One of the earliest forms of jewellery, brooches began as simple utilitarian pins to hold garments together, worn by both men and women. The evolution and elevation of the brooch into an accessory and ornament closely mirrored the sociopolitical and economic contexts of each decade. “They have been both formal and narrative, spare and ornate, made of diamonds, iron or diamonds and iron – probably every technique and material ever embraced by jewelers.”
Eavesdropping. Prying on intimate matters. Insubordination to prevailing trends. Wooing money and hearts. And it goes on. Having maintained a low profile for decades, these pieces have suddenly emerged from their lairs and are now under trial on auction at Saffronart. Rashmi rounds up nine of the important ones from the upcoming Online Auction of Fine Jewels and Silver
1. This Stunning Edwardian Brooch: For Rebelling and Subversion
Estimate: Rs 55,00,000 – 75,00,000
Lot 27: An Important Diamond Brooch
There’s no denying that the central diamond draws you to itself with brutal, hypnotic force. And look at all those delicately designed full-cut diamonds pandering to its ego. With an air of old-world pride, the brooch reveals it’s nearly a hundred years old. “A true iconoclast,” it beams, referring to King Edward VII who, breaking free from his mother Queen Victoria’s influence, set a new path for fashion from 1901 onwards. Sure, its brethren are just like it—elegant, feminine, intricate—but this one is special, especially since it’s been in the care of an important Parsi family here in Mumbai.
This Period Coin Necklace: For Its Double Identity
Estimate: Rs 10,50,000 – 12,50,000
Lot 3: A Period ‘Kasu Malai’ or Coin Necklace
Seated smugly under the interrogation light, it shrugs and tinkles—it’s adapted over the centuries and picked up our ways. It’s being vague about why it’s called what it is: a Kasu Malai. I assume it’s the Tamil words for ‘coin’ and ‘necklace’. “It could be, but it also could be something else,” it hints rather cryptically. “I’ve been told I’m named after a certain Sanar Kasu.” When asked who this person was, “Some tavern keeper from the Chola days who hoarded too much gold and landed in trouble for it.” How serious was it? “Got the death sentence. Apparently his last wish was that he wanted all pure gold coins to be named after him—the narcissist.”
It doesn’t end there. The malai‘s (literal) two-facedness reveals a script and a seated Balakrishna decked with cabochon rubies, making it a potent candidate.
Edit: Similar coins, showing a seated Balakrishna and a Devanagari inscription on the reverse, date back to the time of king Krishna Devaraya from the 16th century, and were known as gadyanas.
This Set of Pacheli Bangles and Diamond Choker: For Monopolising a Rare Enamel
Estimates: Rs. 6,00,000 – 8,00,000 for each lot
Lots 20 and 21: A Pair of ‘Polki’ Diamond and Enamelled Pacheli Bangles and A Period ‘Polki’ Diamond Choker
Lot 20: A Pair of ‘Polki’ Diamond and Enamelled Pacheli Bangles
Lot 21: Close up of the reverse of A Period ‘Polki’ Diamond Choker
We’ve got a lot to thank the Persians for, and somewhere in that long list is the technique of enamelling. Among all the luscious shades on view is the famed Gulabi minakari or pink enamelling from Varanasi. A layer of pink paint is applied over an opaque white background, and what you most commonly see is flower buds. Just like you do over here. Pink enamelling has almost dwindled out of use now. So your chances of stumbling upon jewellery with Varanasi mina are very, very slim. These bangles and choker are part of the privileged few that get to show off their gorgeous pink enamelling. And also for the next reason….
This Set of Bangles, Necklaces, Ring and Earrings: For Being Privy to Family/Political Secrets
Lot 20 – Rs. 6,00,000 – 8,00,000
Lot 21 – Rs. 6,00,000 – 8,00,000
Lot 22 – Rs 10,00,000 – 12,00,000
Lot 23 – Rs 1,00,000 – 1,50,000
Lot 24 – Rs 5,00,000 – 7,00,000
Lot 25 – Rs 4,00,000 – 6,00,000
Lot 22: An Impressive Pair Of Period Gemset Bracelets
Lot 23: A Period ‘Thewa’ Ring
Lot 24: A Period ‘Polki’ Diamond Necklace
Lot 25: A Pair Of Diamond ‘Polki’ Ear Pendants
They come from the family of one of Ahmedabad’s most influential businessmen…*drumroll*…Seth Mangaldas Girdhardas. Back in the day (sometime in the early 20th century), he oversaw a cluster of mills, was a staunch supporter of Gandhi, and founded a school for deaf and dumb children. Having been with a descendant of the Sheth, they certainly have a lot of stories to share…which they obviously won’t.
This Burmese Silver Box: For Being Unabashedly Opulent in Depicting Mythology
Estimate: Rs 1,75,000 – 2,75,000
Lot 57: A Period Silver Box
You’re wondering why scenes of the Ramayan swarm its cartouches. The Burmese depict their Ramayan scenes with about the same amount of flamboyance we do, but with a Thai twist to them. You spot the headdresses and see what I’m talking about. Not too long ago (1760, to be precise), Alaungpaya, a Burmese king, invaded Siam—or Thailand, as we know it—and brought back families of silversmiths to work for him. This seeped into the designs you see on the box.
….And the list of suspects goes on. Want to see them in person? Drop by our gallery between 11:00 am and 7:00 pm till October 14 (except Sunday).