Theva Plate


Plate Depicting Scenes from local History. Gold plated silver on glass in the theva technique; 31 cm x 5 cm. Partabgarh, Rajasthan. Contemporary. 7/5787.

In 1561 Prince Bika of the Mewar kingdom founded his own little kingdom in Deolia. which, due to the shortage of drinking water, was moved to Partabgarh, a principality in the Chittorgarh district of South Rajasthan. Today this erstwhile kingdom would have been just another insignificant fortified town had it not been for the existence of four families of goldsmiths renowned for their inherited tradition of theva work for nearly 400 years. Among the numerous royal patrons, Maharavat Samant Singh (1775-1844) gave his official recognition to these families by granting them 400 bighas of land.

The surveyors of the crafts of India in the late 19th and early 20th centuries erroneously described the theva technique as enamelling. In the theva technique, a fine sheet of silver or gold, on which a pattern is carefully punched out, is delicately slipped onto the surface of semi-fused coloured glass, usually green or red. In this way extremely intricate work, in the manner of a miniature painting in pure gold, is done on the glass surface of snuff and jewellery boxes, ornaments, picture frames, plates, vases and perfume bottles.

In this exquisite plate the artist has created the imagery of a flower within a flower, each petal depicting historical scenes from the court, jungle or palace. Moving centripetally, the plate has two concentric rings with the innermost core depicting the Rajput warrior king, Maharana Pratap, riding his favourite
horse Chetak. The ring surrounding him is divided into four sections, each showing the king with his queen. “Other petals show him with his Minister Bhama Shah. A pitched battle between the Maharana and Salim is the theme of the next one. In this way each petal recreates a historical event in minute detail. One petal reveals a moving incident between two brothers: the Maharana’s brother, Shakti Singh, deserting the army of his ally, the Mughal army, when he sees his brother in real trouble on the battlefield and helps him. The next concentric circle is a relief from the petals charged with historical events, and shows sixteen beautiful winged fairies, eight of them dancing and eight of them playing music. A final circle of petals presents an insight into the pleasures of court life: a coronation scene, a royal procession, the Raja granting an audience to his ministers, the Raja hunting, the worship of the family deity, a royal wedding, the pleasures of married life, an outing into the forest, the birth of a prince and the consequent celebrations, village life in Mewar, a scene of a battle and the installation of the pillar of victory”.1

1.Jain – Neubauer, 1986 p.59-61

Skull Necklace


Skull necklace. Silver and alloyed tin; 40 cm x 2 cm. Tribal central-eastern India, perhaps Orissa. c. early 20th century. J/D/2. Tiny bells dangling mischievously from beneath a row of macabre skulls characterizes this tribal necklace. The interlocking chain of fine craftsmanship and the hollow skulls cast in the lost wax technique pay homage to the metalsmith’s primeval sense of beauty.

Neck Band


Neck-band. Brass; dia 18 cm, Nagaland. c. early 20th century. 85/6858

This extremely heavy neck ornament is meant to fit passively against the collar bone, in a deliberate attempt towards restraint, symbolic of quiescent power. Cast by the cire perdue or lost-wax 67 technique, the neck ornament is embellished with small spiral roundels that may well represent human heads. Often neck chokers are seen with skulls strung in a row around the neck, very much like the skull tallys worn by Naga warriors.



Mangamalai, mango necklace. Gold, pearls, rubies and semi-precious stones; 27cm x 4cm. Thanjavur or Tiruchirapalli, Tamilnadu. c. 19th century. J/JG/252(2).

Sometimes known as the temple jewelery of the South, the ruby-set gold jewellery of the past was characteristically heavy and used 24 carat gold in large necklaces with pendants and hair ornaments. This necklace is made up of a garland of mangoes, the sacred fruit of the gods and a symbol of fertility. Traditionally worn by women of well-to-do families and by devadasis, temple dancers, these ornaments today adorn the idols of deities installed in shrines and during important festivals when devotees appear before the deity for darshan.



Hansli, two-faced choker. Gold, silver, semi-precious stones, pearls and enamel; 22 cm x 19.5 cm. Jaipur, Rajasthan. c. late 18th century. 7/2928.

Under the Muslim sovereigns, Indian craftsmen excelled in the art of meenakari or enamelling. They also mastered the technique of kundan, the setting of precious and semi-precious stones within bands of gold. This rigid neck-band or hansli, resembling the collar-bone, is embellished with semi-precious stones in the kundan technique, while its reverse side is enriched with delicate floral enamelling, so that the ornament has two equally beautiful surfaces.