Gems From the Collection of The National Museum of Qatar and Their Global Connections

National Museum of Qatar

The National Museum of Qatar will celebrate the culture and heritage of Qatar and its people, embodying the pride and traditions of Qataris while offering international visitors a dialogue about rapid change and modernisation. The National Museum of Qatar embraces Qatar’s proud identity and connects the country’s history with its cosmopolitan present and ambitious future. Not only will it redefine the role of a cultural institution, but it will also mark a key milestone in Qatar’s development as an arts and cultural hub.

Bowl, Netherlands, 19th century
A ceramic footed bowl with Cenis green and red floral decorative pattern. The pattern, inspired by Ottoman tile design, was exclusively developed for export to the Middle East during the 19th century. The base is stamped with the maker’s mark “Petrus Regout & Co, Maastricht, Cenis, Made in Holland” and the Sphinx symbol. Petrus Regout was descendant of a Maastricht merchant family that has been active in the glass and earthenware trade since the 17th century. His father’s death forced Petrus to leave school at the age of fourteen to help his mother uphold the business. Eventually in 1836 he founded his own pottery brand that was to flourish.

Tiara, China, 19th Century

An extraordinary and rare 19th century headpiece commissioned specifically for a Chinese wedding. This tiara is made of brass, and covered entirely with blue kingfisher feathers. Nine phoenix birds form the lower register of the tiara, each holding a natural pearl in their tail. The house, symbolizing the newlywed couple, is held on the top by two dragons. Most of these jewelry pieces disappeared during the Cultural Revolution. For the remaining pieces the pearls were taken off and sold. This object reveals the extent of Gulf pearl trade during the 18th and 19th century.

Necklace, Morocco, 18th century
This is an ornate piece consisting of a large bejeweled gold pendant centered on a necklace of multiple strands of pearls. The openwork pendant is of a 2 headed bird-of-prey. It is composed of gold filigree and set with numerous cabochon and faceted emeralds, and small rubies. The piece contains numerous Gulf pearls, which were acquired through the existing trade networks between the Gulf and North Africa during the 18th century. From each side, the pendant attaches to a cluster of 10 strands of Gulf seed pearls with a large conical gold filigree spacer bead halfway up its length. Purple and green stone beads further decorate the sides of the necklace, strung before and after the pearl clusters. The necklace closes with a simple hook-in-loop fastening.

Brooch, Austria, 18th century
This is a pearl and gold brooch with 3 floral groupings of pearls in a wide V-shape. The pearls are attached to a gold openwork armature with pins through their centers. A hinged pin clasp at the back is a later alteration, being of a different color gold and newer appearance. This object originally had 7 very large drop-shaped pearls hanging along its lower edge, as evidenced by a 19th century portrait, by well-worn indentations in its box, and by 7 long gold pins still extant but now looped around to the back of the brooch. Designed as a floral spray set with natural pearls of various shapes, accompanied by a handwritten note from the Bavarian Duchess Adelgunde of Modena (1823-1914), stating that this pearl brooch was once in the possession of Empress Maria Theresa sovereign of Austria who ruled for fourty years (1740-1780 C.E.). This brooch is to be seen in a painting of Empress Caroline by Franz Schrotzberg, found in Salzburg Museum, Vienna. This piece signifies the importance of Gulf and Qatari pearls to the global market, and the existing trade connections during the 18th century.

Suite, India, 19th century
This is an elaborate 19th century Indian necklace and earring set. The necklace is a wide choker with a central band of wire-strung repeated gold elements, with Gulf pearls at the top and a thick fringe of bejeweled gold and pearls below. Each gold element has an oval top, rectangle center, and double tear-drop bottom. On the front, these segments are all set with clear gemstones. On the back, they are enameled in red, green, and some blue and black, each with a detailed and unique bird at the center, the sides are enameled green. Atop each gold element sits a wire-wrapped red-enameled cup holding a pearl. Each pearl is threaded on the end of the wrapping wire, whose tip is topped in green glass. From the bottom of each gold element hang two dangles with clear gemstones in tear-drop, enameled settings and multiple seed pearls threaded on green-tipped wires. Large, conical gold links (modern additions/alterations) with a thick chain and hook and loop create the closure at back.

Each earring has a "gemstone”, set red enameled flower top segment (modern addition/alteration), from which hang two levels of clear gemstone-set domes with pearl and green glass dangles like those in the necklace fringe. The top dome is enameled primarily in red with some white accents, the bottom in white with red and green detail. A large pear-shaped pearl hangs from the center bottom of each. This piece exemplifies the established trade networks between the Gulf and India during the 19th century.

Necklace, Qatar, 20th century
This is a large and ornate gold bridal necklace (known locally as Merta’asha) comprised of bejeweled openwork plaques linked to each other with seven side-by-side decorative chains. The plaques - rounded triangles at top, horizontal rectangles on sides, crescents at center, and a large vaguely hexagonal shape at bottom - have a floral and star designs with inset and/or applied gems (some glass) in green, clear, blue, pink, and pale yellow, plus pearls in raised collet settings, and multi-colored enamel (bottom plaque only). The chains alternate between star-in-crescent cut-out shapes and flower-in-circle cut-out shapes. A thin simple chain ties the necklace behind the neck with a hook and loop closure. These types of necklaces were originally inspired by Indian jewelry, and were later manufactured using Qatari design elements.

Handle, China, 18th-19th century
A cobalt blue glazed porcelain Chinese lion figurine (18th-19th century), also known as a foo dog, that was probably the handle or a knob for a porcelain lid. The base shows evidence that it was once attached to another piece of porcelain, but was likely made separately and attached to the lid. Behind each ear is a raised dot and along the spine are eight raised dots in a row. This object was found at Al Zubarah during the Copenhagen expedition in 2012, revealing Qatar’s connection to China at this period.

Perfume Bottle (Marash), India, 19th century
A perfume bottle, known locally as Marash, made from transparent blue/green glass decorated with red and white floral motifs and geometrical patterns. The bottle is placed on a slightly raised round base. The cylindrical body ends with a long nozzle, where the fragrance is sprayed. It was used to hold rose water which is sprinkled on clothes for special occasions, especially weddings. This perfume bottle was imported from India; serving as a reminder of Qatar’s extensive trade relations with India during the 19th century.

Jar, Iran, 18th Century
Excavated in 1984 at the site of Al Zubarah this reconstructed wheel thrown jar is decorated with a turquoise glaze on both the interior and exterior. It is made of fine buff-white clay, and consists of a thick walled body, a short neck, and a small-ring foot. The lower half of the body is decorated with wavy and diagonal lines. This jar was used for liquid or food storage, particularly date syrup (dibs). This object demonstrates Qatar’s trade connections with the rest of the region during the 18th and 19th century.

The Pearl Carpet of Baroda
Embroidered with over 1.5 million of the highest quality Gulf pearls, and adorned with precious stones such as emeralds, diamonds and sapphires, the pearl carpet of Baroda stands as a spectacular testament to the flourishing pearl-trade relations between the Indian subcontinent and the Arabian Gulf during the 18th and 19th century.

Abbasid lion figure in bronze, Iran, 9th century AD.
This figurine is a stylized lion and was discovered in Murwab in 2007 in a house, and is part of a tableware set with glazed decorations. The lion is complete with a rectangular head, ears, a thick neck with a mane, a narrow four-legged body, mounted on a rectangular base. This particular base would allow attaching this figurine either on a saddle or on a post of a wooden chest. This lion, a highly prized iconography from Iran, is a decorative element that illustrates the expansion of commercial networks within the region.

Coin, Iran, 6th Century CE
This coin dates back to the reign of the Sasanian king, Khosrow I (531- 579 CE). The obverse of the coin depicts King Khosrow facing right wearing a crown with a triple crescent moon decoration on the outer circumference. The name of the king is written on the right side of the image. The iconography on the reverse side of the coin is a representation of the state religion of the Sassanian Empire; Zoroastrianism It shows a fire altar with two figures (attendants) with clasped hands on either side. There is a plinth with three steps holding a pyramid of fire on top there is an image of a person holding his hands upwards in a prayer-like position. This coin was found by a Qatari family at Al Wakra.

Fragments of an Abbasid cup, Iran, 9th century AD.
This tableware was discovered in one of the houses excavated in Murwab by the 2009 French archaeological mission. The cobalt blue glaze is typical of 9th century ceramic production and, according to archaeological studies; it is believed to come from the city of Susa, Iran, highlighting Qatar's trade relations. This piece is currently being restored; it will be presented complete at the National Museum of Qatar.

Storage Jar, Basra, 9th Century C.E.
Discovered at the Murwab fort in the year 1981, during the French archaeological mission, this is a semi-complete wheel-thrown ceramic jar primarily used for storage and serving during the 8th and 9th centuries AD. The jar is missing a handle, and there is evidence of an alkaline blue glaze covering the surface of the jar. This vessel was imported from Basra which highlights Qatar’s wide trading network.

5 Bowl Series, Cirebon, 970 AD
These 5 bowls were stacked in the cargo of the ship Cirebon. These 5 bowls were part of a set of fine porcelain dishes made in workshops in southern China and to be delivered to the Gulf region. Due to the stranding of the ship, archaeologists were able to find the entire abandoned cargo in the wreck in Indonesia. Bowls have been damaged by burial in water for over 10 centuries. These bowls were held together by an encrustation matrix of the seabed. The inlay also contains many shells, shell fragments and ceramic fragments.

Glass Vessel, Iran, 7th Century CE
A small glass vessel discovered in the burial of Mezruah during the Danish mission excavations in 1961. The vessel has a spherical shaped body, a thin small neck, a flaring rim, and a concave base. This artefact highlights the import of foreign goods, as well as Qatar’s involvement in Sasanian trade networks.

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