Emeralds in Mughal Artefacts: Jewellery, Weapons and Works of Art

The grandeur of the Mughal Empire in India, which lasted from 1526 to 1857, is marked by its distinctive style of architecture, art, culture, and its opulent use of gemstones in various objects of significance. A striking feature of this empire’s material culture was the extensive use of emeralds, specifically in jewellery, weapons, and works of art mounted in gold. The Mughals had a deep fascination for these green gemstones, appreciating their beauty, symbolic value, and supposed metaphysical properties.

Emeralds in Mughal Jewellery

Mughal jewellery exemplified grandiosity and extravagance. The use of emeralds was a significant part of this luxurious ornamentation tradition. Emeralds were often cut en cabochon or as flat, rectangular tablets and used in necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings. Their rich, deep green color contrasted magnificently with the gold settings they were typically placed in, often complemented by diamonds, rubies, and pearls, creating a vibrant visual appeal.

One of the most renowned pieces of Mughal jewellery is the ‘Shah Jahan Emerald’ dating back to 1642. It’s a 141.13-carat hexagonal emerald tablet engraved with Islamic texts, attesting to the Mughal practice of inscribing gemstones with religious verses or royal titles.

Emeralds in Mughal Weapons

The Mughal emperors were famous for their decorated weaponry that, aside from being functional, were also symbolically powerful and aesthetically pleasing objects. Emeralds were a common feature in these pieces of arsenal, mainly used to embellish handles and sheaths of daggers, hilts of swords, and even embedded in cannons.

An example of this is the famed north Indian Jewelled dagger now on exhibition in the Wallace Collection. This weapon features a handle set with a hilt of pure gold and almost two thousand diamonds, rubies and emeralds. Such pieces served a dual purpose. They demonstrated the wealth and power of the Mughal Empire while also functioning as objects of artistic craftsmanship.

In conclusion, the use of emeralds in Mughal jewellery, weaponry, and works of art mounted in gold is a testament to the Empire’s opulence, technical prowess, and aesthetic sophistication. The Mughals had an enduring fascination for these green gemstones, using them as expressions of wealth, symbols of power, and spiritual talismans, thereby integrating them into the cultural and historical fabric of their dynasty. Today, these artefacts stand as enduring witnesses to the Mughal Empire’s grandeur, its refined artistic tastes, and its profound impact on the history of material culture.

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