Jewelry Books

Assouline Presents “Beyond Extravagance: A Royal Collection of Gems and Jewels”


Nearly two months ago, I met with Dr. Amin Jaffer, the International Director of Asian Art at Christie’s and editor of Assouline’s latest jewelry read ‘Beyond Extravagance: A Royal Collection of Gems and Jewels‘, at the publisher’s posh boutique at the Plaza Hotel.  Opened in front of Dr. Jaffer was the opulent book so aptly named for its vibrant Indian jewels appeared to almost jump off the page as perused the collection.


This tome of Indian jewelry presents a journey of over 400 years of important jewels and jeweled objects from India.  The sumptuous collection portrays the passion of its savvy collector, Sheik Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani, who exercised a keen efficiency in collecting Indian jewels under the guidance of Dr. Jaffer.  His interest in Indian jewels was first piqued in 2009 after he saw Maharajah, the 2009 V&A exhibition about India’s royal courts curated by Jaffer, and thereafter started acquiring rarefied pieces.


Left – Maharana Amar Sing II of Mewar, c. 1700; Right – Pendant, Rajasthan (?) or Deccan, c. 1750, of gold, on a lac core, kundan-set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds, and hung with six pendant pearls
Photo courtesy of Assouline

“He didn’t buy with the objective with forming a collection; he was just buying things he loved,” Jaffer explained.

Four years later and Sheik Hamad has assembled one of the most important and comprehensive collections of Indian jewelry in the world today.  From lavish Mughal court jewels  and rich commissions of Maharajas to Art Deco magnificence from Cartier and inventive creations of the 21st century, this extraordinary book explores the evolutions of style and technique throughout Indian jewelry’s illustrious, and rather long, history.

Nawanagar TO © Laziz

A turban clip worn by the Maharajah of Nawanagar, circa 1907 and remodelled in 1935
© Laziz Hamani/ Courtesy Assouline

While it is difficult to narrow down a list of highlights, as each jeweled object is deserving of its own spotlight, the most noteworthy pieces include a carved jade dagger hilt owned by Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal; a group of engraved imperial Mughal spinels; a collection of enameled objects from Hyderabad, the Arcot II diamond and Taj Mahal emerald; a choker made by Cartier for the Maharaja of Patiala; Paul Iribe’s splendid carved emerald, pearl and diamond aigrette, circa 1910; as well as stunning contemporary creations by JAR and Bhagat using historic Indian stones.


Left – Jabot or cliquet brooch, by JAR, Paris, 2013, of silver and gold, with three elongated polished emeralds, and diamonds, pearls and rubies; Right – Maharaja Sher Singh by August Theodor Schoefft, c. 1850. The ruler wears the Koh-i-Noor diamond in a bazuband on his right arm.
Photo courtesy of Assouline

Assouline feted the launch of the Beyond Extravagance: Gems and Jewels of Royal India at the Frick Collection in New York last night, November 4th, surrounded by distinguished members of society, while under the watchful eyes of “The Girl With The Pearl Earring” and 14 other Johannes Vermeer works currently on loan from the Mauritshuis in The Hague.

SWORD © Laziz

Detail of The Nizam of Hyderabad Ceremonial Sword with diamonds, rubies and emeralds
© Laziz Hamani/ Courtesy Assouline


The Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace, India, 1850-75, of gold, with seven large foiled triangular diamonds, each framed in an openwork panel of kundan-set diamond leaves. At front centre is a triangular diamond pendant surrounded by twelve diamond leaves, mounted on the inner edge with a melon-cut emerald bead. The edges are enamelled.
Photo courtesy of Assouline

Emerald diam pearls necklace © Laziz

Necklace, India,1850-1900, with seven foiled emeralds in closed gold settings, separated by diamond clusters in closed silver settings. The cord ends are wrapped with fine natural pearls.
© Laziz Hamani/ Courtesy Assouline

Muhammad Shah with six courtiers  Balchand, c 1730.

Muhammad Shah with six courtiers
Balchand, c 1730.
Private Collection, London

Cartier carved Sita emerald TO (1) - Copy

Cartier carved emerald and diamonds brooch, 2012 – Photo courtesy of Assouline


Left – Earrings, by Bhagat, Mumbai, 2012, of platinum, set with diamonds and natural pearls; Right – Maharani Indira Devi of Cooch Behar, by Philip de Laszlo, c. 1920s
Photo courtesy of Assouline


Turban ornament, India, c. 1920; modified c. 1925-35, of platinum, set with a 109.5-carat cushion-shaped Sri Lankan sapphire and diamonds
© Laziz Hamani/ Courtesy Assouline

© Laziz

Belt brooch, by Cartier, Paris, 1922, of platinum, set with diamonds emeralds and sapphires
© Laziz Hamani/ Courtesy Assouline


Detail of Sash, Delhi (?), c. 1900, of silk, embroidered with gold thread and mounted with kundan-set emeralds, rubies and diamonds
Photo courtesy of Assouline


Guests at the Golden Jubilee of Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala, 1927
Photo courtesy of Assouline


Left – Maharaja Tukojirao Holkar III of Indore, 1911; Right – Turban ornament, India, 1875-1900, of gold, set with diamonds and cabochon rubies, and hung with pendant taweez diamonds and two inscribed spinels
Photo courtesy of Assouline

Princess Durrushevar, daughter of Abdulmecid II, the last Ottoman emperor, c. 1940

Princess Durrushevar, daughter of Abdulmecid II, the last Ottoman emperor, c. 1940
© John Fasal Collection/ Photography by Prudence Cuming Associates


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1 Comment

  • Reply
    Jane Dalea-Kahn
    November 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    What a beautiful book. Definitely going on my Christmas list!

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