By Ase Anderson in London
A new book celebrating the unique tradition of Indian court jewellery has landed on the shelves in time for Christmas.
Beyond Extravagance: A Royal Collection of Gems & Jewels, published by Assouline Publishing, reveals for the first time an exceptional private collection belonging to the Al-Thani family. Consisting of more than 100 magnificent pieces spanning 400 years, the jewels date from the Mughal Empire all the way through to the present day.
Edited by Dr Amin Jaffer, International Director of Asian Art at Christie's and a leading authority on Indian art, the 416-page tome includes contributions from a team of leading academics and jewellery experts. Essays by Dr Robert Skelton, former keeper of the Indian Department at the V&A, sit alongside contributions by Michael Spink, Dr Jack Ogden, Dr Katherine Prior, Judy Rudoe and Vivienne Becker.
As a long-standing friend of the collector, Dr Jaffer was instrumental in both inspiring and curating the collection. He believes the publication will "awaken a new understanding of the subject, please the eye and inspire a love of Indian jewellery among future generations".
The book showcases over 120 pieces from a collection begun three and a half years ago by a member of the Royal Family of Qatar with a passion for Indian jewellery and craftsmanship.
While some items featured in Beyond Extravagance have appeared individually in museum exhibitions or on the market, the collection in its entirety has never been seen before.
Although little is known about the craftsmen who made many of the pieces of jewellery showcased in the book, the collection boasts a number of pieces with secure provenance, such as the Arcot II, a Golconda diamond formerly in the crown jewels of George IV.
Some of the most spectacular pieces include a gem-set tiger's head finial from the throne of Tipu Sultan, Mysore, dating back to the late 18th century; a carved jade dagger owned by Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal; and a Ruby choker made for the Maharaja of Patiala by Cartier in 1931.
A comprehensive journey through a fascinating private collection, this book would make the perfect Christmas gift for anyone with a passion for Indian jewellery or royal gems.