The jewelled arts of India have fascinated me from an early age and I have been fortunate to be able to assemble a meaningful collection that spans from the Mughal period to the present day” says Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani
Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection (the V&A Museum) comprises a dazzling display of royal jewels from and inspired by India, showing glittering diamonds, exquisite emeralds, precious pearls, smooth sapphires and spectacular spinels, the precious stones of deep pinkish-red hue (not rubies) prized by Mughal Emperors, up to modern gems.
Among the 100 pieces on show are three important loans from The Royal Collection lent by HM Queen Elizabeth II; the bejewelled bird from the gold canopy of Tipu Sultan of Mysore’s throne, the ‘Timur Ruby’ and the Nabha Spinel. A showstopper is the Maharaja of Nawanagar’s magnificent Turban Ornament in shimmering diamonds with single sapphire in platinum, whose 17 largest diamonds together weigh a staggering 152.64 carats, seen on arrival.
Exhibits on view in UK for first time span from earliest known 17th-century Mughal jade to a beautiful Mughal emerald brooch updated to a new design with diamonds and sapphires by Paul Iribe in Paris 1910, inspired by the vibrant colours of Dhiagilev’s Ballet Russes. Highlights include the great Golconda Diamond from India’s famous diamond mines presented in 1767 to Queen Charlotte by the Nawab of Arcot.
Starting with the Treasury section which evokes the Mughal Emperors’ royal storehouses of priceless gemstones, the exhibition leads on to the Court area of supreme jewels owned by famous rulers such as Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal. The Kundan and Enamel section reveals the unique techniques of Indian jewellers in their use of pure gold (kundan) and enamelling favoured by the Mughals, still popular today
The Age of Transition points to Western impact on Indian jewellery design in late 19th- and early 20th-centuries, followed by Modernity and the transforming impact of India on jewellery fashions in Europe in the 1920s-30s, when the House of Cartier and others turned traditional Indian forms in to chic new Art Deco styles, closing with jewelled treasures by Contemporary Masters such as Viren Bhagat, Mumbai 2014.
Royal Jeweller Wartski celebrates their 150th anniversary and a long association with the V&A by sponsoring this exhibition; the jewel in the crown of the India Festival at the museum. Famed for their expertise on Carl Faberge, the book ‘Wartski – The First 150 Years’ (£65) by Managing Director Geoffrey Munn (BBC Antiques Roadshow Jewellery Expert) tells a scintillating story, available via V&A Shop and www.wartski.com.
Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection, 21 November 2015 – 28 March 2016, V&A Museum, London, SW7 2RL. To accompany the exhibition ‘Bejewelled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection’ by Susan Stronge (£25) is available at V&A Shop.