Maharajahii Indiei / The Maharajahs of India (V).

Maharajahii Indiei / The Maharajahs of India (V).

(Ann Morrow, „Highness. The Maharajahs of India”, Cap. 4, „As Plentiful as Blackberries”)

There was an insouciance amongst the Princes about their jewels; rather as the English take Tudor architecture for granted. When John Kenneth Galbraith was American ambassador to India he complimented a princess on her necklace of fifty good-sized rubies and diamonds. ‘Oh,’ she said, surprised, touching her neck, ‘it’ s just an old piece from the south.’

A duchess may treasure her tiara, but there was something very fetching about the Maharani of Jodhpur in an exquisite little head-hugging cloche made of diamond solitaires and her blue diamond disc pendant. Eyebrows of diamonds held delicately over her ears were witty and intriguing. Sometimes the ethereal eighteen-year-old Maharani could not stand without help from two of her attendants for her jewels were more than her own weight. In Jaipur temples even the goddesses wore 70-carat diamonds and canopies were of strung pearls.

But such elegance had its own price. The Maharajah of Jaipur had been holding an audience in white brocade, a frock coat with diamond buttons, silk trousers tight around the calves, pearls and diamonds in his turban. Getting up from his silver-plated throne, he was weary and almost apologetic about the finery. ‘I have to put them on. My people like them and the people must have what they want.’

The Maharajah of Mysore wore a candystriped turban with osprey feathers springing like a fountain from an aigrette of diamonds. The Princes’ love of multistranded necklaces which covered the whole of the chest started the vogue for the 1920s hip-length ropes of pearls worn by the flappers. They were blase about their treasure but finally tired of acquisitive Vicereines admiring a piece of jewellery and expecting it to be passed on as a gift.

The Maharajah of Nawanagar, who had his own pearl fishery, let them be used for Hindu medicine. He had an unrivalled emerald collection  and his daughter remembered that a black servant was employed at the palace solely for the texture of his velvet skin. His only task was to wear the six-rope pearl necklace to keep its lustre.

-to be continued-

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