Thursday, 4 July 2013

The Scattering of Legacy "Jewellery"


The quality of these Colombian emeralds and the carving of a four-petalled flower at the bottom and strands of the sycamore tree around the gem imply a Mughal origin. The emeralds, reputed to have once belonged to Robert Clive, have been reset in the early 20th century, to suspend from a Belle Epoque diamond ribbon bow, bell and cupola surmount.
It was during Edward Clives' ten tire as Governor of Madras (1798-1803) that important items of `Tipu memorabilia' were procured. After the fall of Tipu Sultan in 1799, his vast treasury was ransacked and divided among the soldiers, who subsequently auctioned them to realize their monetary worth. Even Tipu's throne was not seared; it was broken up and individual parts auctioned off. But under instructions from the Governor-General Lord Mornington, the "most significant contents of Tipu's palace" were sought to be saved; fragments of the throne made in Mysore, including two tiger-head finials and the golden huma bird from the canopy (505, 506) were purchased on behalf of the King of England. Lord Mornington gifted Lord and Lady Clive one of these tiger head finials. The Clive collection, housed at Powis Castle, provides valuable insights on the opulence and aesthetics of the period.

From time to time, items purloined at Srirangapattinam appear on the international market, sold with scant regard for their historic importance. A large sapphire from Tipu's sword hilt subsequently set in a ring, sold at Christies on 9'5 lime 1892; his four-row pearl necklace was given by Sir John Floyd in charge of the army to his daughter Julia, wife of Sir Robert Peel, twice Prime Minister to Queen Victoria. This was sold by Christies on 3rd February 1917. More recently, in October 1997, two enamelled bangles set with rubies and diamonds, with tiger-head terminals and a pair of carved emerald drops 504, were sold by Christies in London.

Two surviving components of Tipu Sultan's gem-set gold throne. The majestic seat "was to be supported on four tigers of wood, also covered with gold; and on an iron stay, curving over from the hinder part of the platform, was to be fixed, the klomai, or phoenix; also covered with gold, and set with jewels." But fate denied Tipu the honour of sitting on this magnificent throne. It "was sold, unbroken, to Gen. Gent, of the Madras establishment, for 5000 sultaunies, or about '2,5000 after the fall of Srirangapattinam in 1799.The Clives were not the only nabobs of British India. Sir Robert Cowan, during his tenure as Governor of Bombay in the early 19th century, acquired fabulous diamonds, which came to be known as the Down diamonds. They were reset several times over the years.

The acquisition of Indian jewels by the English was not the sole prerogative of individuals. In 1849, after the annexation of the Punjab, the magnificent treasury of Ranjit Singh fell into the hands of the English Crown. Among the items acquired was the famous Koh-i-Nur diamond. In the aftermath of the Mutiny of 1857, the remnants of the Mughal treasury in Delhi and many provincial treasuries were looted; in the auction held by the Calcutta firm Hamilton & Co., jewels were acquired by English residots in India and found their way back to England. These items periodically come up for sale in the international market.

The Indian fascination for Colombian emeralds continued well into the 18th and 19th centuries. However, by the late 19th century, many of these stones, hitherto left in their natural state, were re-cut with facets. These pear-shaped emeralds were collected over a period of time to achieve size gradations and match depth of colour. The two large ones in the centre are believed to have originally belonged to the Nizam of Hyderabad.
The Great Mogul emerald, once set into a ring for the Duchess of Windsor, sold at Sotheby's 1987 sale of the jewels of the Duchess for US$1.3 million. The 19.77 carat emerald was mounted by Cartier and presented by Edward VIII as Wallis Simpson's engagement ring. This emerald was originally said to be "as large as a bird's egg" and "belonged to the Grand Mogul."17 "It is unlikely that the Duke ever bought jewels with a view to investment, but if the Great Mogul's 1936 price of.C10,000 is multiplied by 25 to allow for the period's deflation, the gem can be considered to have appreciated about 500 percent."

Looting of Indian treasuries did not commence with the English. Through successive periods of Indian history, the treasuries accumulated by generation after generation of native rulers were the target of invaders, who carried off everything they could lay their hands on. Of these, perhaps the most famous is Nadir Shah's loot of the Imperial Mughal treasury, after his sack of Delhi in 1739. The entire hoard was carted off to Iran, and formed the bulk of the Crown Jewels of Iran. Few items of jewellery remain intact, since almost all that Nadir Shah acquired was barbarically melted down and converted to gold bricks and bags of gems to facilitate transport. The Iran Treasury acquired from India included emeralds in quantity, quality and size unknown elsewhere; thousands of diamonds, many over "20 carats in weight" and six exceeding "100 carats";' 9 rubies, some more than "10 carats in weight" and red spinels, "hundred in excess of 120 carats, a score or more greater than 100 carats", and a solitary "polished pebble of 500 carats and finally an unquantifiable number of pearls of Indian origin.

The influence of western design is manifest in this necklace of emeralds and diamonds set in gold, a variation of the traditional baleora.Most of the stones were removed from their original settings and reset in accordance with reigning fashions, while countless were sold to fund wars; many pieces were gifted to the Turkish Sultans, other neighbouring rulers and  it particular, the Russian Tsars, and are today held in the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

By the year 1850, it seemed India had given all that she could give and there was little left. But Europe, yearning for a change, turned again to the exotic Orient in the late 19th century for something refreshingly different. Paris, of course, was the great trendsetter of 18th century fashions on the continent. This trend continued into the 19th century, when English jewellers vied with their Parisian counterparts to introduce new designs and refine setting techniques. In the 1860s, multi-strand bead necklaces that were very fashionable in Paris were known as 'colliers indiens,' reminiscent of their Indian models.

It was the exhibitions at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851 and the ones in Paris in 1855 and 1867 that marked the turning point, introducing Europeans to the many facets of Indian design culture. They showcased a variety of items specifically made for the occasion by versatile craftsmen from different parts of India and displayed the magnificence of Indian gems. The riot of colour in Indian enamel excited the monochrome visual senses of European sensibilities. The exhibitions drew mixed responses, but opened the eyes of Europe to the tremendous calibre of Indian craftsmanship and to the continued availability of high quality gems for jewellery manufacture.

"The oceans, seas, and large lakes are cm posed of emeralds; the land masses are generally of rubies or red spinets; but Iran, Britain, France and part of southeast Asia are made up of diamonds, and Africa south of the Sahara and part of Egypt are of blue sapphires, Studded with more than 51,000 gems that were part of Nadir Shah's plunder of India in 1739, and fashioned from 75 pounds of gold, the globe is part of The Crown Jewels of Iran.
This renewed fascination with Indian gems and jewellery resulted in a cross-fertilization of jewellery designs, forms and techniques. The almost incessant flow of novelties from Europe, the influence of a multi-cultural environment and the arrival of foreign craftsmen who set up workshops in Indian cities and who were even given employment in the imperial workshops, had its bearing on design and decoration. Items made in the Indian style became fashionable and were crafted under special commission for export. A classic example of this kind of cross-cultural influence is the European aigrette and the Indian kalgi. Many traditional Indian designs inspired western jewellery forms and colour sensibilities. The sarpech design, for example, was adapted to pins, brooches and epaulettes; the Indian tassel was adapted to form pendants to necklaces and sautoirs; carved Indian beads were used in western forms; the mango, and the peacock, together with plants and leaves were only some of the many motifs adapted and incorporated into the western idiom.

A number of Indian techniques influenced the west in this period. This influence manifested itself predominantly in two areas one, in which the technique was adapted and used by western jewellers in the manufacture of items for their local clientele, such as enamelling and the juxtaposition of many-coloured stones on a single palette; and the other, wherein Indian design concepts were employed on western jewellery forms, manifest in the 'swami' style of jewellery manufactured by P. Orr & Sons of Madras.

Catering to a predominantly European clientele in India, images of Hindu gods and goddesses as well as secular Indian images were rendered in the repousse technique on items such as lockets, pendants, necklaces, bracelets and functional objects like teapots and trays. Indian craftsmen, in their turn, drew inspiration from the west in designs, the use of platinum in place of gold and in the open setting of gems.

Among the many European firms that turned to the East for inspiration in this period, the name of Cartier is undoubtedly the most renowned. Catering to a clientele spread across three continents, Cartier hunted for the best stones from far corners of the world and designed matchless jewels. Cartier's association with India dates to the 1870s and 1880s, when ornaments of Indian origin arc listed in their archives: "1872, Indian earrings of gold and turquoise; 1879, a five-strand pearl necklace with six small enamelled Indian plaques; 1884, two three-rope necklaces with Indian gold coins and Indian enamelled buttons." But the real challenge came when Pierre Cartier created under commission an "Indian-style necklace, comprising seventy-one pearls, twelve cabochon rubies and  ninety-four cabochon emeralds,"" for Queen Alexandra. For Cartier, this commission marked their entry into the hallowed precincts of the world of Indian jewellery and Indian Maharajas.

Though made in India, this ornament is modelled on the western aigrette in design, material and method of manufacture. The non-Indian spray of flowers is set in platinum with diamonds in openwork claws.Cartier's Indian business was handled by Jacques Cartier from London. He visited India for the first time in 1911, coinciding his visit with the Delhi Durbar celebrating the coronation of George V in that year. Eff0rts to meet and do business with the Indian Maharajas met with instant success as they succumbed to the lure of Cartier. Entranced by European craftsmanship and the use of platinum, many of the most wealthy Indian potentates handed over their family heirlooms to be reset in the new western idiom. But Cartier handled the magnitude of this trust with characteristic deference, and accorded due reverence to a tradition that was hundreds of years old. Privileged to see, study and handle such immeasurable quantities of Indian gems set in the classical Indian manner, the use of engraved emeralds, Indian designs and the technical skill of juxtaposing a riot of colours through the versatile champlevé enamel technique, the firm was inspired to evolve and create an entirely new genre of jewels for the Maharajas, as well as for their clientele in other parts of the world. Cartier amalgamated the bold colours of Indian enamel with the art-deco styles created by their designers; they also drew upon centuries-old classical Indian design motifs and forms, adapting and incorporating them into the western design idiom to produce jewellery and objects that were a breath of fresh air for Europe.

To the Maharajas of India, their association with Carder represented the establishment of a kinship with European royalty. From 1614, when Sir Thomas Roe first presented his credentials to Emperor Jahangir, the Maharajas had vied with one another to inculcate themselves in the 'British manner.' They studied at Eton and Harrow, at Oxford and Cambridge; they holidayed on the continent, maintained homes in London and made every effort to model themselves and their lifestyles on European royalty. Cartier's most noted clients in India were the Maharajas of Kapurthala, Patiala, and Nawanagar, the Gaekwad of I3aroda, and the Nizam of Hyderabad. While the Gaekwad of Baroda and the Maharaja of Patiala handed over their prized heirlooms to be reset in platinum, others ordered individual items, or bought from ready-stock.

Writer – Usha R Bala Kirishnan & Meera Sushil kumar

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