The Magnificent Pearl Carpet of Baroda
The Pearl Carpet of Baroda is an extraordinary work of art that is a true testament to the wealth, sophistication, and grandeur of the legendary courts of the maharajas as well as an extant example of the fabled riches of India.
Embroidered with as many as one and a half million of the fabled 'Basra' pearls, which were harvested in the southern Gulf region and along the coasts of Qatar and Bahrain, and embellished with diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies, this piece has been known throughout the past 150 years as the Pearl Carpet of Baroda.
The Star of the South
Source: The Gaekwads of Baroda.com: http://famousdiamonds.tripod.com/starofthesouthdiamond.html
The 128.48-carat Star of the South is one of the world's most famous diamonds. Discovered in 1853, it became the first Brazilian diamond to receive international acclaim. The stone was graded as VS-2 in clarity and Fancy Light Pinkish-Brown in color. It was also determined to be a type IIa diamond.
It was the custom in the Bagagem Diamond Mines in Brazil for a slave worker who found a stone of mentionable size to be rewarded with his freedom which offered him the opportunity to work for a salary. In addition he might be given clothes, tools and in some cases a procession in his honor and during the ceremony might be crowned with flowers. All depending on the value of the stone found. This was done to encourage honesty amoung the workers. There were also several punishments established for those who were caught smuggling diamonds out.
In 1853 a slave woman while working in the mine discovered a 261.88-carat diamond. For this she was reward not only her freedom but in addition a life income. Yet apparently not aware of its true value, her master was induced to sell it for the modest sum of £3000, after which the purchaser disposed of it in Rio de Janeiro for $30,000.
The rough stone passed through many hands before it was sold to Costers of Amsterdam for $35,000 and cut to a 128.48-carat stone losing over half its original weight. The cutting cost was $2500. It was cut into a cushion-shaped stone with a faint pinkish-brown hue.
It was purchased by Halphen & Associates of Paris and was given the name the Star of the South. They displayed the stone at the London Exhibition in 1862, and in Paris in 1867 making it quite famous. At this time, the syndicate was offered £110,000 by an unknown Indian rajah, but the offer was declined. Later, for reasons not divulged, it was sold to Mulhar Rao, the Gaekwar of Baroda, for £80,000, or about $400,000.
In Baroda, India, at her husband's birthday in 1948, Sita Devi, the Maharani of Baroda, was photographed wearing a slightly
modified version of the necklace where more diamonds had been added around the bottom portion of the English Dresden.
The Gaekwar gave the commission for this transaction to E.H. Dresden, who made the original purchase of the well-known English Dresden Diamond. In 1934, the potentate's son told Robert M. Shipley, the American gemologist, that both the Star of the South and the English Dresden were mounted in a necklace amoung his family's jewels.
Khande Roe, Gaekwar of Baroda, had this necklace made to display both the
Star of the South and the 78.5-carat English Dresden below it. Photo circa 1880.
Sometime around 1999, GIA was allowed to examine, grade and photograph the large diamond. Cartier bought the stone from Rustomjee Jamsetjee of Bombay, India around 2002.
"Baroda Pearls" of Gaekwads
The seven-stranded Baroda Pearl Necklace, one of the most extravagant pearl necklaces ever created, was the most expensive piece of jewelry in the fabulous collection of jewels and jewelry that once belonged to Maharajah Khande Rao Gaekwad of Baroda. The original Baroda Pearl Necklace that was commissioned by Maharajah Khande Rao Gaekwad during the early years of his 14-year rule, between 1856 and 1870, was made up of seven strands of matching pearls in terms of size, shape, color, luster and surface quality. The shape of the pearls were spherical or near-spherical and the color was white. The pearls were apparently blemish-free, or contained minor blemishes not visible to the naked eye. The luster of the pearls were extraordinary in keeping with the good quality nacre that was thick and translucent. Little wonder that the luster of these pearls had remained undiminished during the last 150 years.
.Maharaja wore heavy necklaces, armlets, bracelets and ornamental belts showcasing majesty and richness of royal treasury. Often, costumes and accessories of males were more elaborate than females.
Maharajah Pratapsingh Rao Gaekwad wearing the Baroda pearl necklace. Maharani Sita Devi is in the background making adjustments to her husband's necklace.
The renowned Baroda Pearl Necklace thus became part of the crown jewels of Baroda again and was kept in the Lakshmi Vilas Palace, the official residence of the royal family of Baroda. The fate of the Baroda Pearl Necklace since then is not known, but a two-stranded pearl necklace reconstituted from selected pearls of the original Baroda Pearl Necklace, suddenly made it appearance at a Christie's auction in New York in April 2007, and set a world record price of $7.1 million, the highest ever realized by a pearl necklace at an auction.
The reconstituted two strand Baroda pearl necklace