10-16 MAY 2010

A fine collection of exquisite old and new Indian jewellery will be exhibited at Altfield Gallery in their annual joint exhibition with London dealer Susan Ollemans this May.

Jewellery plays an important part in the various rituals and ceremonies that signify important occasions in the life of the individual in India, such as name giving, marriage and so on. The status of an individual, their religious beliefs and the geographic area in which they live are all indicated by the type of jewellery piece worn by with men and women. For this reason Indian jewellery is a particularly vibrant and interesting area filled with diverse styles and exhibiting very extensive skills and techniques in its production.

Included in their show are some outstanding pieces worked in multi-coloured enameling and inset with precious and semi-precious gemstones that reflect the work of the Mogul style school of jewellery design. A particularly special example is a two-part sarpesh, made for the Maharaja of Patiala with diamonds and spinels.The light and delicate design is characteristic of the period in the early 1920's when it was made.

One of the finest pieces is a piece showing Krishna playing his flute, made out in Burmese rubies, emeralds and rose-cut diamonds, which was made to decorate the hair of a particular caste of dancer.

Older pieces would include a group of fine pendants, bangles, and earrings. These pieces feature a particularly Indian method of working known as Kundan, in which irregular cut stones of sheets of 22 or 24 karat gold are backed with enamels to strengthen the soft gold, and are decorated with beautifully rendered scrolling decorative motifs that are a work of art in themselves.

To compliment these rare and important pieces, is a collection of solid gold pieces, many from Southern India where the tradition of gold dowry jewellery is strong. Among the interesting pieces displayed is an unusual necklace in which gold beads, which include designs based on old gold coins of Hellenist style. This shows the link between the trading routes to and from India from earliest times, and how items that were strictly functional can become decorative flourishes for later craftsmen.