This gold-mounted hardstone scent bottle comprises a superb and highly sculptural cut agate hookah mouthpiece with gold mounts. The mouthpiece originates from India. It is in pristine condition with deeply carved facets. It is also unusually large.
The gold mounts most probably were added in London around 1860. They comprise a stopper and chain, an a circular base fitted with ball feet.
The mouthpiece follows the conventional baluster form of a waisted cylinder with a pear-shaped tip. Several examples of hardstone hookah mouthpieces are known. One is in the Kahilili Collection, another is in the al-Sabah Collection in Kuwait. These examples are smaller however and the hardstone itself is less ornate but inset with precious stones.
According to Moura Cavalho (2010, p. 168) hookah mouthpieces needed to be detachable for practical and hygienic purposes – the mouthpiece needed to be cleaned with the removal of tar deposits.
There is a precedent for attaching European gilt metal or gold mounts to hardstone Indian hookah elements. The British Museum has in its collection a pair of eighteenth century jade hookah bases that were elaborately mounted in London converting them into prominent centrepieces for a table (see the image below.)
See Lot 82, Sotheby’s London, ‘Arts of the Islamic World’, October 16, 2002, for a similar although smaller hookah mouthpiece ascribed to India.
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, 2001.
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.