Tipu Sultan's amazing "Navratna" Pendent

Tipu's gold Navratna Pendant.rarebook societyofindia.org

Above image: Important gem-set gold Navratna Pendant (late 18th century) from the Treasury of Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore (1750-99), Seringapatam (also Srirangapatna), now in Karnataka State,S. India.  It is  counted as one of the very few pieces of jewelry from Tipu Sultan's fabulous treasury to have survived in its original setting..................

Tipu Sultan, though a Muslim was superstitious and  was very particular about wearing an appropriate ring etc., while on a war expedition. He had some setbacks here and there but,  he had a string of many war victories as a ruler. When this rare piece of jewelry once owned by Tipu came up for auction in September 2011, it was a big scoop for the British media for reasons of its antique value and workmanship and the fact it was put up for auction by the descendants (from the upper strata of the British society) of those British India officials who looted the Indian rulers'  fabulous treasures when they took over their lands in the colonial era.

Tipu Sultan of Mysore,India, tmilnews.com

 Above Image:  Tipu Sultan (1750? - 1799), Ruler of Mysore (1782? -1799), by F. Cherry, painted in 1792;Oil on canvas, 26.5 x 23 cm.  A half-length portrait of Tipu, seated and looking to the left. Collection: British Library. Tipu, who famously uttered: "I would rather live a day as a tiger than a lifetime as a sheep" adopted the royal tiger as his personal emblem. ..............................

The gold pendant is set with a 38 carat Colombian emerald surrounded by nine precious stones including topaz, blue sapphire, zircon, Cat's eye, ruby, coral diamond and pearl;  the top with two suspension loops, the front of each set with a ruby, verso with cut-out octagonal section to show reverse of emerald, marked with the name "Haidar" in a bubri-shaped stamp, the bottom drilled for further attachment.  The Navratna  pendant is 4.6 cm. high; 4.1 cm. wide; 0.9 cm. deep; the cabochon Colombian emerald  weighs about  38 carats.

This rare piece of jewelry is among the star lots in the sale of the contents of Lord Glenconner's St Lucian home at Bonhams in London on September 28. It drew the attention of many visitors and antique jewelry collectors. Generally the valuable old jewelry from the collections of fabulously rich Maharajahs and Nawabs are known for  their artistic excellence and workmanship.

When it came up for auction, it was  estimated at between £80,000 and 120,000. (http://bit.ly/1uS1U2q; Source: Bonham's). Considering its ownership in the 18th century and the quality of gems in the pendent, it finally fetched £217,250 inclusive of Buyer’s Premium.

Tipu Sultan's Treasury  did contain  expensive custom made gold jewels, gold arms, figures, etc., besides daggers with gem-studded handle or sheath. However, it was not on par those owned by the early Mogul rulers or the Nizam of Hyderabad or the Maharajah of Indore and others. Tipu's much of his money was spent on development of innovative war weapons, guns, special steel, rockets and missiles etc., as he had to deal with powerful enemies like the British Company. As for the British, they had their eyes glued on Mysore kingdom and its rich resources. But, they found it difficult to deal with the most innovative and highly capable ruler whose tenacity and motivation was a legend. Tipu was a staunch alley of the French rulers in India and had a close rapport with them in the realm of war strategies, expeditions, etc.

The hilt of Tipu's sword. Clive Museum. in.pinterest.com

Soon after his eventual defeat and consequent death in the Siege of Seringapatam in May 1799, to celebrate the British victory, there was extensive looting. Once it was controlled, there was orderly sharing of the spoils of war among the senior most British officers.  Dodwell (Nabobs of Madras, Page 67)  mentioned that though countless Jewels had disappeared  from Tipu's  treasury, yet the value of those which the prize agents recorded was not less than 360,000 Pounds sterling.

The spoils were shared by senior most officers and  Colonel Wellesley received nearly a third of his prize money ie.  10000 Pagodas in this form. He,on the battle field at Srirangapatna , took possession of Tipu;s heavy gold ring from his slain-body.  General Harris was not happy with his share  a ‘gorgeous’ emerald necklace valued at 50000 sultany Pagodas. In its place, a pendant became his possession.  This pendant may well be another piece that fell to Harris’s share.  Major General Harris ultimately  took possession of this unique pendent and took it to England.


As to the early history of Navaratna pendent (Tipu's armlets), set with diamond, etc., a   private of the 74th battalion who is said to have found them. He sold it to a surgeon by the name of Mair  for 1500 Rupees . The surgeon, two years later  sold them for a sum which brought him an annual income of 2000 Pounds. Finally, Gen. Harris became its owner (vide: Dodwell (Nabobs of Madras, Page 67) 

 https://toshkhana.wordpress.com/page/3/ (The Seringapatam Times)