Navaratna Gold Bracelet
length: 18cm (including the end tassels), weight: 23g
This fine bracelet is a flexible navaratna bracelet (pahunchaband). The panels are of gold over a lac core. There are ten panels – nine (the nava or nine gems) plus an additional panel. Each panel is covered with gold sheet and infilled probably with lac. The stones, which are foil-backed, are set into the fronts of each panel, and the reverse of each panel is decorated in cream, red and green enamel with a Mughal-like stylised red poppy. The sides of each panel have been overlaid with green enamel. Each main gem is surrounded by four small rubies or red enamel sections. (Makers of such jewellery tended to use what they had; it is the colours that are important and symbolic rather than the stones themselves, so ‘stand-ins’ were used.)
Untracht (1997, p. 309) says that in Dravidian south India, the
nava-ratna gemstones are used as a rosary but elsewhere in India, they are used as a talismanic device. The nine gems have multiple meanings and associations. One is that each gem represents the nine celestial Hindu deities and the nine ‘planets’ .
Similar bracelets or armlets were acquired by the 19th century American traveller Isabella Gardner and her husband Jack in January 1884 from a Calcutta jewellery and antique dealer. The Gardners were told the armlets were taken by British soldiers at the Siege of Delhi in 1857, from the Mughal emperor’s palace. They are illustrated in Chong & Murai (2009, p. 459).
The bracelet is large enough to fit most wrists. As might be expected, there is wear to the green enamel along the sides of each gold panel, but largely the enamel elsewhere is intact. The bracelet is stable and wearable.
Bala Krishnan, U.R., Jewels of the Nizams, Department of Culture, Government of India, 2001.
Indian Jewellery, V&A Publishing, 2008.
Chong, A, & N. Murai,
Journeys East: Isabella Steward Gardner and Asia, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2009.
Traditional Jewelry of India, Thames & Hudson, 1997.Provenance:
UK art market
Inventory no.: 3250