Lot 240
  • 240

A gold and enamelled diamond-set sarpech, Benares, circa 1850

35,000 - 45,000 GBP
74,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • gold, enamel, diamond
  • 15.2 by 11.5cm.
formed of eight hinged sections set with diamonds to the front with twelve drilled pendant emeralds suspended from the top and bottom, the reverse decorated with finely enamelled pink lotus flowers, within custom-made box


Formerly UK private collection
The present sarpech comes in its original leather and velvet-lined fitted case. A scrap of newspaper from The Gazette of India, dated August 6, 1887 was used to line the inside of the cover of the case, providing an intriguing footnote to its history.

Catalogue Note

Whereas sarpechs normally have a single jigha, this triple sarpech is a particularly elaborate example. According to Katherine Prior and John Adamson, only the Mughal emperor, his intimate relations and select members of his entourage were permitted to wear a royal turban ornament (Prior and Adamson, 2000, pp.38-39).

The evolution of the form of the sarpech is interesting. In the period of Emperor Akbar’s reign (1556-1605), the principal turban ornament was the kalgi, a simple gold or jewelled stem into which a heron feather was inserted (ibid, pp.38-39). During the reign of Shah Jahan, an ornate jewelled brooch appears to have taken the place of the feather. This solid plume retained the characteristic droop of the Jahangiri feather kalgi and one or more pendant stones were added to it as ornaments. In this form, the turban ornament is known as a jigha, though it is important to note that like the present example, most jighas retain a stem or tana for the insertion of the original feathered plume.

Retaining their imperial connotations, such kalgis were considered as marks of honour, worn by the emperor and ceremonially presented on important occasions. These continued to hold their mark of prestige as notable examples entered into British aristocratic collections. One is in the collection of Robert, 1st Lord Clive; “Clive of India” (illustrated in Prior and Adamson, p.67) and another example now in the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv. no IS.3&A-1982) was originally presented to Admiral Charles Watson on 26 July 1757 by Mir Ja’far ‘Ali Khan, successor to Suraj-ud-Daula as the Nawab of Bengal.