For the Love of Gemstones

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Launch Slideshow

The Arts of the Islamic World sale in London on 26 April encompasses bejewelled treasures from three continents  spanning a thousand years. Highlights include exquisite jewellery and intricately decorated objects from the fabled Mughal courts of India and the Ottoman nobility in Turkey demonstrating a propensity for colourful gemstones. Included amongst the sale’s many standout lots are a fifty-five carat spinel inscribed with the names of three Great Mughal Emperors, beautiful enamelled and gem-set bracelets and necklaces as well as important caskets. Click ahead to glimpse the gems that will go on view this month.

Arts of the Islamic World
London | 26 April 2017

For the Love of Gemstones

  • Photography: Michael Bowles/Sotheby's
    A gem-set and enamelled gold necklace, North India, 19th century. Estimate £30,000–40,000.
    Commissioned by a wealthy patron, this finely executed necklace was set with clear gemstones, which were cut and foil-backed to bring out their maximum brilliance as was the custom in 19th-century India. It is entirely covered with fine polychrome enamel on the reverse and miniature seed pearl necklaces with a hanging spinel.

  • Photography: Michael Bowles/Sotheby's
    A pair of enamelled and gem-set bracelets, North India, 19th century. Estimate £15,000–20,000.
    Each bracelet is set with lasque diamonds and rubies in floral-shaped settings on an emerald-green ground while the interior is enamelled with green floral motifs on a white engraved wave ground. Although many of the most beautiful jewels at the Mughal court were worn by men, this matching pair of bracelets were most probably intended for a woman as evidenced by their delicate size.

  • Photography: Michael Bowles/Sotheby's
    An Ottoman gem-set brooch bearing the tughra of Sultan Abdülhamid II (r.1876-1909), Turkey, circa 1900. Estimate £30,000–40,000.
    This gem-set brooch incorporates carefully chosen symbols of Ottoman power. The piece is crowned by the tughra of Sultan Abdülhamid II, a calligraphic signature that is evidence of his power and authority. The arrows on either side can be traced back to the period of Sultan Mahmud II, and were symbolic of his administrative reforms in government and Westernisation of the Ottoman system. The red flag set with pink gemstones represents the Sultanate and the green flag the Caliphate. Other emblems include weapons for the army and navy, books for justice and scales for law.

  • Photography: Michael Bowles/Sotheby's
    An emerald and diamond-set enamelled turban ornament (sarpech), North India, 19th century Estimate £20,000–30,000.
    This gently curved jewel features a central hexagonal-cut emerald carved with flowerheads, between two oval carved emeralds, a drop-shape carved emerald above with diamond-set petalled border, two hanging spinels and seed pearls. In the early 15th and 16th centuries, jewelled turban ornaments (usually in the shape of a feather), were reserved for members of the royal family. Towards the end of the Mughal dynasty, these jewels had been popularised and extended to members of the nobility. Although not an obvious feather shape, one can find the stylisation of this design in the general configuration of the gemstones.

  • Photography: Michael Bowles/Sotheby's
    A highly-important imperial Mughal spinel, inscribed with the names of Emperors Jahangir, Prince Khurram and ‘Alamgir (Aurangzeb), India, dated 1024 AH/1615 AD and 1070 AH/1659 AD. Estimate £60,000–80,000.
    From the fabled treasury of the Mughal emperors to the hands of a private collector in rural England, the storied history of this precious stone documents the genealogy of the imperial family at the height of their power and prestige. A coveted gemstone, the 54.5 carat spinel is inscribed with the names of three royal patrons and embodies concepts of identity, legitimacy and authority. Appearing at auction for the first time, it offers a rare insight into the private lives and dynastic preoccupations of India’s greatest ruling house.

  • Photography: Michael Bowles/Sotheby's
    An Ottoman jade and gem-set silver-gilt casket, Turkey and China, 18th/19th century Estimate. Estimate £20,000–30,000.
    This impressive casket belongs to a renowned group of octagonal, jade and gem-set metal boxes produced in the Ottoman world – characterised by an abundance of multi-coloured gemstones that rendered it an object of luxury rather than practicality. The carved jade lid of the box is attributable to Qing-dynasty China, and is likely to have been produced with the intent of export. The craftsman has creatively filled the recessed spaces in the carved jade lid with cabochon and flat-cut gemstones. Inlaying hardstones such as jade was practised for centuries, but became particularly popular in the Ottoman court from the end of the fifteenth century. At that time, the jade-producing areas around Khotan came under control of the neighbouring Timurid dynasty which controlled its diffusion. This vessel demonstrates the continued popularity for Far Eastern jade objects retaining characteristically Chinese motifs worked into Ottoman settings.

  • Photography: Michael Bowles/Sotheby's
    An Ottoman jade and gem-set silver-gilt casket, Turkey and China, 19th century. Estimate £10,000–15,000.
    This casket is a product of the Ottoman taste for Chinese artefacts, in this case, carved jade. The jade piece itself is worked in a manner that could potentially ascribe it to the Ming or Qing dynasty, and may have originally been presented as a diplomatic gift as suggested by the prominent position that it occupies on the box. The choice of a pale jade harks back to the preference of Chinese emperors for white jade. Stylistically, it is reminiscent of the reliquary containing the tooth of the Prophet (Dendan-i Saadet), which was made for Sultan Mehmed IV, now in the Topkapi Palace Museum.

  • Photography: Michael Bowles/Sotheby's
    A gem-set jade pendant, India, mid-19th century. Estimate £4,000–6,000.
    This charming pendant was carved in the nineteenth century, drawing on an earlier Mughal style, and is characterised by a floral design composed of colourful gemstones set in gold mounts on a piece of carved jade. Later fitted with a gold chain, the pendant and chain both fit into a custom-made box containing the insignia of Hamilton & Co., which had been founded by English silversmith Robert Hamilton upon his arrival in India in 1808. The company became one of the best known and celebrated British silversmiths working in India, and is known to have supplied a number of works to Lady Dalhousie, further attesting to the provenance of the present piece. One of the most famous gemstones in the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London is the 105 carat 'Koh-i-Noor' diamond, sent to Queen Victoria in 1849 by Lord Dalhousie.

  • Photography: Michael Bowles/Sotheby's
    A fine polychrome enamelled gold box, circa 1700, with later gold, jade and gemset-lid, North India, circa 19th century. Estimate £18,000–25,000.
    This box is set on four small ball-feet, decorated with delicate flowerheads and leaves in red and green enamel on a hatched ground on a white background and gold interior. The later gold lid comprises a gem-set jade carved as a flowerhead within a gem-set and enamelled mount. This exquisite box demonstrates the finesse and development of the enamel technique. When looking closely at each petal and leaf, one will notice that a certain naturalism was created due to the incised lines along the metal ground on which the enamel was applied.

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