Ema Hossain Design Portfolio

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Bejewelled Treasures : The Al Thani Collection at the V&A museum

This stunning collection with more than 100 objects owned by Sheikh Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family, have been loaned to the V&A for the show, which explores 400 years of Indian jewellery. It is being staged as part of  the V&A  India Festival and is sponsored by Wartski.


Highlights include Mughul Jades, jewelled finial from the throne of Tipu Sultan and modern pieces which serve to illustrate how designs and tastes changed over time. It showcases also how Indian style had an influence on avante garde European jewellery designs made by leading houses like Cartier and how modern pieces by JAR and Bhagat are inspired by a fusion of Mughal motifs and Art deco designs with an Indian twist. 

The collection also includes 3 major loans from the Royal Collection, lent by Her Majesty The Queen which are the Nabha Spinel, a jewelled bird (Huma bird) from the canopy of Tipu Sultan's Throne and the 'Timur Ruby'.

The Nabha Spinel

The Nabha spinel, 1608-09. Spinel, seed pearls, gold thread. Royal Collection Trust
© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015 
Spinel is a gemstone that comes in different colours with the purest form being colourless. The most desirable colours are the deep blood reds. They are also blue, orange pink and purple and it is hard and has clarity which makes it great for jewellery. 


The Huma bird from Tipu Sultan's throne canopy 

The defeat and death of Tipu, Sultan of Mysore  in 1799 led to the Sultan’s magnificent treasury and library being ransacked by the British forces, and the gold coverings of his throne were cut up into small pieces for distribution as prize. The throne was surrounded by a railing with a small jewelled tiger head above each support, and surmounted by a canopy raised on a post at the back. In the front was a life-size tiger head (later presented to William IV, now at Windsor Castle). Above the canopy hovered the huma or bird of paradise. It was ‘supposed to fly constantly in the Air, and never to touch the ground. It is looked upon as a Bird of happy Omen, and that every Head it overshadows will in time wear a Crown’. After the breaking up of the throne the Huma bird was eventually acquired and presented to George III and thus now is part of the Royal collection. 


Only one sketch by an artist who actually saw the throne exists today. This is titled the ‘Front view of the throne of the late Tippo Sultun’, and drawn by Thomas Marriot, ADC to the Commander-in-Chief, Madras dated 6 August 1799. Thomas Marriott preceded provided one of the few eyewitness accounts and pictorial representations of Tipu’s throne before it was broken up on the orders of the Prize Committee. In the drawing you can see where the bird would have sat at the top of the canopy. 



Close up of the beautiful gemstone detail of the Huma bird



Bird of Paradise from Tipu Sultan's throne, circa 1787-91 from the Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015 Bridgeman Image
The Timur Ruby


The Timur ruby came directly to Queen Victoria from India in 1850.  The ruby which is actual spinel rather than ruby, weighs 352.5 carats and with the smaller spinels were set by Garrads into an orient inspired necklace in 1853. The stone has historical links to the Mughal Emperors as proven with the inscriptions on it between 1612 and 1771. The connection with the great Asian conqueror Timur arose from a misreading of the inscriptions, but it's possible that Timur's inscription was erased. 




Jewels from the Al Thani private collection

The Crescent moon emerald was gifted to Anita Delgado, Princess of Kapurthala by her husband


Crescent Emerald with Diamonds, c 1910 Paris

the Maharajah of Kapurthala. She had seen it as part of a decoration on an elephant and she fell in love with it and it became her favourite jewel.
Here is photo of her wearing the Crescent Emerald 

The peacock aigrette

Peacock corsage or hair ornament (aigrette) Gold Diamond and Enamel, Meller, Paris 1910
This is another of the jewels gifted to his young bride by the Maharajah at their civil wedding ceremony.

Ruby choker

Ruby choker which the Maharajah of Patiala commissioned Cartier to design in 1931

Turban decorations


Turban decoration with hanging spinels

Pearl and spinel earrings 

Pearl, spinel & diamond earrings by JAR, Paris 2010

Pearl and spinel necklace


Spinel and pearl necklace from the Mughal Empire. The Al Thani Collection © Servette Overseas Limited 2014. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd 

Turban decoration


Diamond turban jewel made for the Maharaja of Nawanagar in 1907; remodelled in 1935. The Al Thani Collection © Servette Overseas Limited 2014. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd 

Pendant Brooch




Pendant brooch set with diamonds and rubies by Bhagat, Mumbai. The Al Thani Collection © Servette Overseas Limited 2014. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd 

Jade crutch handle 


Jade crutch handle with precious stones set in gold, 18th century, from the Mughal Empire. The Al Thani Collection © Servette Overseas Limited 2014. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd 


Ceremonial sword


Ceremonial sword with jewelled gold hilt, Hyderabad, South India, c. 1880-1900

Dagger with jade hilt, Mughal Empire, c. 1629-36 this jade-hilted dagger belonged to the Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal 

Gold finial from Tipu Sultan’s throne, circa 1790-1800. The Al Thani Collection © Servette Overseas Limited 2014. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd 

Sword sash






Gold and diamond hair ornament, circa 1900. The Al Thani Collection © Servette Overseas Limited 2014. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd 



This video by Jewellery Editor is worth a watch, it explains some of the pieces in this collection














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