Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji Jadeja’s Turban Ornament

By Sara Abey

One of my favourite sapphires: impressive size and lovely colour. It weighs 109.50 carats and is natural, untreated and from Sri Lanka. It takes pride of place in a platinum brooch surrounded by many diamonds, the whole measuring 7.5 cm x 6 cm. It was formerly in the collection of His Highness Sheikh Hamad al Thani and is a turban ornament or sarpech which is believed to have been commissioned by Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji Jadeja, the Maharaja of the Indian state of Nawanagar from 1907 to 1933. The Maharaja was a noted Test cricketer who played for England and the Sussex County Cricket Club. Blue sapphire is seldom seen in traditional Mughal Indian jewellery and it may not be coincidence that blue and white are the colours of the Sussex County Cricket Club.

As always with fine jewellery, the back can tell us much. Here we can see that the ornament modified some years after its original manufacture. The original double pin attachment suggests that it was made to be worn as a brooch or a pendant with the end on the right in my photo facing downwards. The two-pronged clip now present orients the ornament upwards. The top spray of with baguette and square-cut diamonds with a central brilliant cut diamond, on the extreme right of my photo, were part of this later modification along with the diamond additions to the other end.

Published in Beyond Extravagance: A Royal Collection of Gems and Jewels (1st edition 2013 and 2nd edition 2019). Available from Assouline Publishing here.

Sold by Christie’s auction house in New York in their extraordinary sale, ‘Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence’ on 19 June 2019 for US$ 1,095,000 (hammer price + buyer’s premium, net of any applicable fees).