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Simon Ray

Southern India
19th century
Length: 38.7 cm

A gold and gem-set necklace consisting of eighteen circular elements, each with a central flower-head set with six white sapphires petals radiating from a red ruby centre surrounded by an outer ring of cabochon rubies set in a gold frame.

Between each element is a composite flower-head set with an emerald stem or centre surrounded by a cluster of ruby petals surmounted by a delicate ruby finial flanked by white sapphire leaves. From the base of each lower-head protrudes a white sapphire calyx, its triangular form pointing down to fill the interstice between two adjacent rings of rubies. The gem-stones are mounted on a double gold link on-link chain that connects all the elements.

The combination of jewels in the composite flower-head resembles a kirtimukha, a mythical beast with protruding eyes and ears, horns and open mouth with fangs separated by a central tongue. In this case the largest of the two rubies form the eyes, the white sapphire leaves form the horns and the pointed calyx forms the protruding tongue.

The kirtimukha (face of glory), a grimacing lion or yali face with no lower jaw, was often placed at the base of the blade in early southern Indian weapons to protect the blade against evil spirits that might seek revenge for violent use of the weapon. The concept also appears on medieval temples of India where the kirtimukha was intended to protect vulnerable spots on the building against evil spirits. It is thus appropriate that this southern Indian necklace should be decorated with a protective motif popular in the region for use on weapons and temples as a guardian.

The fastening consists of an openwork panel with a floral design set with rubies, emeralds and white sapphires; the securing pin screws into a sleeve passing through the fastening loops, with floral finials to the top and bottom. The reverse of the necklace is in plain gold.

Spink and Son, London

Exhibited and published:
Spink and Son, Islamic and Hindu Jewellery, at 5, 6 and 7, King Street, London SW1, between Wednesday, 13th April and Friday, 6th May, 1988, pp. 82-83, cat. no. 76.

Price On Request

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