India’s tryst with luxury is a tale as old as time. From hand-embroidered shawls of the 16th century to Golconda mined diamonds and the treasures of the Nizams of Hyderabad, Indian history is peppered with luxurious artifacts, guaranteed to make your jaw drop.
Kohinoor: Arguably one of the most popular symbols of luxury, the Kohinoor has had a tumultuous history. One of the largest cut diamonds in the world, weighing 105.6 carats, it was possibly mined in the Kollur mines of Golconda. The first recorded mention of this gem is by Babur, who said that it belonged to the Kakatiyas of South India. It then was looted in the 14th century by Alauddin Khilji, from whom it landed into the hands of the Mughal empire, and Shah Jahan made it the crowning jewel in his studded Peacock throne. In 1739, Delhi was looted by Nadir Shah, the Shah of Persia and the stone was part of his plunder. Raja Ranjit Singh, the Sher-e-Punjab brought the fabled stone back to India, in return for helping the Shah Shuja Durrani retrieve the throne of Afghanistan. Legend says the Kohinoor brings a curse to the men who wear it, and the now-keepers of the jewel, The British Crown only allows female royals to don the Kohinoor, which currently is part of a brilliant tiara.
Peacock Throne: Whispered about in tones of reverence, the legendary throne was commissioned by Mughal ruler Shah Jahan in the early 17th century. Inspired by Solomon’s throne, the Peacock Throne was covered in gold and jewels, steps leading up to it, with the ruler floating above ground and closer to heaven. The seat of royalty took seven years to make, costing twice as much as the Taj Mahal! Inlaid with the world’s second largest spinel ruby (Timur ruby), and the Kohinoor amongst thousands of other jewels. Muhammad Qudsi, the emperor’s favourite poet, was chosen to compose twenty verses that were inscribed in emeralds and green enamel. In the 18th century, Nadir Shah completed his conquest of Mughal empire by capturing Delhi and took it along with other treasures to Persia.
The Patiala Necklace: Dripping with opulence, the Patiala Necklace was created by the House of Cartier for Bhupinder Singh of Patiala in 1928. This fabulous piece of jewellery had 234.69-carat De Beers Diamond, at the time the seventh-largest polished diamond in the world, 2,390 diamonds, as well as 2 Burmese rubies. In 1948, the necklace went missing from the Patiala treasury, but the De Beer’s diamond reappeared in 1982 at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva. In 1998, a Cartier associate found parts of it in a second-hand jewellery store in London and convinced Cartier that they should purchase the remaining parts of the necklace to restore it. They did just that, replacing the enormous missing gemstones with synthetic stones and cubic zirconium. It took the luxury house’s jewellers four years to restore the magnificent piece.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Treasure: Shrouded in mystery is the richest temple in the world, Shree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram. The subterranean vaults of the temple were opened in 2011 after orders from the Supreme Court and an estimated trillion dollars of wealth was found. An unopened sanctum of the vault remains as two enormous Cobras are rumoured to be protecting it. Legend has it that anyone who opens it will be met with disastrous results. With solid pure gold idols, and sacks filled with necklaces, diadems, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, already found, it boggles the mind to think of the untouched hidden riches.