Pictorial representations and literary accounts of jewelry from the Mughal era abound, for the wearing and appreciation of jewels and gems was considered an art in itself. The memoirs of Jahangir, for instance, record his decisions to wear certain pearls or rubies for important occasions, but the practice was not limited to royalty alone—travelers to India noted the quantity of jewelry worn by all members of society. Because very few of these pieces survive, most seventeenth-century jewelry is known only from paintings and written descriptions; extant pieces from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are much more numerous. This particular necklace, composed of diamonds, rubies, pearls, and imitation emeralds set in gold, might represent work for a new class of patrons, the British in India.
This artwork is meant to be viewed from right to left. Scroll left to view more.
Use your arrow keys to navigate the tabs below, and your tab key to choose an item
Geography:Attributed to India, Punjab or Rajasthan
Medium:Gold, diamonds, colorless sapphires, rubies, imitation emeralds (colorless rock crystal over green foil), and pearls
Dimensions:W (central pendant): 3/4 in. (4.4 cm)
Credit Line:John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1915
The striking way in which this piece, with its circular stone-set gold elements surrounded by small pearls, is stylistically reminiscent of the miniature of the zenana (harem) scene in the Met (30.95.174, no. 26) suggests that it dates to the first half of the seventeenth century. However, the style of the "inscriptions" on the coinlike backs of the circular elements would seem to indicate a somewhat later date. The arabic word for "shah" can be deciphered on some of them, but whether the "inscriptions" as a whole are meaningful is doubtful. They appear in any case stylistically degenerate, which itself points to a late date.
Indian jewelers cling to tradition with enormous tenacity. Their adherence to tradition is exemplified by the sailor's-knot chain, a type common during the Hellenistic period, if not indeed earlier. By way of contrast, the peculiar pushed-down type of setting seen here is especially evident in Indian pieces of the seventeenth century to the twentieth, although a related technique is also seen in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Persian and Bukharan pieces Although its origins are obscure, one suspects that this type of setting did not originate long before the seventeenth century. The complete absence of extant fifteenth-, sixteenth-, and seventeenth-century pieces appropriate for comparison makes resolution of this question unfeasible.
The great importance in so much of Indian jewelry of flora as inspiration for design is also evident. Moreover, the artistry of the jewelry is clearly manifested in the transformation of the floral form into a jeweled form that respects the intrinsic nature of the material from which it is made and the function for which it was intended.
[Jenkins and Keene 1983]
1. Meen, V. B., and Tushingham, A. D. Crown Jewels of Iran. Toronto, 1968, pp. 71, 75, 83, 86, 87, 92, 95, 97, 111.
2. Rosenthal, Renate. Jewellery in Ancient Times. London,1973, color pl. on p. 76; Katz, Karl; Kahane, P. P., and Broshi, Magen. From the Beginning: Archaeology and Art in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. New York, 1968, pl. 187; Bokhara, Exhibition Catalogue. Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1967, nos. 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5 .4, 5.10.
With its circular elements set with stone and closely surrounded by small pearls, this piece closely resembles certain jewelry seen in many Mughal miniatures of the period of Jahangir (reigned 1605–27). And while on the whole, the necklace seems to represent a classic Mughal style, the pseudo-inscriptions in a degenerate style on the coinlike backs of the circular pendants suggest an eighteenth- or nineteenth-century date. The type of chain employed here, the so-called sailor's knot, is a heritage from the ancient world, whereas the stylization of the floral motifs and the peculiar seetings of the stones are characteristically Mughal.
Manual Keene in [Berlin 1981]
Inscription: The backs of the disks are shaped like coins and bear Arabic inscriptions.
Marking: The backs of the ornament and pendant bear a scratched leaf design
Lockwood de Forest (American), New York (until 1915; sold to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Islamic Jewelry in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 22–August 14, 1983, no. 57.
Mexico City. Colegio de San Ildefonso. "Arte Islámico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York," September 30, 1994–January 8, 1995, no. 107.
Greenwich, CT. Bruce Museum. "Unearthing the Allure of Gems," April 26, 2003–September 7, 2003, not in catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Jewelry: The Body Transformed," November 12, 2018–February 24, 2019.
Dimand, Maurice S., and Hannah McAllister. Near Eastern Jewelry : A Picture Book. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944. ill. fig. 13 (b/w).
Untracht, Oppi. India: A Jewelry Spectrum. New York: Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture, 1998. no. 363, pp. 54, 61, ill. p. 54 (color).
"Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York." In The Arts of Islam. Berlin, 1981. no. 136, pp. 316–17, ill. p. 317 (b/w).
Jenkins-Madina, Marilyn, and Manuel Keene. Islamic Jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1983. no. 57, pp. 112–13, ill. (color).
Metropolitan Jewelry. 1991. p. 16, ill. (color).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Daniel S. Walker, Arturo Ponce Guadián, Sussan Babaie, Stefano Carboni, Aimee Froom, Marie Lukens Swietochowski, Tomoko Masuya, Annie Christine Daskalakis-Matthews, Abdallah Kahil, and Rochelle Kessler. "Colegio de San Ildefonso, Septiembre de 1994–Enero de 1995." In Arte Islámico del Museo Metropolitano de Arte de Nueva York. Mexico City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1994. no. 107, pp. 258–59, ill. p. 259 (b/w).
The Met Collection API is where all makers, creators, researchers, and dreamers can now connect to the most up-to-date data and images for more than 470,000 artworks in The Met collection. As part of The Met’s Open Access program, the data is available for unrestricted commercial and noncommercial use without permission or fee.
We continue to research and examine historical and cultural context for objects in The Met collection. If you have comments or questions about this object record, please complete and submit this form. The Museum looks forward to receiving your comments.
The Met's collection of Islamic art is one of the most comprehensive in the world and ranges in date from the seventh to the twenty-first century. Its more than 15,000 objects reflect the great diversity and range of the cultural traditions from Spain to Indonesia.