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Gold pendant inlaid with jewels

1600/1799

British Museum

British Museum

This gold pendant is inlaid with flat-cut rubies and emeralds and a large faceted diamond, in the pattern of a flying bird, against a leafy background of rubies. The bird's breast is represented by the diamond, the rest of its body is ruby-red, while the wing-tips and tail-feathers are emerald-green. The reverse of the pendant also depicts a bird, perched among leaves and flowers, executed in flat champlevé enamel. Mughal jewelled pendants are usually decorated with enamel on the back, even though this side was not intended for display. The sides of this pendant are also decorated in champlevé enamel, and depict golden birds in flowering trees, against a blue enamel background.

The Mughal emperors were renowned for their interest in precious stones. Paintings of scenes at the Mughal court show the fashion for wearing large jewels, set in pendants, rings, necklaces and turban-clasps. The following is an account by Sir Thomas Roe, the English ambassador of James I, who visited the court of the Mughal emperor Jahangir (reigned 1605-27) in the early seventeenth century. Roe was evidently impressed by the show of gems worn by the Emperor at an official event in 1616:

'…On one side [of his turban] hung a ruby unset, as big as a walnut; on the other side a diamond as great; in the middle an emerald like a hart, much bigger. His sash was wreathed about with a chain of great pearls, rubies and diamonds drilled; about his neck he carried a chain of most excellent pearls, three double, so great I never saw; at his elbows, armlets set with diamonds; on his wrist three rows of several sorts. His hands bare, but almost on every finger a ring.'

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Details

  • Title: Gold pendant inlaid with jewels
  • Date Created: 1600/1799
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: enamelled
  • Subject: bird
  • Registration number: OA+.14178
  • Place: Found/Acquired India
  • Period/culture: Mughal dynasty
  • Material: gold; diamond; ruby; emerald
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Franks, Augustus Wollaston

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