The possession of the finest and most precious jewels has always been the prerogative of kings and nobles from all countries and ages. Renowned since antiquity as inexhaustible source of diamonds, sapphires, rubies, pearls and topazes, India became synonym of incommensurable wealth. Three millenniums ago ancient Sanskrit texts exhorted sovereigns to maximise their power and prestige by claiming for themselves the best stones found in their realms. During Roman Empire there were flourishing gems' trade links between Mediterranean civilization and India. Topazes and Iapislazuli from North lndia, pearls, garnets and beryls from Central regions, diamonds and sapphires from Ceylon spread into western markets to satisfy the wishes of Roman aristocratics. Medieval chronicles wrote in their accounts about inestimable treasures. Marco Polo reported about "kings and princes of this region own the biggest treasures of the entire world'. The famous Venetian traveller was struck by the curious costume of royal princes who wore minimal clothing with loads of jewels. The King of Tanjore wore only a loincloths fringed by long strings of rubies, sapphires and emeralds and a waist-length rosary made by 104 giant pearls and ruby's beads. Gold bangles, anklets, rings on his fingers and toes studded with gems completed " the Picture of barbaric splendour, their price exceeding that of a fine city".
This was just the prelude ofthe magniticence that would be shown the height of its glory during the Mogul Empire. The Mogul dynasty had his origin in Central Asia and established its Empire in lndia at the beginning of 160, century, where for three and half centuries influenced arts and, mostly, goldsmith's works. lt was the richest period for developing the style of traditional jewellery which reached great fame seducing traders and goldsmiths from all ovcr the world. From 160th to 18th century the mirabilia, gems and treasures, seen at the royal courts enchanted foreign travellers in India, Their accounts and their letters sent back home are full of astonishment and admiration. Among those travellers are Cesare Federici and Gasparo Balbi, two Venetian jewellers who, in the middle of 16th century, reported about their adventurous gem's trades and the profits they got back. At the beginning of 1600, English ambassador Sir Thomas Roe was stunned to see Emperor Jahangir covered by enormous pearls, diamonds and rubies "as great as walnuts" and by his sword and throne thickly be jewelled.
William Hawkins described the same Jahangir's treasury "counting more than 37 kg of large diamonds and rubies, twice the weight of emeralds, 2000 turban ornaments, and several thrones, royal unbrellas saddlecloths and arms, all kept into cells ofsix fortresses". Emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan (171h century) showed such a peculiar love for precious stones to have their names inscribed in the finest. The Mogul jewellery reached an incomparable level of splendour and refinement strengthening the theory that "the glory of the Prince is displayed by his residences, by his library and by his jewels Precious jewels were shown during solemn religious ceremonies and public audiences. Special rules fixed the correct jewel worn by the sovereigns and by the courtesans. Showing splendid jewellery attained the aim to intimidate the foreign visitors as well as Indian nobles. This costume to show the best jewellery was emulated by Maharajas, Nawabs, Nizam’s who began to be identified through their extraordinary royal jewellery. The use of jewels went far beyond personal adornment. Associated almost exclusively with royalty, it was, as we have seen, an emblem of power, related to the social hierarchy and to cult, superiority. Exceptional valuable gems were gilled from father to son, acquiring a dynastic significance. Gems were thought to be a concentration of cosmic energy so they had an added magical value. Ail the rulers, for instance, had a navratna, a powerful nine precious stones talisman protecting from evil, which also cured disease and bestowed upon the wearer wealth, prosperity and peace of mind. The goldsmiths‘ workshops of Mogul courts were situated in the most important political centres of the Empire...
In Agra, Delhi and Lahore goldsmiths, designers, stone's cutters, intaglio workers, engravers, enamellers were fully employed to produce ornaments for the royal families. Steady employment of European goldsmith masters, beside the Muslim and Indian goldsmiths gave an eclectic Character to the Mogul jewellery. Emperor Jahangir wrote in his memoirs about fine jewels gifted to him by Surat Governor. Venetian traveller Nicolo Manucci, who lived 24 years at the Mogul Court, from 1656 to 1680, wrote in his Storia do mogol (History of Mogul] that many European craftsmen worked at the Imperial Court as lapidaries, glints, gems cutters, goldsmiths, enamellers. Among those was the Venetian Ortosio Borgis, who lived at Aurangzeb court from 1660 to 1665, He cut the very famous Gran Mogul diamond of 787,5 karats, the biggest in the world, using the "rose cut" style that seems to have been imported to India by the Venetians to preserve the maximum volume of the gem. As a matter of fact Indians usually didn't like to destroy the integrity of the gem by cutting it, even if it had some defects. Distinctiveness of Mogul jewellery is the use of uncut stones, The cabochons are set through a peculiar gem-setting method, called kundan. This traditional process can be used to inlay the surface of semiprecious stones, like nephrite or jade, or to decorate the gold jewels..
The craf.sman, after designing the selected pattern, traditionally an arabesque or a symbolic and propitiatory form starts to engrave the surface of the jade, When the hollow of` the design is ready he fix the gemstone with small amount of lac, In gold items the decorative gems are placed in the prepared settings and stuck with sticky material Then, in both cases, some gold as pure as possible, usually 24 karats which is very malleable, is pressed around the stone perimeter with a stylus to wedge it in place and by gently overlapping the gem edge secure it. Because of the high purity of the gold, the metal can be welded without heat. Then usually the gold is compressed and polished by a burnisher. Kundan technique is suppored by the superb art of enamelling, minakari in Hindi, melted in dazzling chromatiims. Most of Indian enamelling is made io champleve method. Enamel finishes the ornament in every part, showing the pursuit of perfection. Enamelled harmonious figures of birds, animals, trees, flowers and leaves offer the same pleasure we get from a very refined miniature. The skill and the innovating technique created true masterpieces which defined a unique style'which is still inspiring the best expressions of contemporary Indian jewellery. Even after the dethronement of the Mogul and the British Colonisation, the richness of Indian jeweIlerY treasures has continued to astonish the world and many gold workshops are producing the most elegant and sophisticated jewellery under the royal patronage.
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