Spanish Inquisition necklace with India cut diamonds and emeralds once owned by the rulers of Indore

Spanish Inquisition necklace

Named  the  Spanish Inquisition necklace  by the American jeweler  Harry Winston because it was purported to have been worn  by the  ladies of Spanish and French royalty, it was bought  in the early 20th century by Maharajah Tukoji Rao Gaekwad II of Indore princely state; (Indore now part of Madhya Pradesh, India) being one of the four states of the Maratha Confederacy founded by the Holkar Dynasty in 1724. As for the name of the jewelry, it has nothing to do with Spanish Inquisition and there was no shred of evidence to support the name. The name is a riddle and it is not clear weather the necklace was owned by the French or Spanish Royalty. The choice of inappropriate name for this exquisite jewelry is unfortunate. 

 Maharajah  Yashwant Rao Gaekwad III  inherited the necklace after ascending the throne in 1926. Upon abduction in a criminal case involving one of his mistresses,  in the aftermath of police quiry by the Raj, ruler Tukoji Rao abdicated the throne in his son's favor.  In 1947, after freedom from the British, the Indore princely state joined the Indian union and in the same year he sold the necklace to  the well-known American jeweller Harry Winston. The  multi-strand necklace then became an important part of Harry Winston’s court of jewels exhibition that traveled across  the United States from 1949 to 1953.

Yashwant Rao Holkar

The famous necklace, donated in 1972 by one Cora Hubbard Williams of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is on display  in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals of Smithsonian Institution's American Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.

Quite known for its stunning beauty and splendor the necklace is double stranded in the lower half consisting both India cut diamonds and emerald stones and single stranded in the upper half consisting only of diamonds.  Semicircular in shape and symmetrically spaced on the strands, there are eight pairs of larger diamonds and four pairs larger emeralds in the jewel.  In total there are well-cut 15 large emeralds, 16 large diamonds, and around 120 smaller diamonds in the necklace.The largest India cut barrel shaped emerald 45 ct is centrally placed. It is likely these  imported emeralds of Columbia, S. America origin were cut during the Mogul period by well trained gem cutters. The barrels-shaped emerald is drilled and strung on the necklace. The channel in the gem stone is not visible because the channel itself is carefully polished, a special technique used in india in the past. Likewise the barrel- cut diamonds were of India origin, mined in the now defunct  Kollur diamond mines of present day Andhra pradesh.

It is strongly believed  that the large diamonds and Columbian emeralds were most likely cut in India in the 17th century, making them one of the earliest examples of cut gemstones in the Smithsonian’s Collection. Centuries ago the Indian gemstone cutters, following traditional techniques were known for their workmanship and superiority in the area of gemstone cutting. The time consuming cutting and drillings  in gemstones needed training and patience and in the 16th and 17 centuries Indians were pioneers in gem-encrusted jewelry making and cutting precious stones for ornaments.   According to Jacques de Coutre, one of the European merchants who traded in the area in the late 1500s and early 1600s, "It is very true that all parts of the world send pearls, emeralds, rubies and jewels of great value to East India and everyone knows full well that they ended up in the hands of the Great Mughal"  (Vassallo and Silva, 2004

Famous Hollywood  actress Katharine Hepburn, wore the necklace with a large emerald when she went  to the 19th Academy Awards ceremony to get the Oscar.