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india's jewelry traditions

The Al Thani Collection exhibition showcases India's great influence on major European jewelry firms.



Al Thani Collection: Exquisite Indian Jewelry Comes to London



It is easy to see why the Al Thani Jewelry Collection causes so much fascination worldwide. The historic private collection of Sheik Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani is famous for featuring several centuries of jewelry tradition and craftsmanship in India. They proudly incarnate the evolution and enduring influence of different styles; from the Mughal period to the early 20th century. 

The traveling exhibit was admired at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and now the Victoria & Albert Museum in London proudly presents the stunning art and beauty of Indian Jewelry.  The exhibition will be open to the public until March 28, 2016.

1. A ruby, diamond and gold turban clip (sarpesh) (© Prudence Cuming Associates).
2. Silk sword sash with jewelled gold fittings, about 1900, India. © Servette Overseas Limited 2014. Photograph: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.
3. A turban clip worn by the Maharajah of Nawanagar (© Laziz Hamani/ Courtesy Assouline).

Under the title Bejeweled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection, the exhibit examines the influence that India had on the avant-garde jewelry production by Cartier and other leading European houses. The exhibit ends with contemporary pieces by JAR (Joel Arthur Rosenthal) and Bhagat, which are inspired by a fusion of Mughal motifs and art deco Indian designs.

India has, historically, been a major center for the development of the art of jewelry and adornment. The country has numerous gold mines as well as rich sources of diamonds and other precious gemstones.

Since the days of the Mughal Empire, jewels have played a significant role in traditional ceremonies. The Mughals, who considered themselves descendants of Genghis Khan, came to the subcontinent in the 16th century and remained in power until 1857. With a keen appreciation of beauty, the community soon realized that Indian craftsmen worked the art of jewelry at a higher level than they had seen elsewhere before.

1. Brooch set with emeralds, sapphires and diamonds, by Cartier, 1922, Paris, France, © Servette Overseas Limited 2014. Photograph: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.
2. Gold finial from Tipu Sultan’s throne, 1790 – 1800, Mysore, South India © Servette Overseas Limited 2014. Photograph: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. 

 One of the constants of Indian jewelry is that their cabochon stones are not cut or carved, but instead, they are beautifully polished in a convex shape. They also use the traditional Kundan technique, hammering 22K gold at room temperature. 

Both methods can be seen in the tiger's head created for the throne of Sultan Tipu (1750-1799). Included in this exhibition, the jewel is decorated with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds cut in cabochon and set with the Kundan technique.

In this exhibition at the V & A Museum, visitors can admire artistic ornaments for turbans as well as anklets, brooches, daggers, crowns, nose earrings, swords and gold spoons. The unique ensemble offers a dazzling display of beauty, art, and color.

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