Lot 119
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A turban ornament designed as a tapering openwork panel, the two sides centering on a kundan set pear-shaped ruby cabochon, with a surround of similarly set turquoise cabochons, emerald cabochons and table-cut 'polki' diamonds, to a central thewa work plaque, with a surround of table-cut 'polki' diamonds and ruby cabochons, suspending a fringe of emerald and ruby beads, to the tapered aigrette or 'kalgi' of similar design, suspending a ruby and an emerald bead, the reverse with gold repousse work, joined by a silk cord, mounted in 22 K gold


Thewa, or gold filigree on glass, is a technique of Indian jewelry manufacture, which originated in the small town of Pratapgarh in Rajasthan and flourished under the patronage of Maharawat Samant Singh. According to local craftsmen, the thewa style was devised by a goldsmith named Nathuni Sonewalla in 1767, and has passed in extreme secrecy through the generations from father to son. Even today, its manufacture remains largely confined to the Pratapgarh region and the best work is done by craftsmen who trace their lineage to Sonewalla.

The minute scale of thewa work requires extraordinary dexterity and patience. A thin sheet of pure 24-karat gold foil, known as thewa ki patti (or thewa strip), is fixed on a bed of resin; the elasticity of the resin supports the pressure that is exerted on the metal when it is worked. The design is outlined on the gold sheet and minute decorative details are engraved. Thereafter, the background of the drawing is painstakingly removed. The sheet is carefully detached from the resin and placed on a piece of glass corresponding in shape to the pierced foil. The glass is usually red, green or blue in colour simulating ruby, emerald or sapphire. Prior to setting into bezels, the glass is usually backed with coloured foil to enhance its colour and give it a gem quality. Together, they are heated until the glass turns red hot and the metal sheet fuses with it. The finished glass plaque is set into an elaborate bezel and sometimes incorporated into a larger jewel.

Thewa craftsmen drew their inspiration for motifs and designs from Hindu mythology and Mughal court scenes including characters from the epic Ramayana – Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman. The value of a thewa jewel is not so much in the quantity of gold used, but in the craftsmanship skills required to execute the piece.

Thewa gained popularity in the late 19th century Victorian era, when its delicacy and lace-like appearance appealed to the aesthetic sensibility of Europeans. Thewa units were incorporated into elaborate settings in gold wire filigree in the cannetille style referring to a popular European type of lace embroidery. These jewels were usually very delicate and quite unlike the classical Indian idiom.

In the present turban ornament, the centerpiece, which would have normally been set with a large flat diamond, ruby or emerald, features a thewa plaque. The gold foil on green glass features a scene of Rama and Sita seated under a canopy with an attendant waving a flywhisk behind and Hanuman paying obeisance in front. The fine gold repousse work on the reverse replaces the traditional enamel work typical of Rajasthan. The repousse design on the reverse of the thewa plaque is identical to the front, while two cows adorn the back of the tapering sides, and a Krishna playing on the flute stands on the rear of the aigrette. Floral motifs and stylized peacocks decorate the back of the other gems. The small size of the jewel suggests that it might have been made for a boy or young man.E72

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  Lot 119 of 180  

15-16 APRIL 2009

Rs 1,90,000 - 2,20,000
$3,880 - 4,490


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