Sunday, April 10, 2011

Collier de Patiala/The Patiala Necklace

By: Gayatri Mittal

The Patiala Necklace

The sanskrit word Mahārāja literally a “great king” or “high king”, raises up a vision of splendor and magnificence. The world of Maharajas is extraordinarily rich. In India rulers were expected to exercise raja dharma, meaning the duties and behavior appropriate to the king. And one such duty was exercised through the patronage of poets, musicians, architects, artists, craftsmen and religious foundations. Their patronage of arts both in India and Europe resulted in splendid objects symbolic of royal status, power and identity. From the beginning of the 18th to the mid-20th century roles of Maharajas changed. It was also a time of great political change in India. The fall of the British Empire and the independence of India in 1947 was a huge blow to their magnificence, but the Maharajas continue to fascinate. The exhibitions i.e. Splendor of India's Royal Courts and Les Derniers Maharajas ("The last Maharajas”) can approach their world. "Indian courtly jewelry is among the most sumptuous and finely wrought in the world. The wide availability of gemstones, the centuries-old traditions of craftsmanship and the customs of a culture steeped in religion and symbolism all make for a wealth of adornment."(Bernard Nick, Indian Jewelry)

Besides the change in the environment, the Maharajas participated actively in the early twentieth century development and influence of the most prestigious jewelers and major European luxury brands. Orders were placed in lavish houses Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels. Among these commands, one of the iconic Patiala necklace, the biggest ever in Cartier.

The Patiala Necklace by Cartier

This massive art deco necklace was created by Cartier for Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala in 1928. The Patiala Necklace is a metaphor of the lifestyle that the Maharajas led. The necklace which included the world's seventh largest DeBeers diamond, of 234 carats was perhaps the most spectacular and expensive piece of jewelry ever created and the largest single commission that Cartier has ever executed. The ceremonial necklace was completed in 1928 and restored in 2002 and originally contained no less than 2,930 diamonds weighing almost 1,000 carats. It has been on display in exhibitions around the world.

Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala

The De Beers Diamond ~ Discovered in a South African mine in March 1888

Like all famous and fabulous royal jewelry, the Patiala Necklace too is mired in controversy. It took Cartier almost three years to make the original necklace, which looked so exquisite that they sought the Maharaja's permission to display it before sending it to India. But in April 1948, the necklace mysteriously disappeared from the treasury of the royal family and was recovered with all the precious stones missing in a very poor condition at an antique store, almost half-a-century later by Eric Nussbaum, a Cartier representative in London. Cartier immediately bought it and set about restoring the Art Deco period piece to its original glory. It was last seen on Maharaja Yadavindra Singh.

Bhupinder Singh's son & heir: Yadavindra Singh ~ ca. 1939

Now, the necklace has been fully restored as faithfully as possible to its former glory. (Patiala Necklace - Cartier, Paris 1928 - In 2002, restoration of the necklace with new stones, platinum, diamonds, cubic zirconium yellow, white zirconia, topaz, ruby, synthetic smoky quartz and citrine © Cartier Collection.)

Cartier, for one, has come full circle with its "Inde Mystérieuse" collection, introduced in September 2007 at a glitzy event in London. So convincing was the decor that one could almost see Sir Bhupinder Singh, the maharajah of Patiala, strolling through the house adorned with the Patiala necklace. Of 82 pieces in the new collection, a platinum and diamond neckpiece anchored by a 63.66-carat pear-cut diamond might be the Patiala's closest runner-up.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of renowned French jeweler and watchmaker Cartier, iconic photographer Bruce Weber has put together “Cartier I Love You,” a collection of photographs and documents from the company’s archive and his own. He was given full access to Cartier's corporate archives and photos.

The Modern Maharaja~photograph by Bruce Weber, 2009

Amrapali Jewelers in India for the International India Jewelry Week 2010, used the same aesthetic in Kundan technique (traditional Indian technique of stone setting) as it resembles a lot to the Patiala Necklace.

Konkona Sen Sharma walking the ramp for Amrapali

International brands specifically French jewelry houses like Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels etc… have a long history with India and they continue to inspire with their collections and bring back those centuries of old traditions with the help of excellent and unique craftsmanship that they posses.