Jewellery and gems that once adorned the royal courts of India come on display at GIA’s (Gemological Institute of America) world headquarters in Carlsbad, California. The exhibition, “Centuries of Opulence: Jewels of India,” debuts on 13 October.
The singular exhibit of intricately designed 17th to 20th-century jewellery and ornate objects from India showcase 300 years of adornment with 50 lavish historical jewellery pieces and objects, including several from the Mughal Empire (1526–1857). The prized items, on loan from a private collection. explores the often intricate routes diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and other gems decorating these pieces took from their sources across the globe. It delves into their religious and cultural symbolism, the wars fought for them and the historical tradition of gemology - the study of gems - in India.
Curator of the GIA museum, Terri Ottaway explains, “The nobility of India traded diamonds from their famous Golconda region for Colombian emeralds, Burmese rubies and pearls from the Persian Gulf. No mine was too remote to access, no ocean was too wide to cross, in pursuit of the very best gems. For the gems not only conveyed wealth and status, but they were also worn as talismans for the protection and enhancement of life. With so much at stake, you begin to understand why wars were won and lost for these treasures.”
Throughout India’s history, many different gems were used in elaborately designed jewellery. Some served to honor religious figures; other jewels were integral to the marriage contract, as seen in nose rings worn as tribute to happiness in the union. Elaborately designed wedding necklaces depicted snakes or fish as symbols of fertility, and the colors used in enamel - typically on the back of jewellery pieces - functioned as a representation of the forces of life.
Royal Manga Mala
Mysore, 19th century
Diamond, ruby and emerald in 22K gold
Necklace 79 cm long, pendant 11 x 8.5 cm
While a necklace exhibiting mango-shaped elements (a manga mala) is traditional in South India, a manga mala as elaborate as this one was worn only by those who could afford such a massive gem-set jewel. Note the stylized mangos around the collar of the necklace. Its pendant represents the mythical two-headed bird (gandaberunda) that was the emblem of Mysore’s Wadiyar royal family. There is elaborate repoussé detailing on the back.
Mughal Horn Pendant
Mughal Era, Mysore,18th century
Emerald, ruby, diamond and pearl in 22K gold
6 x 8.5 x 2 cm
This gold pendant features a 125 carat Colombian emerald engraved in Arabic with
salutations of peace. Set with diamonds, Burmese rubies, emerald beads and
dangling pearls, it was made for a ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore.
For more information about the GIA museum, visit: https://www.gia.edu/gia-museum
Centuries of Opulence: Jewels of India Exhibit
Unique collection on display at GIA in Carlsbad, California
October 13, 2017 – March 1, 2018
The GIA museum in Carlsbad is home to the Institute’s extensive collection of gems, jewellery and minerals. The many permanent and rotating exhibits support GIA’s mission by strengthening awareness of gems, jewelleryand gemology. The museum collection also supports GIA’s research and education programs. Visit https://www.gia.edu/gia-museum for a full list of exhibits on display.
The exhibit opens in conjunction with GIA’s annual Jewelry Career Fair on October 13, 2017, the only day when the campus is open to the public with no appointment necessary. For more information visit https://www.gia.edu/career-fair or call 800-421-7250 ext 4100.