100 Bejeweled Treasures On Display at V&A’s Al Thani Exhibit

by Paige Reddinger

Drawing from a spectacular single private collection (plus three important pieces from the Royal Collection loaned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II), London’s  Victoria & Albert Museum debuts its new exhibition “Bejeweled Treasures: The Al Thani Collection.” The pieces hail from or were inspired by the Mughal Empire, which reigned from 1525 to 1857 on the Indian subcontinent and present-day Afghanistan region. Much of the collection belonged to 17th century Mughal emperors or were used in elaborate court ceremonies.

“The jeweled arts of India have fascinated me from an early age,” said Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al Thani, a member of Qatar’s royal family. “I have been fortunate to be able to assemble a meaningful collection that spans from the Mughal period to present day.” (Editor’s note: If you’re not familiar with the Sheikh, read up on Vanity Fairs feature on his $400 million restoration of London’s Dudley house in which The Queen quips, “This makes Buckingham Palace look rather dull.”)

The exhibit’s highlights: an unmounted precious Golconda diamond gifted to Queen Charlotte in 1767 by the Nawab of Arcot in South India and rare early examples of Mughal jades, such as a dagger that belonged to emperor Shah Jahan, famous for building the Taj Mahal. Other exceptional pieces include a jeweled gold tiger’s head finial from the throne of the Tipu Sultan of Mysore, a brooch inspired by Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, and traditional Indian jewels refashioned in the 1930s into avant-garde European styles. Plus, there will be pieces from the famously exclusive Parisian jeweler JAR and Bhagat of Mumbai, which were influenced by both the Mughal and Art Deco eras.

For jewelry enthusiasts, this is an absolute must-see. The exhibition is sponsored by Wartski, the ultra-luxe London-based art and antiques dealer that specializes in fine jewelry. The collection is on display now through March 28, and is curated by Susan Stronge, the senior curator of V&A’s Asia department. If you can’t make it to London by then, be sure to pick up a copy of the accompanying book, available at V&A now.

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