Two Rock Crystal Opium Water Bowls inlaid with Rubies & Diamonds in Gold Settings
bowl with rubies – diameter: 5cm, height: 2.5cm, weight: 35g
bowl with diamonds: diameter: 5.3cm, height: 2.3cm, weight: 28g
Opium was taken in Mughal India in the 18th century often in the form of opium water (kusumbho). The opium water was sipped in small quantities. Small bowls of jade and rock crystal, such as the two here, were used for this purpose.
The two are similar but not quite a pair – their shapes and sizes differ slightly. One is set with five diamonds in a gold
kundan setting in the form of stylised poppy buds or heads, spaced equidistant around the outside of the bowl. The other is similarly set with five rubies. Each is fashioned from a single piece of rock crystal and has curved sides and a flattened bottom to allow it to sit evenly.
Rock crystal was highly prized by India’s Mughal rulers as a material for opulent vessels. To decorate the vessel, the lapidary artist would cut small chambers into the crystal conforming with the desired pattern and then supplement these with small drilled holes. Gold was then forced into these holes to anchor it. The precious stones – in this case, diamond and rubies – were then held in place by crimping the gold around them. Silver leaf might have been put behind the stones as well to enhance their brightness. As well as opium water bowls, small opium boxes were produced in rock crystal and set with gold and precious stones. See Okada (2000, p. 42) for an illustration of such a box.
Both bowls are in fine condition without any losses or restoration.
Dye, J.M., The Arts of India: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Philip Wilson Publishers, 2001.
Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals – The Al-Sabah Collection Kuwait National Museum, Thames & Hudson, 2001.
L’Inde des Prices: La Donation Jean et Krishna Riboud, Tresors du Musee Guimet, 2000.
Mughal Silver Magnificence, Antalga, 1987.Provenance:
UK art market
Inventory no.: 3364