Ever since its announcement, Christie’s upcoming auction — “Maharajas and Mughal Magnificence” — of Indian jewels, gemstones and decorative objects that span over 500 years, has been the talk of the art world and is expected to set some new records on Wednesday.
The “unprecedented group” of objects is from The Al Thani Collection of the royal family of Qatar. It is expected to see competitive bidding from across the globe.
As per Christie’s, this collection is poised to be the most valuable auction of jewelry and jewelled objects. The current record is held by The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor, which totals $144 million.
Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s jade hilted dagger, the priceless jewels of the Nizams of Hyderabad, and a string of pearls belonging to Rajmata Gayatri Devi of Jaipur are among the 400 royal artefacts that would be auctioned on Wednesday.
“The collection begins in Mughal India, the most important dynasty that ruled the country, which was famous for its emeralds, diamonds, sapphires, rubies, weapons and objects which are bejewelled beyond belief,” the auction house said.
“(The sale) traces the history of jewellery from early Mughal India through the Maharajas and their collaborations with the world’s most renowned jewellery houses to create some of the most exceptional pieces of jewellery ever made,” it added.
The dagger of Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor who commissioned the Taj Mahal, is one of the sale highlights. A Mughal masterpiece, it features scrolling designs inlaid in gold at the top of the blade, and an inscription in ‘Nastaliq’ script with a title the monarch had taken. It is estimated to fetch between $1,500,000 and $2,500,000.
The collection also has ‘sarpechs’ (turban ornaments), necklaces such as a diamond riviere necklace originally from the collection of the Nizam of Hyderabad, 33 Golconda diamonds (estimated between $1,200,000 and $1,500,000), and the Nizam of Hyderabad’s diamond encrusted ceremonial sword, set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds ($1,000,000-$1,500,000).
Also featured are carved Mughal emeralds, jewelled boxes, the famed ‘Arcot II’ diamond, presented to Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, by Muhammad Ali Wallajah Nawab of Arcot, and the magnificent ‘Mirror of Paradise’ D colour Internally Flawless Golconda diamond.
An 18th century gold finial from the throne of Mysore’s ruler Tipu Sultan would go under the hammer as well. Set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds, the marble plinth with gilt metal fittings is one of eight finials that ornamented the gold throne of Tipu Sultan. Following his defeat at the hands of the British in the battle of Seringapatam (1799), the throne was dismantled and its components were dispersed.
The Patiala Ruby Choker created by Cartier in 1931 is an example of the fusion between India and the West. It was commissioned by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala and is on sale. Another carved emerald brooch, and interchangeable ‘Jigha’ turban mounting depicts Lord Rama, Sita and Hanuman.
Another offering, the Enamel and Diamond Peacock Aigrette by Mellerio dits Meller, was purchased by Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala in 1905 in Paris.
A natural pearl and diamond necklace of Rajmata Gayatri Devi, wife of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II of Jaipur, would be on offer as well.