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18th C. Indian Thewa 22K+ Gold Over Glass Necklace

Northwest India, Rajasthan, Pratapgarh, ca. 18th century CE. A stunning thewa (also theva) necklace featuring eleven pendants made via a painstaking technique involving 22K+ gold sheet and colorful blue and green Belgian glass that originated in the town of Pratapgarh in Rajasthan. Today most thewa is from Gujarat, but these pendants were made in Pratapgarh, where this the technique originated. Invented in 1767 by a local goldsmith named Nathuni Sonewalla, this technique - which requires the highest level of skill - was passed down from father to son, and was safeguarded in secrecy by a few goldsmith families until the 20th century. This example features marvelously intricate Hindu iconography delineated in gold in miniature over lustrous green and blue Belgian glass and is strung on twisted pink and purple embroidery thread. Size: central pendant 1.25" L x 1.25" W (3.2 cm x 3.2 cm); necklace is 23" L (58.4 cm); total weight 59.5 grams

Each thewa piece can take up to a month to create - as the work is quite intricate. First designs inspired by Hindu mythology or Mughal court scenes, flora and fauna, or historical events are punched out of very thin high karat gold sheet on a board that is covered with a thin layer of lac. The lac is heated and the metal sheet is pressed into it and peeled off after it cools. Next, the gold sheet is laid on top of the glass, heated once again until the metal fuses with the glass surface.

Passed from one generation to the next in only four families, the thewa process was a closely guarded secret for years, making this piece extremely precious today! In addition, this piece is an example of Thewa art made by an important family of Pratapgarh in Rajasthan where this art form was born. As an 18th century piece, the motifs and symbolism of this necklace are very unusual compared to most modern examples. Truly a museum quality example!

See a bracelet made via the thewa technique at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Accession No. 60.159) - https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/451629

Condition: The pendant to the left of the central pendant has an indentation. There is slight denting to versos of all the pendants and expected age patina to the gold. Flower petals of loop to one pendant are missing. Normal wear commensurate with age, but generally excellent.

Provenance: private House of Indus collection

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