This very fine pendant (haldili) is carved from a single, translucent piece of white or ‘mutton fat’ nephrite jade (the colour is more a pale greyish-green and with excellent uniformity).
It is from northern India and probably made in Delhi. It accords with Mughal tastes, although could be worn by both Muslims and Hindus. It is decorated with a central bird motif among a tree-of-life pattern which comprises a shrub of foliage and flowers emanating from a vase (guldan). According to Bala Krishnan & Kumar (1999, p. 255), the motif represents everlasting life to Muslims, and to Hindus the tree supports the Universe and preserves life. Muslims believed that such a device could protect against heart palpitations and needed to be ‘activated’ before being effective.
The design is set with five types of gems – four diamonds, three pearls, three rubies, four emeralds and one faceted sapphire, all in gold kundan settings, and all within a gold border. The gold used is typically as close to 24-carats as possible.
The top has a small rectangular section which is transversely pierced to allow hanging, usually from around the neck.
Such pendants were considered to have talismanic properties. The reverses of some are inscribed with Koranic verses in Arabic or Farsi although the back of this example is plain.
Related examples are illustrated in Bala Krishnan & Kumar (1999, p. 255), Untracht (1997, p. 177) and Geoffroy-Schneiter (2011, p. 87). And click here to see a related example at Sotheby’s London.
This example is particularly fine – indeed, finer than most published examples. It is in perfection condition without losses and repairs.
Bala Krishnan, U.R., & M.S. Kumar, Dance of the Peacock: Jewellery Traditions of India, India Book House Ltd, 1999.
Geoffroy-Schneiter, B., Asian Jewellery: Ethnic Rings, Bracelets, Necklaces, Earrings, Belts, Head Ornaments, Skira, 2011.
Keane, M., Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals – The Al-Sabah Collection Kuwait National Museum, Thames & Hudson,
Moura Carvalho, P., Gems and Jewels of Mughal India: Jewelled and Enamelled Objects from the 16th to 20th Centuries, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, Volume XVII, The Nour Foundation, 2010.
Untracht, O., Traditional Jewelry of India, Thames & Hudson, 1997.