A fine gem-set enamelled gold Turban Ornament (Jigha) North India, 18th Century

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Lot 123
A fine gem-set enamelled gold Turban Ornament (Jigha)
North India, 18th Century

Sold for £ 68,500 (US$ 89,965) inc. premium
A fine gem-set enamelled gold Turban Ornament (Jigha)
North India, 18th Century
set with diamonds, carved emerald and pink tourmaline in gold, on a lac core; the central section in the form of a rosette set with a pink tourmaline of octagonal outline and polished surface, surrounded by diamonds; surmounted by a floral bud, set with a drop shaped carved emerald, with diamond-set leaf motifs and surround; the curved tapering aigrette above comprising a line of graduated diamonds with a diamond-set border on either side in pointed leaf settings, terminating in a diamond-set flower head with a pearl suspension; the reverse with elegant gold floral enamelled decoration on a green ground, a receptacle for a feather (kalgi); hinged enamelled stem (tana) below the gem-set rosette with similar green and gold enamelling

17.2 cm. long; 68.2 g.


  • Provenance
    Private UK collection;
    By repute given by Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) to Maharaja Sahib Singh of Patiala(1773-1813) in 1808, thence by descent

    The jigha is thought to have been on the turban of Maharaja Ranjit Singh when he met Maharaja Sahib Singh of Patiala in November 1808 and they exchanged turbans as a sign of conciliation.

    In the summer of 1799, Maharaja Ranjit Singh had taken over Lahore. In the decade that followed, he set about consolidating the Sikh Empire. The north western and north eastern frontiers of the Punjab no longer posed a threat and he had crossed the Sutlej twice with his army. He had been proclaimed as sovereign of the Punjab, although not in the eyes of the British and with some reluctance by the chiefs of the Cis-Sutlej states, including Patiala. In 1808, the British Government received intelligence that the French were planning the conquest of Kabul and Punjab. Governor-General Wellesley sent a young Charles Metcalfe as his envoy to conduct negotiations with Maharaja Ranjit Singh in Lahore. In September 1808, Metcalfe met the Maharaja and presented him with a treaty for joint action against the French in the event of an invasion. In return, Ranjit Singh asked for his suzerainty over the whole Sikh nation to be recognised, including territories south of the Sutlej. He expressed willingness to side with the British in the event of a French invasion but his condition was not accepted by Metcalfe. Unwilling to accept British control over Sikh territories south of the Sutlej, Ranjit Singh set off on a triumphant march, taking over hesitant Phulkian states, starting with Faridkot, Malerkotla, Shahabad, Ambala, and then reached Patiala. At Patiala, Maharaja Sahib Singh, who had initially asked for British protection, asked to be forgiven. Ranjit Singh overlooked his past recalcitrance. They embraced and exchanged turbans.

    Maharaja Ranjit Singh's treasury was fabled as the greatest and largest treasure ever found when the British took control of the court in Lahore between 1849 and 1850. The most famous and well-known jewels were taken away as gifts for Queen Victoria, including the Koh-i Noor diamond and the Timur ruby.

    Turban ornaments formed one of the most important symbols of power at the Mughal court. The jigha was worn exclusively by the emperor, his family and entourage. It was a symbol of royalty or royal favour and the presentation of a jigha indicated imperial approval. This elaborate creation evolved from the earlier Mughal practice of pinning a heron's feather or kalgi to the front of the turban. Attaching a pearl to the end of the plume so that it curved backwards gracefully was a style introduced by the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. During Emperor Shah Jahan's reign the simple plume underwent a transformation into an elaborate gem-studded creation incorporating some of the treasury's finest jewels. As befits a symbol of power and prestige, the turban ornament was made of valuable materials, with gems in kundan settings. Enamelling was used to decorate the back of turban ornaments, probably from the mid-17th century onwards. A significant feature of the ornament was the plume of heron feathers placed in the small socket (parkhane) at the back of the jewel.

    Early turban ornaments at the Mughal court comprised a plumed device (jigha) without a horizontal element. However, there were variations in the form since the time of Akbar. Earlier jighas have a long straight stem protruding below the rosette that was used for securing the piece into the folds of a turban. Known examples of straight-stemmed jighas include one in gold in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (IM 240-1923), one in jade at the State Hermitage, St Petersburg (VS-443). There are two examples in the Al-Thani collection. They all date from the late 17th to the early 18th centuries. An 18th century example sold in these rooms, Islamic and Indian Art, 24 April 2012, lot 225.

    It has been suggested that the turban ornament retained the jigha form during the first three-quarters of the 18th century, with a single plume of jewels on a long stem. A double portrait of the Maratha Peshwa Madhav Rao II Narayan (reg.1782-95) and his minister Nana Fadnavis, painted by James Wales in Pune in 1792, shows both figures wearing a separate jigha above a sarpatti, and a horizontal jewelled band beneath. This style appears to be a prelude to the combination of the two forms into a single, larger ornament. The development of turban ornaments and jewels throughout India broadly followed the Mughal model during the 18th century. The scale and impact of turban ornaments grew in the early 19th century, the combined jigha and sarpatti expanding to include multiple rosettes hinged together.

    A. Jaffer (ed.) (with contributions from M.Spink, R. Skelton), The Al Thani Collection: Beyond Extravagance – A Royal Collection of Gems and Jewels, New York, 2013
    H. Singh (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism, Vol. IV, Patiala, 1998
    K. Singh, History of the Sikhs, Vol. I, 1469-1839, Delhi, 1977
    U. Bala Krishnan, Indian Jewellery: Dance of the Peacock, Mumbai, 2001
A fine gem-set enamelled gold Turban Ornament (Jigha) North India, 18th Century
A fine gem-set enamelled gold Turban Ornament (Jigha) North India, 18th Century
A fine gem-set enamelled gold Turban Ornament (Jigha) North India, 18th Century
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