5238

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Indian Gold & Silver Arsi Thumb Ring set with a Central Mirror & Diamonds

Northern India
19th century

diameter of bezel: 3cm, weight: 19.55g, Ring size: 10 3/4 (US), V (UK)

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Provenance

UK art market

This ring, known as an arsi ring, traditionally was worn by women on their thumbs in northern India. Originally woen my Muslim women, it was also later adopted by Hindu women.

The centre of the bezel is set with a large flat, bevelled piece of round glass with foil backing. Twelve faceted diamonds in petal-like kundan settings surround this, giving the effect of a marigold flower setting.

The stones and mirror are set in silver, and the backing and hoop are of gold.

The small mirror at the centre of the ring allowed for feminine vanity, with one Venetianvisitor to the 17th century Mughal court describing their use by the women of the court as thus: ‘On their fingers are rich rings, and on the right thusm there is always a ring, where, in place of a stone, there is mounted a little round mirror, having pearls around it. This mirror they use to look at themselves, an act of which they are very fond, at any and every moment’, as relayed in Bala Krishnan & Kumar (1999, p. 191).

Examples are illustrated in Bala Krishnan & Kumar (1999, p. 190); Stronge, Smith & Harle (1988, p. 97), and Untracht (1997, p. 264).

The ring is in fine condition. The silvering of the small central mirror as deteriorated with age as might be expected. One of the diamonds has a small chip. But otherwise it is free of losses or amendments.

References

Bala Krishnan, U.R., & M.S. Kumar, Dance of the Peacock: Jewellery Traditions of India, India Book House Ltd, 1999.

Stronge, S., N. Smith & J.C. Harle, A Golden Treasury: Jewellery from the Indian Subcontinent, Victoria & Albert Museum/Mapin Publishing, 1988.

Untracht, O., Traditional Jewelry of India, Thames & Hudson, 1997.

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