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19th C. Indian 12K Gold, Pearl, & Gemstone Necklace

Central Asia, India, Rajasthan, ca. mid to late 19th century CE. A gorgeous necklace comprised of hundreds of woven seed pearls with six small and one larger 12 karat gold hanging fish decorations studded with diamond slices (known as polki) on one side and, for the six smaller ones, enamel on the other side, in the style known as kundan/meenakari. Below the fish, each is further accented with short dangles of fine drops of emeralds, lavender-colored spinels, and seed pearls. All hang from a braided gold, cream, red, and green string that ends in a tassel, with a small bauble of thread at the back to hold it close to the neck when worn. Length of strand: 29" L (73.7 cm); size of largest fish: 0.85" H (2.2 cm)

Polki diamonds are among the oldest forms of cut diamonds, and originated in India. They are currently enjoying a comeback in fashion. Their appeal, according to London-based jewelry designer Sally Agarwal, speaking to the Gemological Institute of America in 2016, "is that they generally are cut to follow the original rough stone so no two are alike and they impart a distinctiveness that makes each piece unique... They are very flattering to the wearer because the light they give off is much softer compared to the sparkle of modern cuts." This style originated sometime in the medieval period, with Indian jewel cutters learning how to use emery and diamond powder to make rough cuts of the incredibly hard stone. Even after Indian artisans learned European jewel cutting techniques in the 19th century, they continued to cut "polki" style diamonds for wedding jewelry.

Kundan is one of the oldest forms of jewelry made and worn in India. It is a method of gem setting, and is often paired with meenakari, a fusion of colorful minerals to create enamel, so that a piece of jewelry has two equally beautiful surfaces - one with the flashing kundan set gems, one with bright meenakari enamel. Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan and once the seat of the royal family that controlled the region, is the center of the kundan craft, with much of it coming from the famous Johari Bazaar.

Condition: A few of the seed pearls on the sides are missing - perhaps ten or so. Braided threads show light signs of wear. Otherwise in excellent condition, with light patina on the gold surfaces.

Provenance: ex-private Indian collection

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