Thursday, 14 February 2013

Royal Jewelry of Europe

A diamond sarpech and turra (turban tassel) worn by Khande Rao Gaekwar of Baroda in the 1860s. A Revival in Royal Jewels


The terrible, chastening events of 1857 and their aftermath curbed the flow of jewels out of India. With the exception of the jewels captured in the Burmese war of 1885-6, Britain's formal looting of royal treasuries in the subcontinent ceased, while the princes, newly reassured of their place in the empire, entered the international market as big purchasers of high quality gemstones and jewellery: Gradually, in a reversal of almost two hundred years of history, the riches began to flow back to India. The wealth the princes amassed in this period could never have rivaled the awe-inspiring splendour of the Mughals, for they lacked real political power. Nevertheless, this was their heyday. For about seventy years, from 1870 to 1940, the princes gave the world a glimpse of what life might have been like at the court of the mighty Jahangir, 'World-Grasper', or one of his illustrious descendants.

Among the princes' acquisitions were newly discovered diamonds from Brazil ark, after 1870, from South Africa. Old jewels arrived or sometimes returned from a changing Europe: first, in the 1870s, star items from the collection of France's exiled empress, Eugenie, and, then, in the 1910s and 20s, treasures from the priceless hoards of the last sultan of the Ottoman empire and the Tsars of Russia and their displaced aristocracy. Initially many of these purchases were conducted by European intermediaries, but in the 1880s the princes themselves began to visit Europe in increasing numbers, either en masse for Britain's big imperial celebrations, or individually in search of novel pleasures and experiences. 

For decades the leading designers of French Academicians' swords, in the 20th century the Parisian jewellery house of Chaumet also ventured into designing swords for Indian princesMost found occasion to call at the elegant jewellery showrooms of the Rue de la Paix and Place Vendome in Paris or Bond Street in London perhaps purchasing items from stock or ordering a new setting for a traditional piece of Indian jewellery. As these contacts and commissions multiplied, through the interchange of aspirations, ideas, materials, and money, the worlds of Indian and European haute joaillerie became intertwined. It was a process that reflected elements of the bigger, awkward relationship between India and Europe as a whole. 

The Filling of Baroda's Jewel House  


Many of the anecdotes that circulated in Europe about the princes' purses and their luxurious tastes were exaggerations or distortions of the truth, but there was always enough substance in them to fuel speculation and to ensure that certain princely families became household names in the society journals and gossip columns of the day. Frederick Emery's young client, the Nizam of Hyderabad, was soon making the news with his international gem purchases, but perhaps the first princes catapulted into the European limelight in this manner were the maharajas of Baroda.

Baroda was one of the powerful Maratha states that had emerged in western India after the decline of the Mughal Empire. Its rulers were of humble origin (their family name Gaekwar' means cowherd), but the state was a wealthy one and the British were pragmatic in distributing honours. 

Pratapsingh Gaekwar is helped into Baroda's famous seven-stranded pearl necklace by his second wife, Sita Devi, a woman renowned for her avaricious love of jewels.After the Mutiny, it was awarded the maximum salute of twenty-one guns and ranked above all other states but for the southern giants of Hyderabad and Mysore. The maharaja at that time was Khande Rao Gaekwar (1856-70). Passionate about gemstones, he possessed a magnificent collection of state jewels, including a five-stranded collar of table and rose cut diamonds, fringed with emerald drops, and a dazzlingly large diamond sarpech. Archive photographs of these jewels and of him wearing them survive in the British Library. Not content with these riches, however, in the mid-1860s he embarked on an international diamond-buying spree. 

One of his finest buys was the old Mughal diamond, the Akbar Shah, which cost him £35,000 in 1867. This was a stone that is thought to have been carried off from India by Nadir Shah in 1739; sadly it had lost its historic Mughal inscriptions by the time it returned to India. Khande Rao also bought a 129 carat Brazilian diamond, the Star of the South, for £80,000, and, at only half that price, another Brazilian diamond, the English Dresden (78.53 metric carats).' Both the Brazilian stones were set in a fabulous triple-tiered diamond necklace which, until 1947 at least, featured in photographs of the maharaja.

Sometimes it graced the neck of a maharani, and, on one occasion, even that of a Frenchman, Louis Rousselet. Rousselet lived at Baroda for six months in 1865. He had arrived there in early June, just in time to witness a festival held by Khande Rao to honour the Star of the South with a triumphal entry into his capital. Some weeks later Rousselet was invited to examine the state jewels, whereupon Khande Rao, amused to find him goggling at their profusion, insisted that he try on his own royal costume and finery, including the necklace into which the Star of the South and the English Dresden had been newly set. Khande Rao kept up the game for at least an hour, calling in the nobles to pay obeisance to their new maharaja, but the fun soon wore off for Rousselet: 'I felt crushed beneath the enormous weight of these jewels, and it was with great pleasure that 1 abdicated my assumed royalty."

In addition to the diamonds, it is likely that the `Baroda Pearls', a necklace of seven strands of perfectly matched and graded pearls, were acquired during Khande Rao's reign, although it may have been bought by his successor. According to the Revd Edward St Clair Weeden, an Englishman who visited Baroda in about 1909, it was worth fifty lakhs of rupees, or £500,000 at that time, the single most important item of jewellery in Baroda's possession, outstripping even the big diamond necklaces.'

Soon after Sayaji Rao Ill's unexpected coronation in 1875, the Prince of Wales was amused to note that the boy-king was 'quite over-loaded with jewels ... though only six months ago he was running about the streets adorned with the most limited wardrobe. An imperfect administrator, Khande Rao was nevertheless a generous man, given to lavish, if somewhat erratic, expenditure on schemes for social improvement as well as on royal treasures. One of his more unexpected outlays was on a remarkable diplomatic gift to the world's Muslims. Although born a Hindu, he admired the achievements of Islam and thought to demonstrate his respect by commissioning a large bejeweled canopy for the Prophet's tomb at Medina. This was a tapestry-like covering composed entirely of seed pearls, with arabesque designs picked out in blue and red glass beads, ornamented with rosettes and medallions of emeralds, rubies, and diamonds. Over three years in the making (1866-9), it appears originally to have existed in five pieces: a central circular 'roof and four bejeweled 'walls', which were to be suspended from four pillars each topped by a cone of solid gold encrusted in diamonds.

Fortuitously for the Baroda treasury, Khande Rao died in November 1870, before he was able to dispatch this expansive gesture of friendship to Medina, and his successor Malhar Rao did not feel obliged to send it on. Instead it remained in Baroda bearing the less controversial identity of a 'carpet', and, as such, news of it spread to the outside world. Its fame received a boost when it was exhibited at the 1903 Coronation Durbar at Delhi, but in 1905 it was reported that a piece of it had been sold off for Rs. 3,50,000 news that outraged Lord Curzon, who thought that the current ruler ought to preserve it intact as state heirloom. 


Possibly it was the circular section that was sold, for Weeden saw the four large rectangular pieces and their diamond-studded cones in the Nazarbarg Palace in about 1909, and in 1913 one of the rectangular panels was put on temporary exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Today, the fate of these remaining sections is unknown, although at least one is reported to be in Paris, the contested property of the late Maharani of Baroda, Sita Devi.'

A dynastic portrait of Maharaja Sardar Singh and his ancestors, rulers of the ancient Rajput state of Jodhpur. c. 1900. Khande Rao's successor, his estranged brother Malhar Rao, is said to have added one of the Empress Eugenie's diamond necklaces to Baroda's overflowing treasury. The centre stone of this necklace was the 50-carat Eugenie diamond, reputedly the Empress's favourite stone. According to the English dealer, Edward Dresden, the necklace was sold privately to Mal har Rao for £15,000, 'some years' after Napoleon ITT's death in January 1873.5 It seems, however, that Dresden may have got his Indian princes muddled up, for a diamond necklace from Eugenie's collection, complete with a large pendent stone that was sometimes erroneously referred to as the Sang, was in the possession of the Patiala family in December 1875. Mahendra Singh (1852-76) of Patiala wore the stone around his neck, as well as some of Eugenie's other jewels in his turban, when he met the Prince of Wales in Calcutta in that month. He was said to have purchased them only a few weeks beforehand.

Even if we strip Malhar Rao of this purchase, however, diamonds figured ominously in his reign. He had inherited an unstable financial position from his brother and his failure to right this, coupled with his ruthless elimination of Khande Rao's favorites, cost him the trust of the British political resident, Colonel Phayre. Relations between the two men deteriorated to the point where someone in Baroda decided that the resident had best be removed ... permanently. With a grim irony, diamonds featured in the means devised for his liquidation. In November 1874, Phayre began to notice something odd about the glass of sherbet that he drank each morning, and when a sample of the drink was analyzed it was found to contain a toxic mixture of white arsenic and ground diamonds. 

In the 1920s, the Nawab of Bahawalpur, Ameer Sadiq Muhammad Khan V Abbasi, won a dubious fame for his extravagant love of jewellery and of women. Here, he is seen with his English wife. Linda Sayce. He was being poisoned, news that caused a storm in India and Britain, especially when the British decided to charge Mal har Rao himself with complicity to murder Phayre. But the six-man commission who heard the case in Calcutta divided along racial lines: the three British members found Mal bar Rao guilty while their Indian counterparts thought the charge unproven. The split verdict was an embarrassment to the government of India, but of little aid to Malhar Rao, for in Britain the India Office bad already decided that he was beyond redemption. In April 1875 he was deposed on the grounds of maladministration and misconduct. He died in exile in Madras in 1882, having left Baroda richer in legend, if not in fact.

Malhar Rao's successor was delightfully innocent of the temptations of jewels or, indeed, of riches of any kind. He was a 12-year-old village boy, illiterate and unworldly, who had been plucked from rural obscurity by Jamnabai, the widow of Khande Rao. Malhar Rao had no legitimate heirs, and under Hindu succession law his sister-in-law was empowered to adopt a son from the royal lineage to become the next maharaja. The little boy so chosen was destined to become the greatest of Baroda's modern leaders, Sayaji Rao 111 (1863-1939). He was granted full powers in December 1881, after six years of relentless instruction at the hands of his adoptive mother and a British tutor. It was an education that saw him master Marathi, Gujarati, and English (and subsequently French), but which, in opening up the world of European learning and society to him, also set him at odds with his British overlords. Like a lot of the princes who were brought up to admire and imitate the ideals of the English gentleman, he chafed at not being accorded the respect and independence to which such a gentleman was entitled. 

He professed loyalty to Queen Victoria, but after her death he and his second wife, Chimnabai II, a woman- of formidable intelligence and courage, flirted with sedition. From 1887 onwards he and Chimnabai also travelled widely in Europe, eventually purchasing a house in Paris and another in Surrey in England. Such frequent absences from his state were met with cold disapproval by the government of India. In consequence, Sayaji Rao's relations with successive viceroys were courteous, but seldom cordial. Inevitably, in such a climate, the Baroda jewels took on a political significance. The reported sale of the jewelled carpet that provoked Lord Curzon's anger occurred during Sayaji Rao's reign, a rare instance of a prince losing imperial favour for selling jewels rather than buying them. 

Three necklaces by the Indian jewellery designer, Ambaji Shinde, 1944-49. The choker and the Art Deco necklace, which showcases a rare hexagonal emerald, were created for a maharaja. The diamond necklace, which features a pear-shaped pink diamond and four emerald-cut blue diamonds, was for a maharani.
Similarly, Sayaji Rao incurred the wrath of the government of India in 1911 for not wearing his jewels at the Delhi Durbar. While all the princes around him were arrayed in their finery, he greeted George V in a severely plain kurta pajama, minus the diamonds and pearls for which Baroda was famous. He magnified the insult by turning his back on the king after his presentation, a sin of such grievous proportions that he was instantly rendered persona non grata with the British. Only a few days later, however, his act of insolence gave way to a letter of apology to the viceroy pleading confusion in the excitement of the moment. Perhaps his predecessor's fate had urged him to caution.

Unlike some of his fellow princes, Sayaji Rao genuinely seemed uncomfortable wearing a mass of jewellery. In middle age his ornamentation verged on the abstemious: only 'a single row of emeralds' and the diamond orders of his own state. Eventually, even the emerald necklace was dropped, much to the disappointment of one of his granddaughters who lived in hope of seeing it chosen for display.' This did not mean, however, that the Baroda royals ceased purchasing jewellery. The Parisian house of Boucheron has prewar records of the sale of stock items to Sayaji Rao, while in 1913 another Parisian houses, Chaumet, made a pair of peacock-motif earrings for a member of the Baroda family. Previously, in 1911, Sayaji Rao's strikingly beautiful daughter. Indira had bought extensively from Chaumet to mark her short-lived engagement to Madhav Rao Scindia, Maharaja of Gwalior. In 1914 Sayaji Rao commissioned Cartier to remount fourteen bracelets for him, but these were probably not destined for Indira; in 1913 much to his dismay to say nothing of Scindia's she had eloped with the future Maharaja of Gooch Behar.

The jaunty pose of a young western Indian prince belies the weight of both his jewels and his responsibilities of state.
Other evidence of ongoing jewel purchases comes from the sharp-eyed Reverend Weeden, who commented that the most effective of Sayaji Rao's jewels that he saw in Baroda were those in his private collection, on account of the more modern Way' in which the pieces were set. Weeden also noticed several diamond aigrettes which were apparently' of recent manufacture, for their sprays were set on springs, or en tremblant, so that 'the least movement causes them to glitter'. Significantly, however, Weeden's account supports what is suggested by the Chaumet purchases, namely, that it was not Sayaji Rao, but his wife and daughter who had the real eve for gems.

Chimnabai was an adventurous woman who possessed the flair and self-assurance of a gambler. 

She was a crack shot, a firm but tactful opponent of purdah (female seclusion) and an advocate of women's education. She also adored gemstones and pearls, and simply ignored her husband's dislike of show. When even the state emerald necklace stopped appearing around his neck, by way of compensation Chimnabai 'had some very good personal jewellery bought from Russian grand dukes after the Revolution, mostly big emeralds'." And there is no doubt that the purchasing decisions were hers. In the 1950s the dealer Abraham Monnickendam recalled that she delighted in outwitting the top European jewellers with her specialist knowledge of diamonds. Sayaji Rao confessed himself amazed at her skill in gem-buying.

Maharaja U ma id Singh of Jodhpur (r. 1918-47) was a cautious modernizer. He only reluctantly accepted the innovation of platinum-set jewellery, but he was responsible for commissioning one of the great modernist palaces of India. Like her husband, Chimnabai moved freely and comfortably in Europe, and it seems that early in her travels she became acquainted with the house of Cartier. It is likely that Jacques Cartier's first trip to India in 1911 was v. least partly inspired by an invitation from Chimnabai and her husband, and it was in Baroda that he did most business Cartier's historian, Hans Nadelhoffer, records that Sayaji Rao 'was so taken with the young Cartier that he immediately wanted to entrust him with the maintenance Of all his jewelry' and, moreover, that he commissioned the Frenchman 'to reset his entire collection in platinum'. Nadelhoffer reads this as proof of Sayaji Rao's 'great passion' for jewellery, but the largeness of both commissions and what we know about Sayaji Rao's aversion to show suggest the reverse a grateful surrender fall the decisions and cares involved in the maintenance and updating of a vast array of jewels, both state and private. Subsequently he was to hand over to Cartier all purchasing decisions. regarding state gems.

As it happens, neither order was immediately put in train, apparently because opposition from Baroda's traditional court jewellers. Not unreasonably, they, resented the influence that t foreign interloper had won in so short a time. 'After a few days, therefore,' says Nadelhoffer, 'Jacques to' honoured leave-of the "court circus".' Another artier representative, Clifford North, was to get a similar reception at Kathmandu in Nepal in 1932, where the king's jewellers valued his wares at a third of the price he was asking for them.' Some things had seemingly not changed since 1673 when Jean Chardin had had his hopes dashed by the envy of the court jewellers in Teheran.

One of the many jewels created for Bhupindar Singh of Patiala by Boucheron in 1928, this necklace is designed to maximize the impact of an extraordinary array of cabochon emerald drops. In reality, however, and especially with wealthy states like Baroda, Mysore, and Hyderabad there was enough work for both local jewellers and foreigners. Abraham Monnickendam noticed that Chimnabai used to take Baroda's senior court jeweller with her to London to advise her on new purchases. Similarly, Ranjitsinhji, Maharaja of Nawanagar, kept his court jeweller with him in Europe, both to appraise stones he was interested in buying and to keep an eye on the formidable number of jewels that he travelled with.Moreover, there is ample evidence that Indian jewellers who worked outside the traditional pal-ace network did not miss out on royal commissions.


In 1937 Ambaji Shinde, a young Goan-born graduate of the H. School of Art in Bombay, had just been taken on as a designer by the leading Bombay goldsmiths, the firm of Nanubhai Javeri.

 His first royal work came in the following year when the Maharaja of Porbandar commissioned a remodeling of some of his jewellery, Soon after that, in 1939,Pratapsingh Gaekwar, Sayaji Rao successor to the Baroda sack ordered several pieces for his coronation, including two or three tiaras and some chokers. Shinde, who is now the chief designer with Harry Winston's in New York, stayed with Nanubhai for 24 years, in the course of which he designed pieces for nearly all of the maharajas and many of the local rich'. 

During his short life Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan of Bahawalpur spent money with flair, freely sampling European wares. Many of the diamonds in his spectacular turban ornaments were European-cut stones of South African origin.In her autobiography Vijayaraje Scindia, Dowager Maharani of Gwalior, recalled that Nanubhai's were the favoured jewellers of her husband, Jivajirao Scindia (1916-61). On her birthday, the Maharaja customarily invited Nanubhai to set up shop in his Bombay residence so that his wife could choose a present for herself. Although some of the jewels she describes sound to have been of Western design, such as a necklace of pigeon-blood rubies and blue diamond’s 'set in such a way that you could not see the mounting at all', she also notes that many of Gwalior's state jewels such as bazubands and sarpeches had 'old-fashioned settings' in which the gems were 'all but embedded in gold'. This suggests that the princes' keenness for European designs and lightweight platinum mounts had supplemented rather than displaced the labours of Indian jewellers."

A Silversmith's Dream: the Bahawalpur Bed


In February 1883, Le Figaro reported on a remarkable mechanical bed which the eminent French firm of silversmiths. Christofle, had built to order for a mystery client, said to be an Indian prince. The design was the client's own: 'a bed in dark wood decorated with parcel-gilt silver, monogram and arms, ornamented with four life-size bronze [female] figures painted in flesh colour with natural hair, movable eyes and arms, holding fans and horse tails'.1` Christofle provided the 290 kilograms of ornate chased and engraved silver that covered the bed's frame, but the company had to bring in the sculptors, automaton-makers and other craftsmen necessary to realize their client's dream. Paris's celebrated coiffeur Lesage was called upon to dress the hair of the four female figures, each of which was differently coloured and posed to represent an idealized woman of France, Spain, Greece, and Italy. And the thirty minutes of music that, at the press of a button, accompanied the gentle waving of the ladies' fans was the achievement of the lea-ding music-box makers, Thibouville-Lamy. All of these craftsmen, however, were ignorant of the identity of their client, who had placed his order through an intermediary. 

This pearl, emerald, and diamond necklace is instantly recognizable as a sat larha, or seven-stranded necklace, and also as a classic of Art Deco design. For a more traditional sat larha. It was the 21-year-old Nawab of Bahawalpur. Bahawalpur was a largely Muslim state of 20,000 square miles, situated on the edge of the Punjab; since 1954 it has formed part of Pakistan. Its ruler with the adventurous dreams, Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi TV (1861-99), had come to the throne as a minor in 1866 and until 1879 his state's affairs and his own tuition had been in the care of a British administrator. Contemporary portraits show a handsome, strong-featured man, with an abundance of cascading black locks, the curls of which are echoed in his ornately brocaded coats and the voluminous folds of his salwars, or trousers. There is an air of louche romance about him that makes his order for a bed adorned with naked women not a complete surprise. Nor perhaps is it unexpected to learn that he was a heavy consumer of 'chloral, bromides, opium and alcohol.

Curiously, even a personal item like a bed was not devoid of political implications. On the one hand, the extravagance of the order it cost FF 80.000 (3,200) was a snub to the British with their perpetual concerns about indulgence and waste. Later they were to review Sadiq Muhammad Khan's costly reign with disfavor: on his death in 1899 his personal debts were extensive. On the other hand, the British could have taken comfort from that fact that he chose to have his coat of arms, featuring two pelicans, emblazoned on the bed's headboard. This insignia had been granted to Bahawalpur in 1877 when Queen Victoria was made Empress of India. What better proof of the scheme's success could have been required? Here, only live years after its creation, was a prince revel-ling in a hierarchy imposed on him by his imperial over-lords. He may not have recognized it as such, but the nawab had commissioned a piece that perfectly symbolized the dilemma confronting the princes in their relations with the British.

Early Foreign Commissions: New Styles for Young States


 Jean-Philippe Worth, son of the famous couturier, Charles Frederick Worth, and father-in-law of Louis Cartier, dressed as an Indian prince for an Oriental costume ball. The Baroda state jewels were uncommonly well documented. The 1880 series of photographs of Baroda,, necklaces, turban ornaments, and bracelets that survives in the British Library is an extremely rare record:- Other nineteenth-century royal jewels are known chiefly through hearsay and the imperfect pictorial records provided by portraits and portrait photographs. Among these we may count wonders such as the Nawanagar emerald necklace, containing uncut stones 'as big as a baby's fist'; Jaipur's spinel necklace, with three rows of spinels each as large as a bantam hen's egg'; and the world-famous Dholpur pearls, a multistranded necklace usually worn with an additional necklet of pearls 'perfectly matched in orient and size and large as plovers' eggs'.' 

It is within living memory that India's royal treasuries were overflowing with items of comparable quality, but inquirers after their fate have rarely succeeded in locating them or in tracing their history. Fortunately, one category of royal jewels offers more satisfaction to the researcher. These are the items commissioned by the princes from European jewellers. Much information has been lost, and what remains has been inadequately researched. Nevertheless it is still possible to sketch a history of engagement between the princes and prominent foreign jewellers.

The first commissions to foreign houses should perhaps be dated to the 1880s, the decade when states such as Bahawalpur, Gooch Behar, and Patiala began running up debts overseas. The first visit to Europe by a reigning prince took place as early as 1870, but this pioneering traveler, Maharaja Rajaram Chhatrapati of Kolhapur (c.1850-70), does not appear to have placed any special orders with the jewellers of either Paris or London. He did, however, buy watches and earrings and other items in stock at the London firm of Hunt and Roskell.' 

Cartier's Tutti Frutti style, so-called for its use of multi-coloured carved and cabochon 'berries', most of which came from India, reached its peak in this necklace created for Daisy Fellowes in 1936. Of the numerous princes who followed in his foot-steps, it is probable that the Baroda royal family had commissioned pieces from London or Paris well before Jacques Cartier's visit in 1911, and that the Nawab of Bahawalpur placed orders in Europe for items other than the bed Christofle made for him in 1882. In portraits and photographs from the 1880s and 90s the Nawab wears turban ornaments that show Western influence and were said to contain European-cut diamonds, often of South African origin!' Similarly, a photograph of the Maharaja of Patiala, Rajcndra Singh (1872-1900), shows him wearing a lacy diamond circlet of European design!' In all these cases, how-ever, firm evidence of European input is lacking. For an illustrated example of an early commission placed in Europe we need to turn to another prince.

In 1905 the Maharaja of Kapurthala, Jagatjit Singh (1872-1949), presented the Parisian house of Boucheron with a handful of diamonds, including two out-standing stones, and requested that they he refashioned as a turban ornament. The design and setting of the resulting aigrette came to FF 2,500. If the cost of the diamonds had been included the bill would have been much higher, but in supplying his own stones Jagatjit Singh had effected a considerable saving. It was a practice adopted by many other princes in the years ahead, and meant that the Indian commissions received by European jewellery houses often looked more profitable than they really were. The jewellers valued the princes' custom for the intrinsic interest of the pieces that they were called upon to design for them and for the glamour and publicity that they brought to their showrooms. Better money was to be made, however, with rich American clients who needed to buy stones as well as settings. Even Cartier and Garrard, who did a lot of work for the princes, are unlikely to have looked upon them as a principal or dependable source of income.

Cartier's Tutti Frutti necklace, as it appears today, after its Indian-style cord tic was replaced with a more conventional Western clasp.Boucheron's early aigrette for Kapurthala was in keeping with the contemporary European taste for the ribbons, bows, and garlands of Louis XVI-style ornamentation, although in a concession to its Indian role as a sarpech the piece effected a gentle, spray-like droop reminiscent of the traditional, jigha. This alone made it of sufficiently alien appearance to European eyes that its cataloguer at Boucheron mistook it for a corsage ornament and pasted the reference photograph of it upside-down in the company's file book. Nevertheless, it was an unmistakably European creation, with many of the medium-sized diamonds in the ornament set in collets linked by delicate thread settings which were designed to show them to their best advantage. Boucheron's record is not conclusive, but the apparent fragility of the setting makes it unlikely that it was constructed only of gold. 

The alternatives, according to Boucheron's practice at the time, were a setting in silver lined with gold or a setting in platinum. We can be reason-ably sure that it was the latter, as an Indian prince was unlikely to have accepted a head ornament containing silver. In India gold was sacred, the only metal for setting royal gems, while silver, if it. were to be worn by royalty at all, was reserved for ankles and feet. Platinum, however, was another matter. It was rare, precious, and virtually unknown in India. Moreover, since the latter part of the nineteenth century it had become the preferred setting for diamonds by European jewellers, for although its extremely high melting point (1773.5°C or 3190°F) made it hard to work, finished pieces were strong and did not tarnish. Because of its strength, less metal was needed to hold the stones in place, giving rise to discreet, airy' mounts that allowed light to penetrate the stones from all angles. 

A gold travelling clock, part of a travelling suite made for the Maharaja of Baroda, by Cartier London, 1947.
Maximizing a jewel's brilliance and minimizing tarnishing were influential considerations as the century advanced and society women found their jewellery subjected to the unforgiving glare of electric light; at a Foreign Office reception in London in 1893, Jagatjit himself had noted the effect of electric light on the radiance of jewels." As a man who prided himself on his modernity, he is unlikely to have needed much persuading by Boucheron of the advantages of using platinum to show off his diamonds. But among other Indian princes the prejudice against settings that looked like silver could be hard to overcome. In the early 1920s it took the man from Garrard several visits to persuade Umaid Singh, Maharaja of Jodhpur, to accept platinum mounts for some diamond turban ornaments: 'He is afraid that he will be seen as a silver prince and not as a gold one.' Garrard eventually won the day, for the ornaments, featuring portrait medallions of royal ancestors, are still treasured by the Jodhpur family today."

 With hindsight, it is unsurprising that rulers from states like Kapurthala and Bahawalpur were experimenting with new jewellery fashions in the 1890s and 1900s, while a maharaja of Jodhpur should still be equivocating about platinum settings in the mid-1920s. Like Baroda, Kapurthala and Bahawalpur were both young states which had emerged from the wastes of the Mughal Empire and had capitalized on Britain's subsequent search for compliant allies. Bahawalpur's foundations were laid as recently as 1749, while most of the wealth and status that the tiny Sikh state of Kapurthala enjoyed was owing to an ancestor's canny support of the British during the Mutiny of 1857. 

Illiterate at the time of her marriage to Sayaji Rao III in 1885, Chimnabai, Maharani of Baroda, soon became a personality in her own right and easily outshone her husband in the world of international gem dealers.
The rulers of new states like these were not tied by tradition and ritual in the same way as the ancient kings of Rajasthan, and, in general, it was they who experimented most freely with what Europe had to offer in the way of artistic and sensual enjoyment. Alongside Kapurthala, we find the rulers of Gooch Behar, Gwalior, Hyderabad, lndore, Kashmir, Mandi, Mysore, Patiala, Pudukkottai, and Rampur featuring again and again in the order books of Western jewellery houses and gem-dealers. In the early twentieth century most of them looked back on fewer than ten generations of royal ancestry, a twig like genealogy when compared with the seventy-odd generations in the family tree of an established Rajput state like Udaipur. Although tradition was important in these young states, none was overburdened by it, and their rulers took it for granted that the future was as much theirs to shape as the past was to be obeyed.

This difference is illustrated in reverse by the character of two outstanding Raj put leaders who visited Europe before the First World War: Pratap Singh (1845-1922), Regent of Jodhpur, and Ganga Singh Rathor (1880-1943), Maharaja of Bikaner. Both men were lionized in their own states, but they also enjoyed the confidence of the British. Sir Pratap, as he was known throughout the empire, was legendary for his probity and plain-speaking. For Paris he had no time at all. Its 'moral atmosphere' was 'very noxious'; 'men of high birth and good breeding' would do well, he thought, not to tarry in such an improper place." He appears to have spent little money on luxuries in Paris or elsewhere. Canga Singh, a younger and superficially more modern man than Sir Pratap, was less condemnatory of Europe's fleshpots, but he was nevertheless discreet in his European purchases, eschewing the sort of glittering Oriental show associated with some of the newer princes. 

A sarpech of diamonds, rubies, and cabochon emeralds set in gold, designed for a member of a Punjabi royal family by Ambaji Shinde, 1953-5. The central pear-shaped diamond weighs approximately 16 carats.
His biggest indulgence was bespoke suits, of 'which he possessed some sixty or more, and all the subtly, varying accessories of the English gentleman's wardrobe: tiepins, cuff links, walking sticks, and cigarette cases.' At least some of these items were likely to have come from the London branch of Faberge, where he was an occasional .customer before its closure in 1917, and also from Boucheron, which he patronized after the First World War. An item he commissioned from Boucheron in 1924 gives an idea of his preference for understated, conservative display. This was a belt buckle set with a multitude of small diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, and featuring a central brilliant of 3.60 carats. It was a fine piece of European workmanship, but one which did not stray far from the ideals of Rajput jewellery. 

Its abstract foliate design was recognizably Indian in inspiration, the colours of its gems imitated the popular red, green, and white enamel work of Rajasthan and the gems themselves were set in gold, rather than the fashionable platinum!" As for more spectacular jewels, Ganga Singh certainly possessed them and would don them if protocol demanded. In the Bikaner treasury Lady Reading saw strings of pearls, 'great knobs of uncut emeralds and diamonds', and 'the most beautiful tiaras and diadems' with exquisite pink and blue enamel reverses. But Ganga Singh much preferred restraint, or what a French observer called his `sobriete elegante'." Immensely dignified, a patriarch in the finest Rajput and English traditions, he was above gaudy ornamentation.

Orientalism Rampant


An elegant corner in the palace of Rampur. Fortunately for the glamour of prewar European society, relatively few of India's roving princes shared the austere outlook of Sir Pratap and Ganga Singh. The first decade of the new century was one when many princes began to look upon Europe as a home away from home. For political reasons, London always featured in their itineraries, with the Savoy Hotel achieving a de facto status as their hotel 'by royal appointment'. Less predictably, perhaps, the princes developed a liking for the Continent, especially France, hut also the resorts and spa towns of Switzerland, Italy, and Germany. Initially, travel there exposed them to curiosity and sometimes hostility about their dietary requirements and religious prejudices, but in time the Continent 'offered many Indian princes an endless source of instruction and pleasure. 

Unlike in Britain, where as 'native chiefs' they were forever reminded of their subordinate status, on the Continent they were treated as proper kings, on a par in essence, if not exactly importance, with the surviving crowned heads of Europe. This was especially true of Paris, which feted the princes almost as if in compensation for the loss of its own royalty. For Parisian jewellers, outfitters, portrait painters, hoteliers, and a host of other purveyors of goods and services to the elite, something of the Empress Eugenie's lavish and ennobling patronage seemed to live again in the self-conscious magnificence of princes like Bhupindar Singh of Patiala. The princes returned the compliment. At least three royal families Baroda, Indore, and Kapurthala bought residential properties in France, and many others came to use Paris or resorts such as Deauville and Nice as a European base from which to make necessary visits to London, rather than vice versa.

The Maharana of Dholpur was said to possess the finest pearls in India. For one string alone the last Tsar of Russia is alleged to have offered Maharana Nihal Singh forty million rupees.The prominence of the Indian princes in European society in the 1900s coincided with the cresting of a pre-war wave of Orientalism in Western jewellery and fashion design. It had a particularly Parisian flavor, although the images of the exotic East emanating from Britain during the coronations, durbars, and royal tours of the pre-war years were influential in its development. Flamboyant and good-humored, practitioners of the new Orientalism betrayed little of the moral seriousness that had informed the Arts and Crafts Movement's earlier engagement with Asian motifs. Instead, they reveled in a pick-and-mix appropriation of designs and inspiration from any number of societies situated beyond the Bosporus, weaving them together in a style that came loosely to be termed `Persian'. 

The Japanese and Chinese alone escaped total subsumption in this Asian mélange, which saw differences between Hindus and Muslims, Arabs and Persians, Turks and Indians, sultans and maharajas, and ancient and modern brushed aside in the creation of a colourful fantasy world, which would ever after be known as the land of 'a thousand and one nights'. Although the progenitors of the Persian style might today be accused of lacking discernment or restraint, at the time their vision was seen to afford some relief to the 'tapeworm' excesses of late AA Nouveau. By 1910, in the eyes of many critics, the delicate stylized fronds and tendrils of the original Art Nouveau style had run wild, threatening to strangle the art form with their own twining exuberance. The Orientalists'

The completed vanki by Van Cleef & Arpels as shown in the working drawing.Arabic literature was no hindrance to the inclusion of a host of Indian references in its characterization costumes, and set designs. Indeed, as the choreographer, Michel Fokine, later revealed, cultural authenticity was shunned, because that is what Europeans' notions of the Orient seemed to demand at the time:

For the ballet's designer, Leon Bakst, Scheherazade was a resounding success. His filmy costumes achieves equal billing with Fokine's choreography and Diaghilev's dancers, and gave rise to a host of 'Persian' costume balls that enlivened the Paris seasons of 1911 and 1912. At one of these fetes, given by the Comtesse Blanche de Clermont-Tonnerre in June 1912, Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala himself was present, while his close friend Andre de Fouquieres, the 'Beau Brummel of Paris', came dressed in a royal costume provided by Maharaja of Patiala, complete with turban and sarpech With little exaggeration, Bakst could tell his wife t 'the whole of Paris now dresses in "oriental" clothes'? 

Among Parisian women, the taste for 'Persian' clot was championed by 'Sultan' Paul Poiret, a couturier and stage costumier who had long seen himself as apostle of the Oriental influence in French fashion.' One of the first designers to jettison the peculiar tyranny of the Edwardian corset, Poiret used the flavor of the harem to hint at sexual as well as physical release for his society customers. Among his Oriental creations were baggy harem-style pants (jupe-culottes), turbans and kimono-style cloaks clothes radical in cut and colouring but still reassuringly luxurious in their consumption of bolts of opaque silks and swathes of shimmering chiffons and gauzes.

A buckle of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds set in gold, created for Ganga Singh, Maharaja of Bikaner, by Boucheron in 1924.Such distinctive clothes appeared to require accessories to match, and marketable forms of the Indi style pearl sashes, turban ornaments, and gem-studded panels and pendants that Bakst designed Scheherazade were soon appearing in Parisian jewellery salons. This was a radical move on the part of jewel who, until then, had tended to stand aloof from the seasonal vagaries of haute couture. Cartier led the way, partly at the behest of one of its master designers, Charles Jacqueau, who adored Bakst's creations for the Ballets Russes and partly through the influence of its Parisian head, Louis Cartier, who had amassed a fine collection of Persian miniature paintings. 

From 1911 onwards the firm had the benefit too of Jacques Cartier's buying trips to India and the contacts with gem suppliers that he had established there. Together, a steady flow of Indian stones, the judicious purchase of illustrative examples of traditional Indian jewellery, and a lengthening list of Indian clients ensured that Cartier's Oriental jewellery drew more on recognizably Indian than on so-called Persian influences. Smooth, cabochon-cut stones began to appear frequently in Cartier pieces from about 1911, a shift away from the reliance on heavily-faceted stones traditionally used in European jewellery. They were often set in colour combinations borrowed from Indian enamel work, mina-kart, in particular the red, green, and white of the Jaipuri palette. 

Some of the women's jewels created for Bhupindar Singh of Patiala in 1928 by Boucheron: two hair ornaments and a sari brooch. Cartier's popular peacock pattern', a start-ling, unmediated juxtaposition of the blue of sapphires and the green of emeralds also owed something to north Indian enamels, although the American jeweller Louis Comfort Tiffany and the British firm of Liberty's, along with other exponents of the Arts and Crafts Movement, had previously experimented with this colour combination and motif. Large carved emeralds, once the prized possessions of the Mughal emperors, were newly set for European clients as brooches or pendants in diamond or pearl surrounds, often adorned with a single Indian-style cabochon stone, carved bead or large pearl drop. Eventually, in the 1930s, Cartier would turn full circle and begin setting precious stones in gold again. This was a move inspired by their artistic director, Jeanne Toussaint (1887-1978), who had collected and worn Indian jewellery ever since her arrival at the firm in the 1920s.

The forms themselves of Indian jewellery were also borrowed and adapted to European tastes, a development which reached its peak in the Art Deco jewellery of the 1920s and 30s. Numerous examples survive from a range of jewellery houses. Cartier produced many versions of the open or hinged bangle with animal-head terminals, the Kara, which had been a popular Hindu ornament since about the third century AD. Boucheron became known for aigrettes and tiaras which affected the feathered droop, the pendent stone, and the beaded tassels of Indian turban ornament.

Maharaj Swarup Singh, of the royal house of Jodhpur, models a portrait turban ornament set in platinum, similar to those created for Unsaid Singh in the 1920s by Garrard. Cartier also produced its own version of the tiara, or tasselled turban ornament, for use on pendants, brooches, shoulder ornaments, and earrings. The multistranded sautoir, a voracious consumer of pearls and precious or semi-precious beads became a staple for European and American jewellery houses in the 1910s and 20s. As a long neckchain, the sautoir had been popular with European women in the nineteenth century; it owed its rebirth to the waist-length ropes of pearls and other gemstones, the mala or motimala, worn by Indian princes and their consorts: The stylized flower spray motif or buta, an Indian design known and exploited in Europe since the first importation of Kashmiri shawls in the eighteenth century, also experienced a resurgence in popularity as the basis for gem-studded pendants and brooches:

In some cases these jewels worked so well as Indian pieces that Indian clients bought them from stock. The London branch of Cartier appears to have sold several of its sarpech aigrettes' to Indian princes." Even when they sold only to Western clients, however, the Indian-style jewels had a peripheral effect on the Indian market. Before the First World War, several princes capitalized on the enhanced interest in Indian jewellery and artforms by selling items from their collections. In 1912 and 1913 Mir Osman Ali Khan, the new Nizarn of Hyderabad auctioned both gemstones and antique weapons, while Sayaji Rao of Baroda (continuing the sales he had begun in 1905) sold off pearls and jewels." 

Prabhu Narayan Singh, Maharaja of Benares, c. 1900, wears a striking array of royal jewels, mostly emeralds and diamonds. His gem-studded epaulettes are fringed with seed pearls.
After the war, they were joined by the Maharaja of Jaipur, Sawai Madho Singh, who sold a number of jewelled and enameled turban ornaments to a Mr. Talyarkhan who in turn sold them to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London." Then, as now, news of such sales excited the international jewellery fraternity. Selling jewellery may have been the prelude to new purchases on the seller's part, but nevertheless it seems to have represented another break with tradition by the princes. Previously those royal jewels which were not preserved as state heirlooms might have been given away individually, as a gracious present to a deserving courtier or an honoured guest, or they might have been broken up and their gems reset for use by the royal household, or, of course, a collection might have been dissipated by the age-old method of plunder. 

But it was unusual for royal jewels to be sold to a dealer' or at an auction like an ordinary commodity. The new willingness to sell suggests that, at least for some of the Hindu princes, their jewels were beginning to lose the sacred character with which they were imbued by their association with divinely ordained kingship. Instead, they were being treated like secular investments in coal, cotton, and railways. Perhaps this was a sign of a fundamental change effected in the princes' psyche by the fact that they no longer looked to their own people and priests for legitimation of their rule, but rather to foreigners of a resolutely alien culture.

Writer – John Adamson
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