co- founder of Saffronart
The conference was widely attended by participants from around Asia, and was a resounding success. The speakers invited shared their perspectives and elevated the conference to a forum that encouraged an exchange of ideas around India being the origin for important jewellery techniques. Attendees had access to perspectives which cannot be found anywhere else. The conference has surpassed all expectations and truly raised the benchmark for what can be achieved through such events.
the largest diamond in India’s crown, by Usha Balakrishnan and John Zubrzycki. The talks shed light on the mysterious merchant who sold the diamond to the 6th Nizam of Hyderabad, with enthralling anecdotes and imagery. “Jacob, once described as one of the most romantic and arresting figures of our time, was India’s most successful purveyor of precious stones and was rumoured to be rich almost beyond the dreams of Aladdin, noted Zubrzycki.”
Francesca Cartier Brickell of the Cartier family shared stories from the unpublished letters and diaries of her great-grandfather, Jacques Cartier. She gave a personal glimpse into Jacques’ role in bringing Cartier to international fame and spoke of the jewels designed for maharajas and royal clients, and the reciprocal interest of the West in Indian designs, such as Cartier’s famous Tutti Frutti style.
“It’s a nanoscopic range of jewels from around the world that I’d like to have in my treasuries, chosen for taste, culture and artistic skill,” said Usha Balakrishnan as she set the stage for drawing references to jewellery from history, mythology, literature and art. Famous Indian painter Anjan Chakraverty brought the dying art of Benarasi enamelling to the limelight, highlighting the ancient city of Benaras as a crucible of inspiration for textiles and jewellery alike. Derek Content traced the history of uncut diamonds, and showed examples of ancient jewels set with uncut gemstones. Tom Moses of the GIA, who has handled some of the most famous diamonds in the world, including the Hope Diamond, and Pramod Kumar K G of Éka Archiving Services, steered the discussion towards the Golconda region, famed for its peerless diamonds.
Lisa Hubbard, a veteran auctioneer who is currently a senior advisor to Christie’s jewellery department, initiated an engaging and powerful discussion on what makes some jewellery more important than others. Referring to cascading necklaces, tiaras and important coloured diamonds, she drew references to pieces that set records at auctions, such as Cartier’s Panther Jewel—
“It was and is a marvel of a jeweller’s art,”— and the Blue Moon of Josephine, a vivid blue diamond that sold at a record $48 million at an auction in 2015. “The trick is to know what to look for.”
Taking audiences into the opulence of the Mughal era, Susan Stronge of the V&A Museum in London tapped into the museum’s own collection of Mughal miniature paintings and jewellery. Salam Kaoukji, curator of the al- Sabah Collection in Kuwait, drew attention to the art of gem-setting in Indian weaponry. Kaoukji used arresting visuals of pieces from the collection of Sheikh Nasser al- Sabah. Each was incomparable in design and beauty.
In the final session, François Arpels engaged the audience with hallmark jewellery pieces designed by Van Cleef & Arpels, and explored India’s role as a source of inspiration. Maharani Radhikaraje Gaekwad brought the conference to a close with a royal touch. Sharing images of the Royal Family of Baroda, some of which had never been seen before, she spoke of the unparalleled collection of jewels acquired by her ancestors. “We have both the privilege and responsibility of keeping the legacy of the Gaekwads alive.” Following the conference Maharani Radhikaraje Gaekwad commented: “Saffronart’s seminal Timeless Legacy of Indian Jewels was a congregation of some of the most distinguished names in the field and I found both immense honour and illumination being amidst them. The subjects were varied and insightful and the speakers most engaging.”
The conference broke new ground on discussions around art, aesthetics and jewellery design, linking them back to India’s 5,000-year legacy.
Enamelled box. Image courtesy Saffronart.
Ruby and diamond pacheli bangles. Image courtesy Saffronart.
Period Jadau Necklace. Period jadau necklace (with enamelling on reverse). Image courtesy Saffronart
Period emerald and spinel kalgi. Image courtesy Saffronart
MAHARANI RADHIKA RAJE GAEKWAD