Maharajahii Indiei / The Maharajahs of India (IV).

Maharajahii Indiei / The Maharajahs of India.

(Ann Morrow, „Highness. The Maharajahs of India”, Cap. 4, „As Plentiful as Blackberries”)

They scattered pearls as confetti, they played marbles with emeralds as large as panther’ s eyes. When Barbara Hutton wore her treasured black pearl necklace to dinner in Hyderabad, the Nizam merely smiled and showed her boxes full of them among diamonds, rubies and emeralds belonging to the last Tsar of Russia. They put rubies in their navals and diamonds in their noses; they owned ‘The Light of the World’, the Timur ruby. The elephants at Baroda had anklets of solid gold. Maharajah Ranjit Singh’ s stallion wore an emerald girdle and a princely welcome home was a 21-gun salute fired from a solid gold cannon.

The Maharajah of Dholpur, an ascetic man, had a nine-row necklace of pearls as big as gulls’ eggs. The Baroda collection included a coloured diamond necklace given by Napoleon III to the Empress Eugenie as a wedding present and a seven-stringed Baroda pearl necklace.

The pearl carpet made in Baroda was offered as a canopy for the tomb of Mahomet at Medina. This arabesque tapestry was believed to be ‘the most wonderful piece of embroidery ever known’. The centre was an open, blossomy flower studded with soft gold, mounted with a rosette of diamonds. Jewelled palms and flowers sprang from delicate stems and around it were crescents of iridiscent seed pearls, cabochon rubies, sapphires emeralds and lasque diamonds. When it was finished the devout Mullahs said that it could honour the Prophet’ s Tomb, but then they would cut it up and give small pieces away to other mullahs and Very Important Pilgrims.

The Maharajah of Baroda refused. Embroiderers and master jewellers had worked on this carpet for over three years. In 1911, a panel was decorously exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum during the Coronation. But nobody knows where the carpet is now, or whether it came to the undignified end planned for it by Islam.

-to be continued-

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