France, the Pitt became known as the Regent, and for the next seventy years it shone in the crowns of Louis XV and Louis XVI and in jewels fashioned for their respective queens consort. In September 1792, in the aftermath of the Revolution, it was stolen from its temporary store in the GardeMeuble, along with the other crown jewels. Fortuitously recovered in a Paris attic a year later, the Regent then entered the Public Treasury, only to be pawned almost immediately to raise cash for the revolutionary wars. 

It was redeemed when Napoleon Bonaparte came to power in 1799, and was thereafter set in the hilt of the sword which he carried at his coronation as Emperor of France in 1804. After Napoleon's fall, the diamond was set in the crown of Charles X. the last Bourbon king; during the Second Empire it’ embellished the Grecian tiara of the Empress Eugenie. In 1882, it survived the decision to sell off the crown jewels; instead it was retained as a treasure of the French nation, to be placed on permanent display in the Louvre!'

A Nepalese turban 1 of diamonds, emmer-rubies, and pearls set it metal thread on covered caps—more likely the work of an Indian jeweler than a Nepalese one. The Scramble for the Mughals' Riches By the eighteenth century, the Mughal Empire was ripe for looting. The last great emperor, Aurangzeb, fratricidal son of Shah Jahan, had finally conquered the diamond-bearing territories of the Deccan, extending the empire further south than any of his predecessors. But, in doing so, he had overstretched the empire's resources, and for most of his reign he was at war, contending with rebels in many corners of his vast realm. In part the empire was a victim of its success, for it was its own imperial servants, the provincial governors and military commanders, who fatally weakened the centre's control. Increasingly less servile, they set themselves up as semi-independent rulers, replicating Mughal institutions and courtly behavior, but only paying tribute to the emperor when threatened with armed force. 

The dynasty of the Nizam of Hyderabad, famed in the twentieth century as the richest man in the world, began in this manner. At the time of Aurangzeb's death in 1707, AsafJah, the first Nizam, was nominally still an imperial servant. By 1947 his descendant Mir Osman All Khan, the seventh Nizam, was ranked as the senior-most 'native prince' in India. Other indepedendent Muslim rulers who emerged in this way were the Nawabs of Bengal and the Nawabs of Oudh (Awadh) in north India. Increasingly, too, some of the old Hindu kingdoms of Rajasthan. the Rajput states, began to reassert themselves against Mughal domination.

Other challenges to Mughal power were openly rebellious. Foremost among these were the Marathas, a though, semi nomadic people in western India who, led by the formidable shivaji(1627-80), inflicted some humiliating defeats on Auranzeb.From these peoples emerged a host of new Hindu ruling families, such as the Holkar of Indore, the Scindia of Gwalior, and the Gaekwars of Baroda. To Indian eyes, these lowborn newcomers were never to rank as equals with the ancient Rajput kings, but perhaps for that very reason they invested heavily in creating a richly ritualized court life. 

In the Punjab, to the north-west of Delhi, the Sikhs too were breaking free of Mughal control, and under their great leader, Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), they were destined to create a rich and splendid court at the city of Lahore. Aurangzeb and his ill-fated descendants veered between conciliation and repression in an attempt to keep these new and revitalized sovereignties within the imperial framework, but inevitably the wealth of the empire began to flow in their direction. Something of the empire's problems can be seen in the fate of the imperial turban ornament. Traditionally the right to wear a turban ornament was a highly exclusive honour; in the gift of the emperor atone. 

necklace of eleven spinet ads, three of which are scribed with the names if the Mughal emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan, and bear Islamic dates .corresponding to 1607/8, 1616, 1619, and 1633/4. Earliest inscription dates Jahangir's reign and reads: Jahangir shah Akbar shah, 1016. The diamond and pearl mount dates from the 18th century.In seeking allies, Aurangzeb had showered imperial favour widely, but this resulted in a cheapening of the sarpech so much so that in 1693 he felt compelled to order that nobles who had been favoured with the grant of a sarpech were only to wear them on Sundays. The situation deteriorated under his successors, until a chronicler of the times despaired of the 'ugly practice' by which 'grants of ... the jigha and sarpech were no longer regulated by the rank and dignity of the recipient'." The turban ornaments had indeed become ubiquitous, but the fact that the rulers in the successor states continued to wear them illustrates how much they looked to Mughal tradition to legitimate their nascent rule. 

Even the openly hostile .Marathas incorporated elements of Mughal display and ritual into their court styles. This practice meant that the decline of the empire was not immediately apparent to outsiders, but in 1739 a cataclysmic event revealed to the world that the Mughals' glory days were over. In that year, the ruler of Persia, Nadir Shah (r. 1732-47), swept into India through the mountain passes of Afghanistan and down across the Punjab plains to Delhi, where, after routing the Mughal army, his men ransacked the city and massacred some thirty thousand of its helpless inhabitants. When finally they left, the Persians carried off extraordinary riches, among them Shah Jahan's fabulous Peacock Throne, the Takhti Taus, and several legendary diamonds: the Kohi-Nur, the Akbar Shah, the DaryaNur, and the Shah. 

Many of the more spectacular gems remain in the Iranian National Treasure today, although others were dispersed over time as a result of warfare, intrigue, and diplomacy. Some left Persia almost immediately, for in 1741 Nadir Shah sent an emissary bearing choice objects from his Indian booty to the Empress Elizabeth at St Petersburg. In an ironical twist of fate, some of these plundered items were 

Writer - John Adamson

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