A tale of India’s treasures, sparkles and royalty
Royal jewellery, especially the royal jewellery of India, is known for being elaborate, ornate, exquisite imitations of nature. These pieces are large, yet full of intricate work that will make you hold your breath in wonder at the sheer detailing involved. The rich stones, the setting, the vibrant colours in not just the stones but also with the use of lac are stuff that many across the world can only dream of.
Little girls in the rest of the world may dream of princesses in elegant gowns, but here in India, our young girls dream of bejeweled princesses being wooed by equally bejeweled princes—both opulently dressed too. Flamboyance is probably the only word that can aptly sum up the jewellery of India, be it from the North, the South or anywhere in the land.
But it seems there are more than just little boys and girls who dream of our rajas and ranis and their magnificent jewellery. His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani, CEO of Qipco Holding, Qatar and the cousin of the Emir is an ardent admirer of Indian royal jewellery. So much so, that from the time he first laid eyes upon the splendour of the jewellery and art of the Indian royal courts at an ongoing exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in 2009, Sheik Hamad was mesmerised. And from then he started scouring and collecting such Indian splendors. Sheik Hamad has been so passionate about his collection that in just six years he has managed to acquire such a treasure of Indian riches that he was invited to exhibit his own collection.
The Al-Thani collection boasts many an exquisite antique piece from the 17th century Mughal period to stunning modern creations made by Cartier and other western companies. There are also many pieces in the modern setting that have been designed using antique gems. One of the finest pieces in the Sheikh’s collection is probably the gem-set tiger head that served as the finial on Emperor Tipu Sultan’s throne. With ruby eyes and diamond teeth, the gold head is encrusted with emeralds and rubies around its neck and more precious stones adorn its face.
Then there is the Cartier Patiala Ruby choker necklace, which has to be seen to be believed.Six layers of rubies just on the choker part. Then the pearl and ruby layers that form the second portion; followed by the diamond and ruby encrusted star-like design completes the third layer of the necklace.
Do not miss the many turban ornaments that are at once elegant as well as ornate. The other royal paraphernalia in Sheik Hamad’s estimable collection include pendants, brooches, headdresses, daggers and dagger hilts, jewellery even for falcons and other animals, vessels, ceremonial weapons, fly whisks—all made of the finest gold and inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones. What’s even more exquisite about the collection is that there is a story behind every object. A story of how it was made, when it was made, who it was made for, who made it, who it belonged to and so on.
Truly a fairy tale indeed.