Bejewelled Treasures at the V&A

Bejewelled turban

Spinel, Diamond and Kundan Turban jewel (c 19th century)

This is a stunning exhibition, featuring treasures from the early 17th Century Mughal empire, Indian sub-continent, and Europe – influenced by India and the Ballet Russes – right up to the present day with modern interpretations of Indian jewellery style, design and techniques.

Almost all items in the exhibition have been loaned by the Al Thani ruling family of Qatar. As well as the earliest known example of Mughal jade, the gobstopping Timur ruby (which is neither from Timur nor a ruby!) on loan from her majesty the Queen, and several examples of modern indian-influenced jewellery on display, there are 400 years of indian jewellery represented here.

From the V&A website:

From ancient times, the royal treasuries of India contained vast quantities of precious stones.

“You’re able to see the very important position of jewellery in Indian society at all times and at many levels,” she said. “Indian courts have always had huge treasuries … if you lose the treasury you lose power, so jewellery has a fundamental importance in Indian history.”

Diamonds were found within the subcontinent, most famously in the southern region of Golconda. The best rubies came from Burma. Sri Lanka supplied sapphires, and from the 16th century emeralds were brought from South America to Goa, the great Eastern market for gemstones. These were of a size, colour and clarity that had never been seen before.

Bejewelled b&w

At the Mughal court, Iranian traditions shaped the culture of the Persian-speaking elite. Here, the classification of gemstones was completely different. From the late 16th century, the most valuable stones were deep red spinels, found in Badakhshan in Central Asia. Spinels are similar to rubies, but are gemmologically distinct. The finest were appreciated for their colour, size and translucency, and were engraved with the emperors’ titles. Their spinels were not usually faceted, but the royal gem-cutters gouged out any unsightly inclusions and simply polished the irregular surface.

Bejewelled spinel necklace

Imperial Spinel and Pearl necklace (N.India c 18th century)

 

Bejewelled art

A crescent shaped emerald

Another piece, a brooch with a large crescent-shaped emerald at it’s centre, dates from 1910.  It was given to the beautiful Spanish flamenco dancer Anita Delgado by the Maharaja of Kapurthala. The story goes; seeing her dance in Madrid, he fell in madly in love with her, married her and brought his new 16-year-old bride back to India.  When, aged 19, she saw the emerald on an elephant, the Maharaja handed her the precious stone and remarked: “Now you can have the moon, my capricious little one.”

Bejewelled crescent moon

Crescent Emerald with Diamonds, (Paris c 1910)

Delgado

Anita Delgado wearing her crescent Emerald

Another of the Maharani’s jewels is Parisian jeweller Meller’s peacock corsage or aigrette (hair ornament). The Maharajah had bought the piece and gave it to her at their civil wedding ceremony in Paris. The peacock ornament is made of gold, diamonds and enamel which, as the exhibition’s curator Susan Stronge says in her accompanying book, “produced a shimmer closer to that of real feathers” and decorates the body of the bird and the blue/ green tips of the sweeping gold and diamond feathered tail.

Bejewelled peacock

Gold, Diamond and Enamel aigrette (Meller, Paris c 1910)

If you haven’t been yet this spectacular collection is only on view until the 28th March 2016.

xx

Photographs: Al Thani Collection

 

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The allure of coloured Diamonds

Diamonds have been fascinating mankind since these precious stones were first discovered, as early as 3000 B.C. in India.  Collected, treasured and sought-after, they became symbols of power and wealth – desired more than any other gemstone.  Over the centuries, mining has yielded mostly colourless diamonds with a dizzying array of size, shape and clarity…and for these stones the less hint of colour – the more desirable and valuable the stone.

As well as colourless diamonds, nature has given us coloured diamonds, with the same qualities of hardness and refraction as their colourless cousins but in addition they are enhanced by an amazing spectrum of colour….every coloured diamond has it’s own individual hue…which is what makes them so unique and so captivating.

Recently in the news we learnt of two showstopping coloured diamonds going up for auction, both bought by the same Hong Kong based buyer!

The 12.03 carat, internally flawless Blue diamond known as ‘Blue Moon’ was bought for an eye-watering £32 million…and renamed ‘Josephine’ in honour of his 7 year-old daughter.

Blue Moon diamond

Blue Moon diamond

David Bennett, the head of Sotheby’s international jewellery division, said the “Blue Moon” sale broke several records and made the gemstone the most expensive diamond, regardless of colour, and the most expensive jewel ever sold at auction. It also fetched the highest-ever price per carat, he said.

So why the amazingly high price tag??  Coloured diamonds account for a very small percentage of natural diamonds, and those with strong colour saturation are an extremely rare occurrence.  Blue diamonds are formed when Boron is mixed with Carbon when the gem is created and only a tiny fraction of diamonds mined are found with traces of blue, let alone one with such a vivid hue.

The same buyer also bought 16.08 carat vivid-pink diamond for £19 million just the night before!  It is the largest cushion-shaped fancy vivid-pink diamond ever to come to auction…this one is now called ‘Sweet Josephine’

Sweet Josephine rare pink diamond

‘Sweet Josephine’ rare pink diamond

Josephine is one lucky 7 year-old girl!!

Further reading:  Forever Brilliant: The Aurora Collection of Colored Diamonds by Alan Bronstein

forever brilliant image

xx

 

 

Elizabeth Taylor

Tomorrow, 27th February, would have been Elizabeth Taylor’s 83rd birthday and I thought I would post a tribute to that most glamorous of Hollywood movie stars. Her love of jewellery is well known and she undoubtedly wore it well!

elizabeth taylor elizabeth taylor quote

Although wealthy enough in her own right to purchase jewellery, much of Taylor’s most famous pieces were given to her by her husbands as gifts of love…..or were they?  After Mike Todd many pieces were beyond her partner’s budgets, as you will find out if you watch the Christies Auction…..however if your first husband spoilt you like this it would be hard not to expect more of the same……

032311-elizabeth-taylor-jewelry2-350x580

“When [third husband Mike Todd] gave me this tiara, he said, ‘You’re my queen, and I think you should have a tiara,'” Taylor wrote in A Life in Jewelry. “I wore it for the first time when we went to the Academy Awards. It was the most perfect night, because Mike’s film Around the World in 80 Days won for Best Picture. It wasn’t fashionable to wear tiaras then, but I wore it anyway, because he was my king.”

Elizabeth’s 5th and 6th husband, Richard Burton, met Elizabeth on the set of Cleopatra in 1961 and the rest, of course, is history.  He was to give her the most breathtakingly beautiful stones, including this 69.42 carat diamond, now known as the Taylor-Burton diamond, which she wore to the 42nd Academy Awards in 1970.  Originally a ring, she had it made into a necklace because, as she famously commented at the time, “even for me it was too big“.

elizabeth taylor oscars

The Taylor diamond, another gift from Burton, was the 33.19 carat, D colour, VS1 Potentially Internally Flawless Asscher cut diamond – formerly known as the Krupp diamond.  Elizabeth said it was her favourite piece of jewellery.

taylor and burton

 “Size does matter but so does the size of the emotion behind it.” Elizabeth Taylor

You can read more about Taylor and her jewellery in her book: My love affair with Jewelry

Ladies, I think one thing of note in this story is that even though publicly these jewels were always gifts from lovers…very often they were funded behind the scenes by Elizabeth herself.  This did not reduce, in any way, her enjoyment of playing with and wearing the pieces and did not diminish the memories of her greatest romances.

Sx