It is difficult for the casual observer
to truly understand the signifiance and importance of
jewelry to the people of India. This site is dedicated
to the jewelry that most epitomizes the splendor and
magnificence of the historically important Mughal Empire.
There is no other place on Earth so richly endowed with
a natural abundance of gemstones or where the love of
jewelry is so deeply and intrinsically a part of the
The symbolic, magical, and metaphysical
importance of jewelry to Maharajas and common persons
alike has no parallel in the West. Jewelry was never
worn casually, but adorned the body with much importance
The jewelry presented here is extremely
similar in style and make to what might have been worn
in the courts of Maharajas. In many instances, the same
families and guilds that produced jewelry for the Maharajas
and their courts have made the pieces you see here today.
The jewelry on this site is not antique; it is modern.
However, it has been created by the same techniques
and designs as traditional Indian jewelry and therefore
is remarkably similar to pieces dated to a time when
extravagance and splendor meant everything.
I personally select
every piece presented here, which I judge on numerous
First is quality. The
gems must be of fine quality. All gems are guaranteed
to be as described and to be authentic and natural.
The piece must be well constructed. In the marketplace,
a range of quality exists. If a piece is remarkable
for design, style or presence, a lesser quality of gem
can be accepted. I include this in my descriptions and
accurately summarize strong and weak points so as not
to deceive the purchaser.
Second is wearability.
There is not much call for turban ornaments. There is
a great deal of work available that is awkwardly constructed
or ill-conceived. I endeavor to select pieces that will
work in today’s more casual world. I want my customers
to be able to wear this jewelry on a variety of occasions
and in a Western context. I make every effort to make
sure the clasps are functioning, the ear posts are the
correct size, and the scale is appropriate.
Third is style. I believe
that the jewelry presented here can be transformational.
By adorning yourself with one of these works of art
your presence will be enhanced. You will inherit the
legacy of the Maharani, and you will become fabulous,
elevated and empowered. back
I have purchased all
the jewelry on this site from a wide variety of Indian
vendors. I meet annually or semi-annually with design
and manufacturing houses to view their wares. I work
directly with manufacturers in Delhi, Jaipur and Udipur,
avoiding the middleman to keep my prices low and my
selection the best. I am particular and examine each
piece thoroughly, selecting only those that meet my
high standards. I gather up the best from each vendor
and present it to you in one place. Purchasing in small
lots is time consuming and difficult, and it has taken
decades to assemble the contacts and visual acuity.
In many instances these jewelry houses
have existed for centuries, and the magnificent pieces
worn by the Maharajas were actually made in the same
location and by the same families as the pieces presented
here. India is an extremely traditional culture with
businesses, skills and employment handed down within
families for numerous generations. The great-grandfather
of the skilled artisan who made a necklace that you
can buy here might have made a necklace for a discriminating
I also like some of the modern pieces
not directly associated with the Maharajas, including
the “radar” earrings, or black diamond drops.
These are all made in India, and in my mind would have
delighted any Maharaja. They are distinctly Indian,
and therefore included on this site. I focus on the
Maharaja jewelry style, but you will also find pieces
with modern influence and a more restrained design sense,
which also come from an Indian design tradition. I am
proud to include them here.
It is the hunt for the best pieces that
I find the most gratifying. I love the extravagance
of this jewelry and am hopelessly drawn to it with all
its eccentricities and beauty. back
All gold is 18 kt or higher. It is often presented to
me as 22 kt and I believe most of it is, however there
may be slight variations in content. Therefore, I will
guarantee that the gold is at least 18 kt (75% pure),
but it is likely closer to 22 kt. Some settings are
done in silver, which is traditional for diamonds. In
the time of the Maharajas, the only available white
metal was silver. Platinum was not widely available,
and white gold as an alloy had not yet been invented.
Silver was most popular and thereby more traditional.
India was the world’s only source of diamonds
for more than 2,000 years until they were discovered
in Brazil in 1729. This means that every diamond used
in Europe and the Americas prior to 1729 originated
in India. The most famous and productive area is the
Gloconda mine in Hyderabad, which is known for extremely
fine white diamonds. These are associated with volcanic
activity in the Deccan Plateau, but they have not produced
diamonds for more than a century. Diamonds exported
from India have been traced to the 4th century BC.
Diamonds are highly prized in Mughal jewelry.
Most pieces are either diamond centric or employ them
as accents. Maharajas owned many of history's most famous
diamonds and jewels. Mughals prized
stones for their size and reflective nature. They were
intended to be viewed by subjects while the Maharaja
was seated on a throne, and small diamonds just would
not do. Their primary interest was not in brilliance
or refraction, but with impact.The
Mughals cut and polished diamonds for the largest possible
size, while the Western cut favored clarity and proportion.
The most common names
for such diamonds are rose cuts or macles. Macles are
triangular, often twinned, and flattish with a large
table. Typically the table is polished flat. Rose cuts
have facets on the table that meet at a point in the
center of the top surface. As with macles, rose cuts
tend to be flat in depth.
The most famous Indian
diamond from the Gloconda mine is the Koh-i-Nur diamond
weighing 186 cts. It is believed to have been owned
by the first Mughal emperor, Akbar. It is also known
to have been worn by Shah Jahan. In 1849, the diamond
was sent to England and was recut into a 105 ct stone
with more European proportions.
All gemstones on this site are guaranteed to be natural
and as described. Enhancements, including cutting and
polishing, are assumed. Emeralds are assumed to be oiled
or treated to hide cracks and enhance color. It is virtually
impossible to purchase an emerald that has not been
treated in this fashion, despite what a salesperson
Emeralds during the
early Mughal era came primarialy from Egypt. However,
compared to later finds, the material from Egypt is
of low quality due to internal inclusions and pale color.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Spaniards brought
fabulous emeralds back from Colombia and other parts
of the new world where mining in regions around Muzo,
Colombia, had already been worked by the native populations.
Emeralds were highly desired by Maharajas, and many
were elaborately carved to remove inclusions, and also
because the crystal organization did not produce planes
of weakness and therefore facilitated carving.
Sapphires were found
in India and Sri Lanka in great abundance. The darkest
red sapphires are classified as rubies, and the finest
were found not far away in Myramar. Rubies are often
confused with the gemstone spinel, although they have
no minerologic connection. Sapphires were the astrological
gemstone associated with Saturn, and therefore had dark
consequences. They could only be worn under the correct
circumstances and were uncommon, thus we tend to not
to see an abundance of sapphires in Mughal jewelry.
Many of the gemstones from
Sri Lanka and the subcontinent are found in placer deposits.They
are found in streams carrying gem-bearing sands that
are released after the seasonal monsoon. This is true
for diamonds as well as the numerous other sought-after
Pearls were extremely rare and far more valuable during
the time of the Maharajas before they were first cultured
by Mikimoto in 1916. Pearls are perhaps the first gemstone
that ancient people enjoyed unenhanced by polishing
or shaping. They are delightful straight out of the
shell. The primary pearl sources were off the islands
near Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, and off the west coast
of Sri Lanka. Oysters were harvested by the millions,
but only a few contained the prize of a natural pearl.
Of those, most were small and flawed. A large, flawless
pearl was extremely rare, and to make a necklace of
matched flawless pearls could take generations. Pearls
are now cultured in meticulously maintained wild oyster
beds. All pearls offered on this site are cultured.
Kundan-style jewelry is ideal for setting irregular
diamonds. In this technique, a fillet of 24 kt pure
gold foil is forced between the sides of the stones.
A thin overlapping layer of gold traps the stones along
the edges. A trained goldsmith applies the foil and
applies pressure with a burnisher such that a molecular
bond is achieved as the layers of foil are applied to
each other to create the desired thickness or strength.
This is done at room temperature. The high temperatures
necessary for soldering or enameling are not required
for this ancient process. Additionally, a silver reflective
foil is placed behind the stone to assist with the reflection
of light and to give the diamond or gemstone more fire.
There is no other place in the world where Kundan setting
is more widely practiced than it is in India.
FOIL BEHIND STONES
Because Indians prefer their stones to be as bright
as possible, they often place reflective foil behind
their set stones. With any translucent stone, this makes
the stone more lively as light is reflected back through
the stone intensifying the color and brilliance. This
is particularly true of diamonds, as they typically
are thin crystals that are not able to be cut with more
ideal proportions. This treatment in no way diminishes
the value of the gem, but is an enhancement using the
natural properties of light refraction and spectral
Many of these pieces have delicate, colorful enamel
backs, as well as accents on the front. This style of
enamel is typically referred to as champlevé.
In most cases, a sharp graver or chisel is used to remove
a tiny bit of gold, leaving a depression that is filled
with glass powder. The artists typically work in geometric
or floral motifs, or a combination thereof. Different
hues of enamel powder are delicately placed in these
depressions and fired to a temperature above 1500 degrees
Methods of fabrication have changed little during the
last 400 years. Artisans are still stratified in a guild
system and tend to practice only one type of jewelry
technique. There are shops that focus specifically on
enamel, stone setting or casting. The larger shops will
have all processes done in-house, but the artisans tend
to practice only their particular skill sets. Additionally,
the tools, methods and procedures have changed little
over the centuries. An artist's workbench in 1000AD
would look remarkably similar to an artist’s workbench
in 1600, which in turn was not markedly different from
one seen today. back