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Jewellery

The De Beers diamond is the seventh largest diamond in the world. It was mined in South Africa in 1888 by the De Beers mining company and exhibited at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1889. The Maharaja, Bhupinder Singh, of Patiala in the Punjab region of India, bought the De Beers diamond.

In 1925, the Maharaja commissioned the French jeweller, Cartier, to set the De Beers diamond as the centerpiece of a ceremonial necklace that became known as the Patiala Necklace. In its original form, the necklace contained 1000 carats in 2,930 diamonds and other previous stones. It was completed in 1928 and is one of the most expensive pieces of jewellery ever made. Today, it is estimated that the Patiala Necklace, in its original form, would be worth in the region of $30,000,000.

With the decline of The Raj in the 1940’s, the crown jewels were sold off, and the Patiala Necklace disappeared.

The last sighting of the necklace was in 1946 as worn by the son of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja Yadavinder Singh, in the photographs below.

Half a century later, the necklace was discovered in a second-hand jewellery shop in London by a Cartier representative. The De Beers diamond and the other large stones were missing. The remnants of the Patiala Necklace were bought by Cartier. It took two years for Cartier to restore the necklace, using synthetic stones to simulate the distinct colours of the diamonds and other stones of the original.

In 1982, the De Beers diamond came up for auction at Sotheby’s in Geneva.

I braved the hordes of tourists and the maze of the British Museum to stand before this crown that is simply breathtaking in its simplicity and beauty.

The crown is handcrafted from dainty pieces of hammered gold to form a framework of a horizontal headband with vertical inserts and all adorned with hand made gold flowers and wired droplets. The gold is reflective and the droplets create a constant shimmering movement. The crown is designed to be dismantled in to half a dozen pieces and reassembled with ease as befits the nomadic lifestyle.

In 1978, on the eve of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, at the heritage site of Tillya Tepe, a nomad cemetery, a Russian archaeologist discovered over 20,000 pieces of jewellery, including this exquisite gold crown. During the ravages of war, these precious artefacts were hidden by Afghan officials, but now these treasures are free to travel the world to remind us of the rich cultural history of Afghanistan.