Kanika Pruthi of Saffronart reminiscences about some of the iconic emerald jewelry with an Indian connection

New York: The allure of the emerald is undeniable given its famed reputation and esteem that has persisted since antiquity. Our current exhibition of emerald  jewelry featuring  stones of Colombian and Zambian origin, presents an eclectic collection of beautiful ornaments to appeal to varied tastes and aesthetics.

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Emeralds have enjoyed a privileged status since centuries. A coveted precious stone, there are umpteen historic tales and folklore associated with it, perpetuating its grand aura in our psyche. Ancient texts from Egyptian and the Greco-Roman civilizations profess the wider beliefs of those times, which granted emeralds healing properties and astrological associations. King Nero is said to have viewed gladiator fights through a large, transparent emerald while Egyptian queen Cleopatra was one of the greatest admirer of her stone during her times. Stories abound and legacies persist.

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Closer to home, the Mughals commissioned many objets d’art fashioned from emeralds. Shah Jahan is known to have had a special affinity for this stone and had many of the pieces in his collection inscribed with sacred verses. These were then worn as talismans- bringing prosperity to the wearer and keeping them from harm’s way. One of the most famous examples of a talismanic emerald from the Mughal period is ‘The Mogul Mughal’. Dated to 1695 and weighing 217.80 carats, the obverse is engraved with Shi’a invocations in elegant naskh script and the reverse carved all over with foliate decoration. The dense color and the delicate carving are truly magnificent.

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The British rulers were also admirers of precious stones and were gifted many jewels during their presence in India as gifts and offerings. The eminent Delhi Durbar of 1911 was one such occasion. It commemorated the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary and proclaimed them as the Emperor and Empress of India. A significant event, it was attended by Indian royals from all over the subcontinent. On this occasion the Queen was presented with the Delhi Durbar Tiara, a beautiful emerald necklace, given to her by the Maharani of Patiala on behalf of the Ladies of India. In 1912 the necklace was slightly altered, making the existing emerald pendant detachable and adding a second detachable diamond pendant.  The necklace was inherited by the present Queen who has worn it many occasions in the recent years.

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Cartier undertook many commissions for Indian royals during the early decades of the 20th century. Many iconic pieces of jewelry were produced by him on the behest of sovereigns from the subcontinent.  Amongst these was a magnificent turban ornament of emerald, diamond and pearl for the Maharaja of Kapurthala, made with 15 large emeralds from the Maharajah’s own collection. During this period, Indian royals also commissioned many pieces inspired by then popular Art Deco aesthetics all the rage in Europe.  Emerald was a popular choice and was featured in many pieces created by western designers for Indian clientele.   

Emeralds have enjoyed a lasting patronage from its Indian admirers. This magnificent stone has seamlessly adapted to the varied styles and aesthetics over the years. Our current collection is an opportunity for you to partake in that experience.

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