The Magnificent Maharajas of India

Maharajas! The word maharaja, literally ‘great king’, conjures up a vision of splendor and magnificence. These princely rulers of India played an important role within a social and historical context and were patrons of the arts, both in India and Europe. That resulted in magnificent objects symbolic of royal status, power and identity.

According to an account by Alain Boucheron on his family business in the book “The Master Jewelers” that was cited in the Times:

"The flamboyant Maharajah... arrived at Boucheron's in 1927 accompanied by a retinue of 40 servants all wearing pink turbans, his 20 favorite dancing girls and, most important of all, six caskets filled with 7571 diamonds, 1432 emeralds, sapphires, rubies and pearls of incomparable beauty.”

Here's a look at the opulent world of the maharajas and their extraordinarily rich culture thought their jewels.

I have tried my best to attribute images to their creators and original sources. Please contact me if you know the source of images that are not attributed.

Maharajah of Patiala, Yadavindra Singh. Patiala Necklace.

Maharajah of Patiala, Yadavindra Singh. Patiala Necklace.

Maharajah of Patiala, Yadavindra Singh. Patiala Necklace. Weighing almost a 1000 carats, Patiala necklace was made for the Maharaja in 1928 by Cartier, the bib-like Art Deco necklace featured five rows of diamond-encrusted platinum chains and over-sized gems. It included as its centerpiece the famous De Beers diamond, a cushion-cut pale yellow diamond weighing 234.69 carats.

Maharajah of Patiala, Yadavindra Singh. Patiala Necklace. Weighing almost a 1000 carats, Patiala necklace was made for the Maharaja in 1928 by Cartier, the bib-like Art Deco necklace featured five rows of diamond-encrusted platinum chains and over-sized gems. It included as its centerpiece the famous De Beers diamond, a cushion-cut pale yellow diamond weighing 234.69 carats.

Jacques Cartier with Indian gemstone merchants, 1911, Cartier Archives. Since his first trip to India, in 1911, Jacques Cartier (1884-1942) had become familiar with the extravagant tastes of the maharajas. Fabulously rich and passionate about precious stones, the Indian princes stopped at nothing to satisfy their perpetual appetite for jewels. Image: Cartier Archives

Jacques Cartier with Indian gemstone merchants, 1911, Cartier Archives. Since his first trip to India, in 1911, Jacques Cartier (1884-1942) had become familiar with the extravagant tastes of the maharajas. Fabulously rich and passionate about precious stones, the Indian princes stopped at nothing to satisfy their perpetual appetite for jewels. Image: Cartier Archives

Drawing of the ceremonial necklace for the Maharajah of Nawanagar, 1931, London Cartier Archives. Jacques Cartier presented the Maharaja with a dazzling project. Sadly, the Maharaja of Nawanagar had little time to wear the “finest cascade of coloured diamonds in the World”. He died in 1933, two years after the necklace was delivered. Image: Cartier Archives

Drawing of the ceremonial necklace for the Maharajah of Nawanagar, 1931, London Cartier Archives. Jacques Cartier presented the Maharaja with a dazzling project. Sadly, the Maharaja of Nawanagar had little time to wear the “finest cascade of coloured diamonds in the World”. He died in 1933, two years after the necklace was delivered. Image: Cartier Archives

Devant-de-Corsage brooch, 1912, Cartier. Pear brilliant-cut diamond of 34.08 carats, oval brilliant-cut diamond of 23.55 carats, modified marquise brilliant-cut diamond of 6.51 carats, heart modified brilliant-cut diamond of 3.54 carats, lily-of-the-valley old-cut diamond links, platinum and 18k white gold. Image: Christie’s

Devant-de-Corsage brooch, 1912, Cartier. Pear brilliant-cut diamond of 34.08 carats, oval brilliant-cut diamond of 23.55 carats, modified marquise brilliant-cut diamond of 6.51 carats, heart modified brilliant-cut diamond of 3.54 carats, lily-of-the-valley old-cut diamond links, platinum and 18k white gold. Image: Christie’s

The famous Baroda Diamond Necklace. This magnificent ceremonial necklace with diamonds and emeralds was worn by the Maharaja (King) of Baroda, India in the 1860s. It was said to have been broken up in the 1940s to provide stones for anklets for the new Maharani (Queen) of Baroda, Sita Devi. Image compilation:    https://royal-magazin.de/

The famous Baroda Diamond Necklace. This magnificent ceremonial necklace with diamonds and emeralds was worn by the Maharaja (King) of Baroda, India in the 1860s. It was said to have been broken up in the 1940s to provide stones for anklets for the new Maharani (Queen) of Baroda, Sita Devi. Image compilation: https://royal-magazin.de/

From The Treasury of Baroda - a magnificent three-tired diamond necklace, shown here worn by the Maharani of Baroda, Sita Devi in 1948. Khande Roe, Gaekwar of Baroda, had this necklace made to display two important diamonds - The 128.48-carat Star of the South (fancy light pinkish-brown) and the 78.5-carat English Dresden below it. Necklace photo: circa 1880. Image compilation:    https://royal-magazin.de/

From The Treasury of Baroda - a magnificent three-tired diamond necklace, shown here worn by the Maharani of Baroda, Sita Devi in 1948. Khande Roe, Gaekwar of Baroda, had this necklace made to display two important diamonds - The 128.48-carat Star of the South (fancy light pinkish-brown) and the 78.5-carat English Dresden below it. Necklace photo: circa 1880. Image compilation: https://royal-magazin.de/

The 61.05 carat Tiger Eye Diamond in the Tiger Eye Turban Ornament. Cartier London, 1937  Platinum, diamond . Although the Cartiers were never technically diamond merchants, the deals they made and the work they did with some of the finest stones in the world played a key role in developing the firm’s international stature. In 1937, Maharaja Digvijaysinhji of Nawanagar asked Cartier to set the ‘Tiger Eye’, an unusual cognac-coloured diamond discovered in 1913 and sold by the firm to his predecessor Maharaja Ranjisinhji. Cartier designed a turban ornament around the gem, using baguette-cut diamonds to create an Art Deco look for this traditional Indian jewellery form. Image courtesy: Al Thani Collection

The 61.05 carat Tiger Eye Diamond in the Tiger Eye Turban Ornament. Cartier London, 1937
Platinum, diamond . Although the Cartiers were never technically diamond merchants, the deals they made and the work they did with some of the finest stones in the world played a key role in developing the firm’s international stature. In 1937, Maharaja Digvijaysinhji of Nawanagar asked Cartier to set the ‘Tiger Eye’, an unusual cognac-coloured diamond discovered in 1913 and sold by the firm to his predecessor Maharaja Ranjisinhji. Cartier designed a turban ornament around the gem, using baguette-cut diamonds to create an Art Deco look for this traditional Indian jewellery form. Image courtesy: Al Thani Collection

Belle Époque diamond jigha, 1907 and remodelled circa 1935. The turban ornament set with old baguette and pear-shaped diamonds, white gold, fitted with plume holder on the reverse, lower portion detachable and may be worn as a brooch. Image: Christie’s

Belle Époque diamond jigha, 1907 and remodelled circa 1935. The turban ornament set with old baguette and pear-shaped diamonds, white gold, fitted with plume holder on the reverse, lower portion detachable and may be worn as a brooch. Image: Christie’s

One of the highlights for me at 'Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration' exhibition was this incredible 2000-carat, King Edward VII's diamond encrusted sword. Set with more than 700 white and yellow diamonds, the sword was presented to King Edward VII by the Maharajah of Jaipur, Sawai Sir Madho Singh Bahadur, to mark the king's coronation in 1902. Made from steel and gold, enamelled in blue, green and red, the diamonds are set in a design of lotus flowers and leaves. Photo:© PA

One of the highlights for me at 'Diamonds: A Jubilee Celebration' exhibition was this incredible 2000-carat, King Edward VII's diamond encrusted sword. Set with more than 700 white and yellow diamonds, the sword was presented to King Edward VII by the Maharajah of Jaipur, Sawai Sir Madho Singh Bahadur, to mark the king's coronation in 1902. Made from steel and gold, enamelled in blue, green and red, the diamonds are set in a design of lotus flowers and leaves. Photo:© PA

Maharaja Bhupendra Singh of Patiala. 1911. Wears an aigrette or Sarpech by Cartier and various other turban ornaments. While the front of aigrette is set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds, the back shows the intricacy of craftsmanship with foliate motifs of red, green and blue enamel. He also wears a necklace of fourteen strands of natural pearls.

Maharaja Bhupendra Singh of Patiala. 1911. Wears an aigrette or Sarpech by Cartier and various other turban ornaments. While the front of aigrette is set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds, the back shows the intricacy of craftsmanship with foliate motifs of red, green and blue enamel. He also wears a necklace of fourteen strands of natural pearls.

An enamel and gold hunting case pocket watch. Champlevé enamel portrait depicting Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, enamel coat of arms on the reverse, white enamel dial, 18k gold, circa 1930. Image: Christie’s

An enamel and gold hunting case pocket watch. Champlevé enamel portrait depicting Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala, enamel coat of arms on the reverse, white enamel dial, 18k gold, circa 1930. Image: Christie’s

A single-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace, Cartier. Graduated strand of 37 natural pearls of 14.00 to 7.05 mm, old-cut marquise-shaped diamond, platinum (French marks). Image: Christie’s

A single-strand natural pearl and diamond necklace, Cartier. Graduated strand of 37 natural pearls of 14.00 to 7.05 mm, old-cut marquise-shaped diamond, platinum (French marks). Image: Christie’s

An Art Deco emerald, sapphire and diamond belt buckle-brooch, Cartier. Octagonal step-cut emerald of 38.71 carats, buff-top calibré-cut sapphires and emeralds, old and single-cut diamonds, platinum and 18k white gold. Many of Cartier’s finest jewels from this period were inspired by Indian architecture, gems and jewels. The calibré-cut sapphire trim and diamond detail are reminiscent of ornate archways present in Mughal palaces and royal quarters. Image: Christie’s

An Art Deco emerald, sapphire and diamond belt buckle-brooch, Cartier. Octagonal step-cut emerald of 38.71 carats, buff-top calibré-cut sapphires and emeralds, old and single-cut diamonds, platinum and 18k white gold. Many of Cartier’s finest jewels from this period were inspired by Indian architecture, gems and jewels. The calibré-cut sapphire trim and diamond detail are reminiscent of ornate archways present in Mughal palaces and royal quarters. Image: Christie’s

Bejeweled Maharaja of Mysore. © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Bejeweled Maharaja of Mysore. © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Bernard Boutet de Monvel, The Maharadjah (Maharaja) of Indore, Oil on canvas, 1933. 85 x 85 cm, Estimate : 300.000 – 500.000 € and sold in 2016 for €2,499,000. Image: Sotheby’s. Boutet de Monvel’s depiction of the Oxford-educated Maharajah of Indore, whose likeness was destined for the walls of Manik Bagh, his Indian palace. In this six-foot, stunningly ethereal composition from 1933, the young man, dressed in traditional costume, sits on a white throne against a pale background, t   he whole brought to vivid life by shots of shimmering colour: a garnet-hued turban on his head, two magnificent 47-carat diamonds (the Pears of Indore) around his neck   , along with a luxurious fabric and a striped sabre scabbard at his feet.

Bernard Boutet de Monvel, The Maharadjah (Maharaja) of Indore, Oil on canvas, 1933. 85 x 85 cm, Estimate : 300.000 – 500.000 € and sold in 2016 for €2,499,000. Image: Sotheby’s. Boutet de Monvel’s depiction of the Oxford-educated Maharajah of Indore, whose likeness was destined for the walls of Manik Bagh, his Indian palace. In this six-foot, stunningly ethereal composition from 1933, the young man, dressed in traditional costume, sits on a white throne against a pale background, the whole brought to vivid life by shots of shimmering colour: a garnet-hued turban on his head, two magnificent 47-carat diamonds (the Pears of Indore) around his neck, along with a luxurious fabric and a striped sabre scabbard at his feet.

Bernard Boutet de Monvel, The Maharadjah (Maharaja) of Indore, Oil on canvas, 1933. 85 x 85 cm, Estimate : 300.000 – 500.000 € and sold in 2016 for €2,499,000. Image: Sotheby’s. Maharaja is wearing two magnificent 47-carat diamonds (the Pears of Indore) around his neck.

Bernard Boutet de Monvel, The Maharadjah (Maharaja) of Indore, Oil on canvas, 1933. 85 x 85 cm, Estimate : 300.000 – 500.000 € and sold in 2016 for €2,499,000. Image: Sotheby’s. Maharaja is wearing two magnificent 47-carat diamonds (the Pears of Indore) around his neck.

Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh Bahadur of Alwar, born 1882. Besides his traditional Indian ornaments, he wears the star insignia of the Indian orders granted to him by the British (Raj), then considered a part of the royal regalia.

Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh Bahadur of Alwar, born 1882. Besides his traditional Indian ornaments, he wears the star insignia of the Indian orders granted to him by the British (Raj), then considered a part of the royal regalia.

Maharaja Sayaiji-Roa, Gaekwar, Baroda. 1902. Wearing his famous seven row diamond necklace and other diamond ornaments. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, virtually every Indian Maharaja commissioned state photographs of themselves wearing their most important jewelry as a symbol of their power and position.

Maharaja Sayaiji-Roa, Gaekwar, Baroda. 1902. Wearing his famous seven row diamond necklace and other diamond ornaments. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, virtually every Indian Maharaja commissioned state photographs of themselves wearing their most important jewelry as a symbol of their power and position.

A cross cultural exchange. Miniature painting. National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, India. 1902. Interpreted by an Indian artist (unknown), King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, depicted as the King-Emperor and Queen-Empress of India.

A cross cultural exchange. Miniature painting. National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, India. 1902. Interpreted by an Indian artist (unknown), King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, depicted as the King-Emperor and Queen-Empress of India.

Raja Savant Singh and Bani Thani. 1780. Courtesy Spink and Sons Ltd. London. Kishengarh miniature painting, characterized by exaggerated profiles. Both with traditional Mughal-Rajput-style ornaments consisting of pearls, emeralds and rubies.

Raja Savant Singh and Bani Thani. 1780. Courtesy Spink and Sons Ltd. London. Kishengarh miniature painting, characterized by exaggerated profiles. Both with traditional Mughal-Rajput-style ornaments consisting of pearls, emeralds and rubies.

Diamonds and emeralds set in platinum. Aigrette (also known as Sarpech - Turban ornament). Private collection. 1930

Diamonds and emeralds set in platinum. Aigrette (also known as Sarpech - Turban ornament). Private collection. 1930

The state durbar decorated elephant, with attendants of the Maharaja of Mysore. Royal India.

The state durbar decorated elephant, with attendants of the Maharaja of Mysore. Royal India.

End of 19th century rendering by Chaumet staff designer, of a proposed ensemble of ornaments for the uniform of a Maharaja. Rendering shows the use of diamonds, emeralds and pearls. Courtesy Chaumet.

End of 19th century rendering by Chaumet staff designer, of a proposed ensemble of ornaments for the uniform of a Maharaja. Rendering shows the use of diamonds, emeralds and pearls. Courtesy Chaumet.

1925. Rendering by Charles Jacqueau of Cartier for a headdress ornament for a turban, a project suggested by Maharaja of Kapurthala. Courtesy Cartier.

1925. Rendering by Charles Jacqueau of Cartier for a headdress ornament for a turban, a project suggested by Maharaja of Kapurthala. Courtesy Cartier.

Jade case, 1700-1800. Jade, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, steel. © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Jade case, 1700-1800. Jade, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, steel. © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The Maharajah of Kolhapur.

The Maharajah of Kolhapur.

The superb clarity and color of emerald ranks it among the world's finest Colombian emeralds. It was once the centerpiece of an emerald and diamond necklace belonging to the Maharani of the former state of Baroda , India. It originally weighed 38.4 carats, but was recut and set in a ring designed by Harry Winston, where it is surrounded by 60 pear-shaped diamonds totaling 15 carats. Photo: Smithsonian

The superb clarity and color of emerald ranks it among the world's finest Colombian emeralds. It was once the centerpiece of an emerald and diamond necklace belonging to the Maharani of the former state of Baroda , India. It originally weighed 38.4 carats, but was recut and set in a ring designed by Harry Winston, where it is surrounded by 60 pear-shaped diamonds totaling 15 carats. Photo: Smithsonian

Maharaja Dilip Singh of Lahore. 1852. Portrait by George Beechy. Shown here at age fifteen. Amongst many other jewels, he is wearing a diamond Sarpech (Indian turban ornament) or aigrette with three plumes and a centrally placed emerald.

Maharaja Dilip Singh of Lahore. 1852. Portrait by George Beechy. Shown here at age fifteen. Amongst many other jewels, he is wearing a diamond Sarpech (Indian turban ornament) or aigrette with three plumes and a centrally placed emerald.

Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris, 1949–50. The "Baroda Set" ordered by the Maharani of Baroda, “The Indian Wallis Simpson”, wife of the Maharaja of Baroda. This impressive suite of jewellery was designed by Jacques Arpels for Sita Devi, the second wife of Maharaja Pratapsinh Gaekwad of Baroda. It consists of 13 pear-shaped Colombian emeralds – 154 carats in total – suspended from diamonds set in the shape of a lotus flower. All the gems were all supplied by the Maharani and belonged to the Baroda Crown Jewels.

Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris, 1949–50. The "Baroda Set" ordered by the Maharani of Baroda, “The Indian Wallis Simpson”, wife of the Maharaja of Baroda. This impressive suite of jewellery was designed by Jacques Arpels for Sita Devi, the second wife of Maharaja Pratapsinh Gaekwad of Baroda. It consists of 13 pear-shaped Colombian emeralds – 154 carats in total – suspended from diamonds set in the shape of a lotus flower. All the gems were all supplied by the Maharani and belonged to the Baroda Crown Jewels.

Khande Roe, Gaekwar of Baroda, had this necklace made to display both the 128.48-carat "Star of the South" and the 78.5-carat "English Dresden" below it. Photo circa 1880.

Khande Roe, Gaekwar of Baroda, had this necklace made to display both the 128.48-carat "Star of the South" and the 78.5-carat "English Dresden" below it. Photo circa 1880.

Turban ornament- gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphire, pearl. Image: V&A

Turban ornament- gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphire, pearl. Image: V&A

The Maharaja of Darbhanga. Royal India.

The Maharaja of Darbhanga. Royal India.

The Maharaja of Alwar. (1882-1937). Royal India.

The Maharaja of Alwar. (1882-1937). Royal India.

Renowned for its impressive size, intense color and sharp star, the Star of Asia, which weighs 330 carats, is one of the world’s finest star sapphires. It originated from Burma and is said to have belonged to India’s Maharajah of Jodhpur. Photo by Chip Clark

Renowned for its impressive size, intense color and sharp star, the Star of Asia, which weighs 330 carats, is one of the world’s finest star sapphires. It originated from Burma and is said to have belonged to India’s Maharajah of Jodhpur. Photo by Chip Clark

Emerald and diamond necklace, containing 17 rectangular emeralds, 277 carats. The emerald in the pendant weighed 70 carats and was reputed to have come from the collection of a former Sultan of Turkey. Jacques Cartier set it in a Art deco piece for the Maharaja of Nawanagar. Image: Cartier. Coloration in image by:    https://royal-magazin.de/

Emerald and diamond necklace, containing 17 rectangular emeralds, 277 carats. The emerald in the pendant weighed 70 carats and was reputed to have come from the collection of a former Sultan of Turkey. Jacques Cartier set it in a Art deco piece for the Maharaja of Nawanagar. Image: Cartier. Coloration in image by: https://royal-magazin.de/

Maharajah of Nawanagar wearing the emerald and diamond necklace created by Cartier in 1926, Cartier Archives.

Maharajah of Nawanagar wearing the emerald and diamond necklace created by Cartier in 1926, Cartier Archives.

The Maharana of Udaipur. Royal India.

The Maharana of Udaipur. Royal India.

Maharaja Bhupendra Singh of Patiala. Image:  © National Portrait Gallery, London

Maharaja Bhupendra Singh of Patiala. Image: © National Portrait Gallery, London

The Gaekwar of Baroda. Diamond necklace made to display both the 128.48-carat "Star of the South" and the 78.5-carat "English Dresden" below it.

The Gaekwar of Baroda. Diamond necklace made to display both the 128.48-carat "Star of the South" and the 78.5-carat "English Dresden" below it.

The Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir. Royal India.

The Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir. Royal India.

Emerald necklace & pendant that belonged to Maharani Prem Kumari, wife of the Maharaja of Kapurthala. 1910

Emerald necklace & pendant that belonged to Maharani Prem Kumari, wife of the Maharaja of Kapurthala. 1910

Sprays of flowers turban jewel. Once belonged to the Maharaja of Jaipur. The aigrette is set with rubies, emeralds and pale beryls on one side, and the same stones with the addition of diamonds on the other. The stem and the sides of the jewel are enamelled in translucent green.

Sprays of flowers turban jewel. Once belonged to the Maharaja of Jaipur. The aigrette is set with rubies, emeralds and pale beryls on one side, and the same stones with the addition of diamonds on the other. The stem and the sides of the jewel are enamelled in translucent green.

Prince, The Gaekwar of Baroda. Princely India. Diamond necklace made to display both the 128.48-carat "Star of the South" and the 78.5-carat "English Dresden" below it. Royal India.

Prince, The Gaekwar of Baroda. Princely India.
Diamond necklace made to display both the 128.48-carat "Star of the South" and the 78.5-carat "English Dresden" below it. Royal India.

In the past I have authored posts on, Top Ten - Largest Diamonds Discovered In The WorldSplendors of Mughal IndiaThe Magnificent Maharajas Of IndiaMystery & History Of Marquise Diamond CutÓr - Ireland's GoldThe Legendary Cullinan DiamondBejeweled Persia - Historic Jewelry From The Qajar DynastyFamous Heart-Shaped DiamondsType II DiamondsGreen DiamondsRed Diamonds and more. Being a curious artist that I am, over years, I have spent countless hours in self-driven studies on diamond, jewelry history and research. All good stuff, as I have accumulated a great deal of interesting knowledge, something that definitely informs my jewelry design and other artistic creations. I wrote these blogs for simple reason - to share my collected knowledge with all who are interested, so that more can benefit from it. Take a look and enjoy! -- Reena