Daily Archives: 21/10/2009

India calling

I’ve never been to India. There, I’ve said it. Of course I’d love to see the country with all its amazing sights, sounds and smells, that goes without saying. But the real reason I’d go to India is to see the gemstones – the gem markets in Mumbai and Jaipur, the stone-studded jewellery in Hyderabad and Nellore, the diamond cutting in Trichur… I could go on.
The real reason I haven’t gone – apart from my famous dislike of air travel – is because I know very well that I’d be bankrupt within minutes of arriving. So until I’ve enticed a rich banker to finance such a project (or, perhaps more realistically, made some spare cash of my own), I’ll have to make do with the new exhibition at the V&A, Maharaja: The Splendour of the Royal Courts (on now until January 17).
Actually the phrase ‘make do’ is a huge understatement. Truth is, I can’t wait to see this exhibition, with its promise of rich, exotic jewels not to mention elaborate saris, ceremonial swords and all sorts of lavish items that would have graced the royal courts in India between the 18th century and the middle of the 20th century. Huge rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds spring to mind…. (drool).
But what I’ve found surprising is that, given the amazing craftsmanship found in Indian jewellery, both past and present, some of that worn by Indian royalty at that time was commissioned by European jewellers such as Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. One that’s showing in the exhibition and definitely not to be missed is the Patiala necklace (see it on Vogue’s website), which apparently is one of the items in Cartier’s largest single commission ever with its 2,930 diamonds, no less. Now that’s what I call opulent.
If you spy me there, stuck tight to the glass of the display case and babbling, do me a favour and put me out of my misery!