Monday, September 30, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Chambers Rose Brooch, 1820-40

The Chambers Rose Brooch
The Victoria & Albert Museum

According to the V&A, “The diamonds in this brooch were said to have been taken from the turban of Tipu Sultan after his death at the battle of Seringapatam in 1799.” Well, that’s pretty snazzy.

Tipu Sultan was the ruler of the south Indian state of Mysore. He fought against the British as they extended their control in southern India. After the defeat of Tipu Sultan, Captain Cochrane, one of the British officers, it is said, divided the sultan’s turban jewels and had them set in pieces of jewelry which he gave to his daughters.

The brooch of gold, set with diamonds and turquoises, features a floral design of a rose, forget-me-not, an oakleaf and acorn motifs. In the “Language of Flowers” which was prominent at the time, the rose motif symbolizes love while the oak would signified strength and longevity.

Art historians believe this piece was originally made as a pendant. A strand of hair in a locket at the reverse, suggests that, at one point, the brooch was intended as a wedding gift. The gems are set in six rosettes each with a diamond in the centre and six turquoises surrounding it. The rosettes are placed on an openwork background of oak leaves and acorns, surrounding a circular plaque with a relief pattern of a rose and oak leaf. The piece is marked with a ram’s head in relief which indicates the warranty mark for Paris, 1819-38.

The diamonds, rumored to have been those from the turban ornament of Tipu Sultan, have been thoroughly examined and scrutinized. The V&A tells us: 

“The diamonds have been examined and are Golconda diamonds. They are relatively small at approximately 0.2 carats and are all roughly polished into rose-cut forms. One has a large red inclusion, probably a garnet, visible under magnification. Red inclusions are considered unlucky in traditional Indian gemology…” 

When the brooch was given to the V&A in 1968, it came with a letter dated Feb 18th 1878 which says: 

"My dear Agnes The accompanying brooch I herewith give you as a keepsake not only for its intrinsic value, but of its history - Coming to me as a Legacy through the Honble Mrs Cochrane, whose daughter was my charge for some years, & whose father the Honble Capt Cochrane an officer in the memorable battle of Seringapatam shared the jewels all of first class taken in the Turban of Tippo Said [sic] - Capt Cochrane had 3 valuable necklaces & 3 brooches made of the same, In India, for his three daughters! --The Brooch accompanying this, represents the Rose the Shamrock & the Thistle. The Brilliants being of the very first water. -- I should advise care in wearing the same the pin not being I consider safe. 
Should you at some future time be inclined to part with it, I would like you to consider it as a Heirloom to your eldest daughter. In such a fulfilment of my wish you have the power in future circumstances to decide . 
It pains me to use my hands with this attack of Rheumatism for which I make excuse in not writing all I wish. 
Your ever affecte Aunt 
E A Steinchcomb 
For Mrs Agnes Chambers, Norwood Park, Southwell, Notts." 

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