Indian Maharajahs and their fabled jewelry collections

Baroda Crown Jewels.Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris, 1949–50           

 Above image: This impressive suite of jewelry was designed by Jacques Arpels for Sita Devi, the second wife of Maharajah Pratapsingh Gaekwad of Baroda, now Gujarat, India The "Baroda Set" is a beautiful piece of  jewelry  made of  of 13 pear-shaped Colombian emeralds - 154 carats in total - suspended from diamonds set in the shape of a lotus flower. All valuable  gems were  supplied by  Maharani  herself and belonged to the Baroda Crown Jewels. Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris, 1949–50..........

The very mention of Indian Maharajahs conjures up imagination of of their impressive palatial palaces, fabled jewelry collections, their pomp and elegance and the colorful paraphernalia that used to accompany them. They led a luxurious life that no one could ever imagine. Their resources were so vast that literally they never ever saw the other side of their lives - poverty. Even a local ruler lived a rich life. The British, when they came to India for the first time,  were in a state of shock over the way the Indian rulers were leading their royal lives. In spite of their personal luxurious life style,  they ran the kingdom well and the subjects not only loved them but also had deep respect for them. The rulers needed all these pomp and elegance to match their royal status. Many of them were good collectors of gems and jewelry and had fabulous collections.
In the palace, they had numerous employees to take care of their personal needs, including their wardrobe, jewelry collections, etc., They were synonymous with all that were elegant and appealing.

Maharajah Dilip Singh of Lahore. 1852.

Above image: Maharajah Dilip Singh of Lahore 1852 is shown here at age fifteen. Among many other jewels,  the young prince  Dilip Singh  is wearing a diamond Sarpech (Indian turban ornament) or aigrette with three plumes and a centrally placed emerald.1852. Portrait by George Beechy......... 

diamond encrusted sword

 Above image: This  2000-carat, King Edward VII's diamond encrusted sword was gifted by Maharajah SirMadho Singh 
(1920)   .......

The Maharajah of Jaipur, Sawai Sir Madho Singh Bahadur, presented this artistic gem studded, diamond encrusted sword to  King Edward VII to mark the king's coronation in 1902. Made from steel and gold, enameled in blue, green and red, the diamonds are set in a design of lotus flowers and leaves. It was an eye-catching exhibit  at the  Jubilee Celebration' exhibition at  Photo:© PA

Below image: Necklace, platinum with rubies, diamonds and pearls.made by Cartier for ruler of Patiala,1928 .........

Necklace, platinum with rubies, diamonds
  A gemstone-studded  belt buckle with a 409-carat emerald, is said to have belonged to the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Subsequently it was reset with diamonds in 1925. Photograph: Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images.

Maharajah  Yadavinder Singh,
Maharajah Yadavinder Singh. Patiala necklace Guides - Wikinut                                          
Once owned by the Patiala Maharajah,  it was accidentally  discovered  several decades later in a second-hand jewelry shop in London by a Cartier representative. Originally the necklace was set with fantastic De Beers diamond and other valuable stones. This jewelry was specially made for the Patiala ruler. It had 2930 diamonds and weighed 962.25 carats including the magnificent De Beers diamond.

 De Beers diamond and the other large stones were missing and were apparently removed by early owners. Cartier Bought the necklace  and took roughly 2 years to restore it to the original It took two years for Cartier to restore the necklace to its original beauty , using synthetic stones to simulate the distinct colors of the diamonds and other stones of the original.It is probably one of the most privileged and expensive jewelry in Indian history.

Maharani of Patiala, 1920./
hose are the original dimensions of the famed Patiala Necklace, on display in the Maharaja exhibition. This magnificent work of art is the largest ever commission from the House of Cartier, and once adorned the neck of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala. - See more at:
hose are the original dimensions of the famed Patiala Necklace, on display in the Maharaja exhibition. This magnificent work of art is the largest ever commission from the House of Cartier, and once adorned the neck of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala - See more at: 1982, the De Beers diamond came up for auction at Sotheby’s in Geneva
    Equally impressive were the dresses worn by Maharanis, matching the elegance of Maharajahs. As for royal ladies, they preferred simple costume in the morning.  The  maharanis wore simple cotton saris (to encourage the Indian hand loom industry) and in the evening  more expensive Georgette or chiffon ones.They were mostly  sometimes embellished with embroidery or decorated with a golden border to enhance the appearance and elegance. In the the late 19th century, because of western influence, they began wearing western garments as well that included dresses made of silk and muslin and new jewelry pieces as tiaras and brooches.

   Ruler Umaid Singh, Jodhpur (1920) diamond and 

The rulers of  Hyderabad - Nizams  were  very rich  and one of the rulers -  Nizam Osman Ali Khan was the richest man in the world decades ago till his death in 1967. They were known to have one of the largest collections of jewelry in the world. Their famous collection  included  exquisite jewelry collection with Deccani, Rajasthani and Lucknavi artistry. Many  old timers are aware that when India became independent in August, 1947,  Nizam Osman Ali Khan  was reputed to have had the largest and the most valuable  and tantalizing collection of gems and jewelry in India. When Hyderabad joined the Indian Union,  the Indian government bought the entire collection from him, which according to experts, may be worth  INR 15 billion in international auction. In 1995 the Indian government bought the jewels for 218 crore (about US$70 million). There are 173 jewels, including over 25 thousand diamonds, weighing over 2.4 kg. There are also 2000 emeralds, some of them Colombian, which weigh over 2.0 kg.  The collection 

Turban ornament from the Nizams

included, besides above,  necklaces and pendants, belts and buckles, earrings, armbands, bangles and bracelets, anklets, cuff links and buttons, watch chains, and rings, toe rings, and nose rings. Note-worthy piece of jewelry included  the seven-stringed Basrah pearl necklace, known as Satlada, which has 465 pearls embedded.

Among  the many  notable jewels  Indian Maharajahs and Nawobs used to wear  are the ones that adore their turban,  Wearing turban by the Indian rulers is part of the tradition and most of them preferred bejewelled turbans.  Sarpech or turban ornament  was quite famous and its size and gem qualities might vary among the rulers. The  Nizam  used to wear the turban ornament on certain important occasions on his head. 

Nizam Jewelry /

Above image:  Nizam Jewelry - Sarpech-khurd-zamarrud-wa-kanval-almas (left) and Sarpech-yakhoot-wa-kanval-almas (righ).......

Sarpech-khurd-zamarrud-wa-kanval-almas was set with over 30 emeralds (total 510 ct) and diamonds (total 90 ct). It was bought by Indian govt. in 1995 for INR 50 million.

 Sarpech-yakhoot-wa-kanval-almas set in gold, with rubies (110 ct) and diamonds (111 ct) - total weight 145.65 gm - was bought by govt. for INR 20 million.

 Above image: Royal Indian Jewelry - Maharajah Pratap Singh Rao Gaekwad wearing the original seven strand "Baroda Pearl" necklace...........

 The “Baroda Pearls”, belonging to  the Baroda royal family,  was an impressive  necklace consisting of  a 2-strand natural pearl necklace with 68 graduated pearls up to 16 mm in size assembled in the 1850's. The necklace fetched  almost USD 7.1 million at Christie's auction house in New York in 2007.

Ruler  Rameshwar Singh, Darbhanga.

 Above image: Ruler  Rameshwar Singh,Darbhanga; Naulakha Haar" necklace of pearls, diamonds and emeralds..........

 Maharaja Rameshwar Singh of Darbhanga  of Bihar was a keen collector of valuable gems and jewelry and over a period of time had a vast collection - the third best gems and jewelry collection (after Nizam and Gaekwad) in the  post-independence era of  India. The most fabulous of the Darbhanga jewels was the "Naulakha Haar" - a long beautiful  necklace of pearls, diamonds and emeralds. Maharajah Rameshwar Singh bought it in 1901, from Nepali Prime Minister  Dhir Shamsher Rana, who not only was forced to step down from his post but also was low on cash and he needed money urgently to meet contingency.

Maharajah of Mysore.

Above image:   Bejeweled Maharajah of Mysore (now Karnataka). Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London ........

Rulers of Mysore were patrons of good jewelry, besides being builders of palatial palaces.  Maharajah Sir Sri Krishnaraja Wodiyar IV Bahadur of Mysore, 1906 - wearing a necklace made of pearls diamonds and emerald.  

Image courtesy: Chaumet.

 Above image: End of 19th century uniform of a Maharajah: rendering by Chaumet staff designer, showing  the ensemble of ornaments comprising  diamonds, emeralds and pearls. Courtesy Chaumet.   

whiskey-colored diamond jewelry,

Above image:This dazzling  61.50-carat whiskey-colored diamond, ‘The Eye of the Tiger’, was mounted by Cartier in a turban aigrette for the Maharajah Ranjit Singhji of Nawanagar (India) in 1934. It was a beautiful piece of jewelry known for its artistic value.

Turban ornament,1934.
 Above image:  It is a tuban ornament of 1934. Diamonds and emeralds set in platinum metal for durability. Aigrette Sarpech (Turban ornament)...........

Photo credit: Smithsonian

 Above image:  It was once the centerpiece of an emerald and diamond necklace belonging to the Maharani of the former state of Baroda, India this emerald stone has fine clarity and color.  Its original weight  was  38.4 carats, but  re-cut and set in a ring designed by Harry Winston, where it is surrounded by 60 pear-shaped diamonds totaling 15 carats. It is  among the world's finest Colombian emeralds. Photo: Smithsonian