In Indian gem mythology, flawless pearls were thought to protect against misfortune and strings of pearls became popular with kings, sometimes with pendants bearing sacred texts. Pearls were also an important element of Mughal jewellery, set alongside other coloured gems.
In her memoir, A Princess Remembers, Gayatri Devi, the Maharani of Jaipur recalls seeing her husband’s father, the Maharajah, dressed in traditional style: “jodhpurs, a jacket fastened with gold buttons, a turban, heavy gold earrings, strings of pearls around his neck and anklets on his feet.”
Indian jewellery has remained a major influence for designers. In the 1930s, Cartier was commissioned to re-set fabulous gems owned by maharajahs and, in the process melded art deco and ancient Mughal styles. In the 1940s and 50s, Fulco Verdura was similarly influenced by Mughal and Byzantine design in his use of oddly-shaped baroque pearls
Today, jewellery remains an important industry in India with over 50% of production feeding a growing domestic market. Adornment is an integral part of daily life, embedded in rites, rituals and family celebrations. Each gemstone has meaning and planetary connections and choice of gems is often influenced by horoscope readings to deliver good fortune.
Jewellery’s talismanic properties are not only confined to India. The idea of a locket or pair of earrings that bring luck or memories of a loved one is a familiar form of protection and good fortune or sometimes just a way of carrying someone alongside us on our way.