Iranian Crown Jewels: Part 7

The Three Crowns of the Iranian Crown Jewels

Crowns were a distinctive head ornament worn by kings, queens and monarchs since ancient times, as an emblem or symbol of power and glory. The wearing of a crown was believed to confer on the monarch power and authority over his or her subjects and in this respect supplements a similar function performed by the royal seat or the throne of a monarch. The inauguration of a new sovereign into office was usually accompanied by rituals and ceremonies peculiar to the culture of the sovereign’s domain, that eventually led to the placing of the crown, the symbol of regal authority, on the head of the sovereign, while the sovereign was seated on the throne; a ceremony usually referred to as coronation. Such ceremonies were much-publicized events that took place in the presence of a large gathering of the sovereign’s subjects belonging to all walks of life, prominent among whom are the clergy, who invoke the blessings of God on the sovereign. In addition to the crown, the sovereign may be presented with a distinctive robe, such as a jewel studded robe and a scepter or sword during the occasion. In the Christian world the rituals of the coronation were derived from the description of anointing and crowning of Saul and the kings of Israel, from the old testament. Accordingly the sovereign was anointed with holy oil and received the crown and royal insignia from the clergy.

Over the years crowns evolved from simple garlands or wreaths of leaves or flowers placed over the head, to open circular bands of metals such as gold and silver with decorative engravings, later adorned with jewels. Two semi-circular bands or arches perpendicular to one another was later incorporated on the circular band, which also became broader. This crown was usually worn over a cap made of soft material. Eventually the cap was incorporated into the crown reinforced by the semi-circular arches. Sometimes an aigrette was also added to the crown to give it a more flamboyant look. The value and beauty of a throne depends on the designs or motifs used on the frame and the type and quality of jewels used to adorn it. The commonly used jewels are diamonds, pearls, emeralds, spinels, rubies and sapphires. The metal used in crowns are usually gold and silver or a mixture of the two known as white gold.

Significance of the Crown and Coronation in the World’s most ancient empire

In the history of Iran, one of the world’s most ancient empires that lasted for over 2,500 years, the crown and coronation had great symbolic significance for the monarchies. The crowns were studded with the most expensive and rarest jewels, like diamonds, emeralds, rubies, pearls etc. The coronation was also a very elaborate affair carried out with great pomp and pageantry. The monarchs attached great importance to their coronation, and had elaborate ceremonies, planned well in advance paying attention to the minutest details. The ceremonies reached their greatest glory during the time of Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834), who was noted for his extravagance, and presided over one of the most splendorous courts in the history of the Iranian monarchy. Two of the most important items in the fabulous collection of jewels, are the jewel studded thrones, the Naderi Throne and the Sun Throne; both designed and constructed during the reign of Fath Ali Shah.

The most ancient and greatest empire in the world finally came to an end in 1979, after the Iranian Islamic Revolution, when the country was declared an Islamic Repulic. However, 12 years before this in 1967, the whole world was witness to one of the grandest coronation ceremonies ever held, which brought to life the ancient glory of this empire, when the last of the long line of monarchs, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi was crowned the Shah of Iran, while his queen consort Empress Farah Diba was crowned the first empress in the history of Iran.

The three crowns in the Museum of the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels

Among the extraordinary collection of jewels in the Museum of the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels there are three famous crowns. These are 1) The Kiani Crown 2) The Pahlavi Crown and 3) The Empress’ Crown. The Kiani Crown was constructed on the orders of Fath Ali Shah, and perhaps used for his coronation. The Pahlavi Crown was constructed for the coronation of Shah Reza Pahlavi, in 1925, and was used again for the coronation pf his son Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1967. The Empress’ Crown was especially made by Van Cleef & Arpels for the coronation of Empress Farah Diba in 1967.


The Kiani Crown

The Kiani Crown which is made of red velvet has a height of 32 cm without the aigrette and a diameter of 19.5 cm, at the base which is equivalent to a circumference of 61 cm.. The diameter of the crown gradually increases towards the top of the crown to give the traditional shape of a crown. The outer frame of the crown ends in a wavy edge with alternative crests and troughs. The wavy edge of the crown is not the uppermost part of the crown. Inner to this edge arise the semi-circular “cap” of the crown also made of velvet and supported by two semicircular bands perpendicular to one another.

The outer frame of the crown has three horizontal rows of pearls going right round the circumference of the crown. One row is at the lower edge, a second below the wavy edge, and a third somewhere in the middle. Between the upper and middle horizontal rows of pearls, more closely studded pearls in roughly hexagonal areas, form a beautiful pattern right round the circumference of the crown. The wavy edge of the outer frame is also studded with pearls. The two edges of the semi-circular bands supporting the cap of the crown are also lined with pearls. In all the total number of pearls found on the crown is about 1,800, so much so that one could characterize the Kiani Crown as essentially a “Crown of Pearls.”


The Kiani Crown



Besides pearls, other jewels found on the crown are rubies, spinels, emeralds and diamonds. The total number of rubies and spinels (both red in color) found on the crown are around 1,800, and these are interspersed between the pearls in symmetrical patterns. A large number of diamonds are also found on the crown, in mosaic patterns centered around large rubies or spinels between the two lower horizontal rows of pearls. There are also about 300 emeralds in the crown, but they are found mainly in the aigrette. The term aigrette means a spray of feathers or gems worn on a hat or crown. The aigrette of the Kiani crown can be mounted or dismantled from the crown as and when the need arises. The base of the aigrette is shaped like a butterfly, with the largest emerald on the crown, weighing around 80 carats situated in the center. The emerald studded plumes of the aigrette radiate from this butterfly-like base.

The Kiani Crown made on the orders of Fath Ali Shah is undoubtedly one of the most fabulous crowns ever made in the history of the monarchies of the world, and is a testimony to the excesses of the Qajar Shahs who were always inclined towards pompous behavior.

During the coronation of Reza Shah Pahlavi, the officer of the Cossack Brigade who installed himself as the absolute monarch of Iran, after staging a coup that abolished the democratically elected National Consultative Assembly and ousted the nominal Head-of-State Ahmed Shah, the last of the rulers of the Qajar dynasty, a special crown was designed and constructed for the occasion held in 1925. But, Reza Shah Pahlavi ordered that Fath Ali Shah’s Kiani Crown should also be brought for the occasion and placed on a special pedestal, during his coronation ceremony. The idea behind the presence of the Kiani Crown at the coronation ceremony was to give a semblance of legitimacy to his ascension of the Iranian throne, being a complete outsider, and not a descendant of the Qajar dynasty. In any case this was not the first time such usurpation of power had taken place in the history of Iran. A precedent was set in 1736, when Nadir Qoli Beg of the Afsharid tribe ousted the young Abbas III from the throne and installed himself as the absolute monarch of Iran.



The Pahlavi Crown

The Pahlavi Crown is a modern crown designed and manufactured in 1925 on the orders of Reza Khan, who subsequently ascended the Iranian throne as Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1925, but the design of the crown was based on a motif of the Sassanid Dynasty that ruled Iran between the 3rd to 7th centuries AD.

The difficult task of designing and manufacturing the crown was assigned to a group of experienced Iranian jewelers, under the supervision of Haj Siraj-ed-Din, an experienced jewelry manufacturer, who was a previous national of Soviet Uzbekistan, and had been employed by the Emir of Bukhara, but later emigrated from the Soviet Union to Iran. A variety of loose gemstones such as diamonds, pearls, emeralds and sapphires that were available in the royal treasury were used for this purpose

The crown has a height of 29.8 cm excluding the aigrette, and a diameter of 19.8 cm equivalent to a circumference of 62 cm. The lower half of the crown which fits on to the head has the same diameter of 19.8 cm, but the upper half gradually increases in diameter taking the traditional shape of a crown. The upper edge of the outer frame of the crown is wavy forming four main crests and four main troughs. The “cap” of the crown is supported by several semi-circular bands.

Pahlavi crown

The crown is made up of red velvet, gold and silver, and encrusted with jewels. The main motif of the crown is the jeweled sunburst with a large 60-carat brilliant-cut yellow diamond in the center. The sun is a symbol which signifies the Aryan origin of the Iranian people. The total weight of the crown is 2.08 Kg. Unlike the Kiani Crown which is mainly made up of natural pearls, the Pahlavi Crown is predominantly made up of diamonds. There are 3,380 diamonds on the crown, with a total weight of 1,144 carats, the largest of which is the 60-carat yellow diamond described above. There are 369 strikingly similar natural pearls on the crown arranged horizontally in three rows right round the circumference of the crown. One of the rows is at the lower edge, one along the wavy edge, and one somewhere in the middle, along the upper edge of the lower half.. There are also 5 emeralds in the crown, the largest of which is 100 carats.

An aigrette with a combination of a jeweled motif and natural plumes is fixed to the front crest of the crown, vertically above the jeweled sunburst.


The Pahlavi Crown was not only used for the coronation of Reza Shah Pahlavi in April 1925, but also for the coronation of his son and successor Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, when he finally decided to have his coronation after postponing it for more than 25 years, in 1967,



The Empress’ Crown


Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi who ascended the throne in 1941, vowed not to have his coronation until he was able to bring growth and development to his country, and emancipate his people socially, economically and educationally. To achieve these goals he launched the “white revolution”, and when his ambitious programs began to show results and his popularity had increased in the country, he finally decided to hold his coronation on October 26th 1967, 25 years after he ascended the throne. The coronation ceremony also had a triple significance, as it represented not only the coronation of the Shah, but also for the first time in the history of Iran, the coronation of the Queen consort of the Shah, as Empress, and the declaration of the Shah’s son Prince Reza Cyrus as the Crown Prince of Iran, with the Empress or Shahbanou acting as regent, in case of the Shah’s death before the Crown Prince attains maturity.


As it was for the first time in 2,500 years, the wife of the Shah was being crowned, a special crown was to be made for this occasion, and the honor of manufacturing the crown fell to the famous Parisian jewelry firm of Van Cleef & Arpels.

Empress Crown


The gems used for this unique crown were selected from the loose gems found in the royal Iranian treasury. The entire crown is made of green velvet and white gold. The crown was a little narrower at the base and wider at the top. There are a total of 38 emeralds, 105 pearls, 34 rubies, 2 spinels and 1469 diamonds on the crown. The total weight of the crown is 1.481 Kg. The crown has a motif of the sunburst in the front, with the largest emerald weighing 91.32 carats at the center, surrounded by a row of smaller white diamonds. The rays of the sun are represented by six large natural pearls originating from the center. The pearls alternate with rubies, seven in all and each ruby is surrounded by a row of smaller white diamonds. Below the large central emerald of the sunburst, is another large emerald, also surrounded by smaller white diamonds. There are four rows of small white diamonds running right round the circumference of the crown. Two of these rows are horizontal rows parallel to one another and closer to the base of the crown. The other two are closely parallel spiral rows above the horizontal rows and running right round the crown. The spiral rows originate from either side of the second largest emerald below the sunburst. More pearls and rubies are placed in symmetrical positions on the crown. The two large spinels seem to be placed as the centerpiece of a different motif on either side of the crown. The two large spinels are approximately 83 carats each.


Overall the Empress’ crown appear to be beautiful but relatively simple when compared to the more elaborate counterparts, the Kiani and Pahlavi Crowns.


On October 26, 1967, after the religious ceremonies, the Shah stood up from the Naderi throne, and received the coronation regalia, such as the emerald belt, the royal sword, and the jewel studded imperial robe. Then the officer carrying the Imperial Crown of Iran (Pahlavi Crown) approached the Shah, who received the crown from him, and while still standing in front of the Naderi Throne facing the invited guests, placed it on his head, and crowned himself, as Napoleon Bonaparte did in 1804, at the time of his coronation. Finally the royal scepter was handed over to him, and the rituals of the Shah’s coronation ceremony was over.


Immediately after this, the Shah’s queen consort, Farah Diba who was seated on a ceremonial chair on his right stood up and walked slowly towards her husband. An officer carrying the Empress’ crown now moved towards the Shah, who received the crown from him, and subsequently placed it on the head of his consort, crowning her as the Empress of Iran, the first time ever in the 2,500 year history of Iran, a Shah’s consort had been crowned as Empress.

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Iranian Crown Jewels: Part 6

Tiaras of the Iranian Crown Jewels

The word tiara is a Greek word for an ancient Persian headdress. The tiara was a high headdress worn by ancient Persian kings and represented the king’s crown. Subsequently the term tiara was used to refer to the tall ovate headdress worn by the Popes of the Catholic Church, made of silver cloth and ornamented with three diadems, with two pendants at the back, symbolizing the Pope’s authority over the church.

But today, the term tiara is also used to refer to a semi-circular jeweled ornamental band worn above the forehead by women on formal occasions. Thus the difference between a tiara and a crown becomes evident from this definition. While the tiara is a semi-circular ornamental band worn above the forehead, a crown usually is a circular ornament that covers the entire head. While the use of crowns was the exclusive privilege of only the monarchy, tiaras came to be used by not only the women of the ruling families, but also by the common people, in fact by any one who could afford to own one. The use of tiaras by brides on their wedding day has now become commonplace.


Tiaras in the Iranian Crown Jewels

Among the fabulous collection of jewels and jewelry in the Museum of the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels, there are three beautiful and exquisitely crafted tiaras. They are :- 1) The emerald and diamond tiara 2) Noor-ul-Ain tiara 3) Farah’s favorite tiara. Fath Ali Shah’s hat decoration which he usually wore over a black woolskin hat is also essentially a tiara.


1) The emerald and diamond tiara

Nothing much is known about the origin of this tiara and during whose period it entered the royal treasury. But the design of the tiara gives an indication as to the possible period of its origin. The design of the tiara depicts a sunburst, with the rays of diamond blossoms ending in an emerald or pearl. This design can also be seen in the aigrettes produced in the second half of the 19th century, and therefore we can safely predict that this tiara too originated during that period. This roughly corresponds to the period of Nasser-ed-Din Shah who ruled between 1848 and 1896. It is well known that after most of the crown jewels of Iran were stolen after the assassination of Nadir Shah in 1747, two of the subsequent Shahs who did their best to build up a respectable collection of crown jewels were Fath Ali Shah and Nasser-ed-Din Shah. Thus we can safely conclude that the emerald and diamond tiara may have originated during the period of Nasser-ed-Din Shah, and perhaps may have been worn by his Shahbanou, the queen consort.

Emerald and Diamond Tiara

The height of the tiara at its line of symmetry at the center, along which falls the large red spinel and the large drop shaped emerald, is 7.2 cm. The length of the arc of the tiara is not known, but should be between 15 to 20 cm, as the length of the forehead is approximately one-third of the average circumference of an adult head, which is 50 to 60 cm. The striking feature of the tiara is the motif of the sun burst on which it is based. The center of the sunburst is occupied by a 25-carat cushion-shaped pink spinel, from which the rays depicting the sunburst arise. The pink spinel is surrounded by a row of diamonds, and each diamond of this row is the base of a ray. The rays are made up of one or two diamond blossoms. The longer rays made up of two diamond blossoms end up in a white natural pearl. The shorter rays with a single diamond blossom end up in a drop-shaped emerald cabochon, of which the largest emerald is along the line of symmetry. The size of the emeralds then decrease symmetrically on both sides, and the smallest symmetrical emeralds are situated towards the base of the sunburst. Besides the central large emerald there are four symmetrical pairs of emeralds on either side, making a total of nine emeralds. The largest emerald has a weight of 20 carats.

On either side of the sunburst placed symmetrically at each end of the tiara are two identical floral motifs. The center of each floral motif is occupied by a diamond and so are the eight petals surrounding the central diamond. The arc shaped base of the tiara is also studded with a row of diamonds.

The sun motif and the lion motif are two insignia that symbolizes the Aryan origin of the Iranian people. These two motifs are used as the royal insignia of Iran. The Iranian Flag of the pre-Islamic revolution period depicts the lion insignia. The same lion insignia is found on the Sri Lankan flag, whose inhabitants the Sinhalese also claim to be of Indo-Aryan origin.


2) The Noor-ul-Ain tiara

The Noor-ul-Ain tiara is of recent origin, designed and constructed in the year 1958, by Harry Winston Inc. of New York, jewelers to monarchies and celebrities around the world, for the occasion of last royal wedding of the 2,500 year-old Iranian monarchy, in which the last Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, got married to Empress Farah Diba. Incidentally this was Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi’s third marriage, the first two marriages having ended up in divorce as they failed to produce a male heir to the throne.

The frame of this tiara is made up of platinum and set entirely with diamonds of varying colors, mainly pink, yellow and colorless. In this respect the Noor-ul-Ain tiara differs with the other tiaras of the National Iranian Jewels, which contain other jewels like emeralds, rubies, sapphires, and spinels, besides diamonds. Thus, being composed of diamonds only varying in size from 14 to 60 carats, the Noor-ul-Ain tiara is more valuable than the other tiaras of the collection. The tiara is known as the Nur-ul Ain tiara, because of the incorporation of the 60-carat Nur-ul-Ain diamond as the centerpiece of the tiara. The other diamonds in the tiara have weights ranging from 14 to 19 carats each, and there are a total of 324 diamonds in the tiara. A row of colorless tapering diamonds known as diamond baguettes are also incorporated on the base of the tiara.

Nur-Ul-Ain Diamond Tiara

The famous and historic 60-carat pink diamond, the Nur-ul-Ain, is the second largest pink diamond in the world. It is a pale pink, oval, brilliant-cut stone. A team of Canadian experts who conducted research on the Iranian Crown Jewels in 1965, were of the opinion that the Nur-ul-Ain (light of the Eye) diamond, and the Darya-i-Nur (Ocean of Light) diamond had a common origin, and most probably originated from the “Great Table Diamond” (Diamanta Grande Table), which Tavernier saw when he visited Golconda in Southern India, in 1642, and which according to him was at one time mounted on the Peacock Throne of Mogul Emperor Shah Jahaan (1628-58). The Nur-ul-Ain diamond was one of the diamonds among the large booty carried away by the Iranian Conqueror Nadir Shah when he invaded the capital cities of Delhi and Agra of the Mogul Empire in 1739, a raid motivated either by Nadir Shah’s desire to lay his hands on the enormous riches of the Mogul Empire or as some historians believe was a punitive raid for the refusal by the Mogul Emperors to return the vast collection of Iranian crown jewels, plundered previously in 1722, by the Afghan ruler Mahmud, when he invaded and captured Isfahan, killing the last ruler of the Safavid dynasty. Most of the stolen jewels eventually entered the treasury of the Mogul Emperors. After Nadir Shah’s death the Nur-ul-Ain diamond together with other diamonds went missing, stolen by people close to Nadir Shah which included his generals and his blind grandson Shah Rukh. Eventually Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar (1779-96) who reunited the whole country and founded the Qajar dynasty, was able to bring together at least part of the stolen jewels, and a significant number of jewels were also recovered from Shah Rukh, the blind grandson of Nadir Shah, and this may have included the Nur-ul-Ain diamond. Since then the Nur-ul-Ain diamond had remained in the treasury of the Qajar kings as a loose diamond, until mounted on the tiara by Mohammed Reza Shah Pahavi.



3) Farah’s favorite tiara

The name Farah’s favorite tiara is self explanatory, as she was often seen wearing this tiara on formal occasions such as during her husbands official visit to the United States and Canada in 1965. Like the Noor-ul-Ain tiara this tiara was also designed and manufactured by Harry Winston Inc. the New York Jewelers, and also for the same occasion, the marriage of Empress Farah Diba, to Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1958.

Farha’s Favorite Tiara

The metal used for the frame of the tiara is platinum, and unlike other tiaras the base of this tiara is double arched. The jewels used on the tiara are diamonds and emeralds. Two rows of diamonds arise from the base of the tiara, and additional diamonds fill up the space between the two arches. The diamonds used are of three different colors – pink, yellow and colorless. The size of the diamonds in the center are larger, and decreases towards either side. The outer surface of the upper row of diamonds produces an almost smooth curve because of this arrangement. Seven large emeralds arise from the outer surface of the upper row of diamonds. Each emerald is arranged as the centerpiece of a floral pattern, surrounded by smaller diamonds. All the emeralds are spherical in shape and cabochon-cut. The largest emerald is situated along the line of symmetry of the tiara which corresponds with the depression between the two arches. The size of the other emeralds decrease gradually on either side, with similar emeralds occupying symmetrical positions. The largest emerald weighs 65 carats, and the smallest emeralds on either side weigh 10 carats each.

The jewels used in the tiara have different origins. The emeralds are possibly of Brazilian origin. The yellow diamonds are of South African origin, and the other pink and white diamonds are possibly of Indian origin, re-cut as modern brilliant-cuts from loose Indian diamonds in the Iranian treasury.


4) The Hat decoration of Fath Ali Shah

This exquisitely crafted piece of jewelry which in essence is a tiara, was used by Fath Ali Shah as a hat decoration, which he wore often on a tall black woolskin hat. The hat decoration is clearly depicted on several miniature paintings of Fath Ali Shah belonging to this period.

The hat decoration of Fath Ali Shah can be considered as a masterpiece in jewelry designing for its excellent symmetry, and surpasses the other three tiaras given above in this respect, including the two modern tiaras designed by Harry Winston. This perfectly designed ornament of the second half of the 19th century, with accurate mathematical symmetry speaks volumes about the great abilities of craftsmanship possessed by the Iranian jewelry craftsmen of the period, which even modern craftsmen with all recent technology at their disposal find difficult to achieve. Great masterpieces of ancient Iranian origin have been lost for ever due to frequent conquests and destruction the country had gone through during its long history. But, fortunately the hat decoration being of relatively recent origin had been spared the calamity that befell its predecessors. The world is indeed grateful that such masterpieces of jewelry have been preserved for posterity in the Museum of the Treasury of the National Iranian Jewels.

Fath Ali Shah’s Hat Decoration

The gemstones of this unique ornament are mounted on gold with a silver frame. The gemstones are mainly spinels and diamonds, with perhaps a few rubies. The largest spinel in the tiara is 50 carats, and the largest diamond 10 carats in weight. The height of the tiara is 13.5 cm. The tiara defies an accurate description because of its unique design and perfect symmetry. The reader is advised to carefully examine the design of the ornament in the photograph, instead of depending on a description. Starting from the line of symmetry examine one half of the ornament, and then starting from a particular area or section of this half move to the other half to verify whether an identical area or section to the one examined previously is found. Also take note of the color, size, cut, number and arrangement of the stones, and you will be surprised to find that the two halves are almost perfectly identical in all respects. You can repeat the exercise with the other three tiaras and verify to what extent they are symmetrical.

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Iranian Crown Jewels: Part 5

Swords, daggers, and shields of the Iranian Crown Jewels

Swords were the main weapon of war in traditional warfare since ancient times, until the introduction of firearms. The sword however continued to be used in warfare, until the perfection of firearms. The use of swords as a weapon of war finally came to an end only after the introduction of modern repeating weapons.

Daggers were also used in traditional warfare, and were shorter in length than the swords. In certain situations the dagger was more useful than the sword, as it was easy to carry about and quickly drawn out when needed.

The shield was a traditional defensive weapon carried with the left hand, while the offensive weapon, the spear or the sword was carried with the right. The shield was thus used to ward off the offensive attacks of the opponents, while at the same time the fighter was free to use his offensive weapon with the right hand. Thus, while swords and daggers were offensive weapons of warfare, the shield was a defensive weapon.

Among the Iranian Crown Jewels, exhibited at the Museum of the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels, there are several jewel studded swords, daggers and shields. such as the Shahi sword, the sword of Fath Ali Shah Qajar, the sword of Nadir Shah, the jeweled dagger, the Ruby dagger, and the Naderi Shield.


The Royal Sword or the Shahi Sword

The Royal sword also known as the Shahi sword is slightly over one meter in length (103 cm or 3.5 ft), with a jewel studded handle and hilt, and a scabbard also completely encrusted with jewels. The total number of jewels in the sword is over 3, 000. The varieties of jewels found are emeralds, diamonds, rubies and spinels. Two of the largest emeralds are 110 carats each, and there are also many large diamonds, rubies and spinels on the sword. An inscription on the sword indicates that it was made by the swordsmith Mirza Ali Nagi in the year 1306 A.H. which according to the Gregorian calendar is equivalent to 1889 A.D. as seen by the following calculation.

The relationship between the Gregorian calendar and the Islamic Hijra calendar is given by the following mathematical formula developed by M.G.S. Hodgson :-

G = H – H/33 + 622 where G represents the Gregorian year and H represents the Hijra year. Substituting for G and H in the above formula, we have

G = 1306 – 1306/33 + 622

G = 1306 – 39 + 622

G = 1267 + 622 = 1889 A. D.

According to historical records the Shahi sword was presented to Nasser-ed-Din Shah who reigned between 1848 to 1896, by his able Prime Minister Amin-us-Sultan, probably around six years after it was made, in the year 1895. This was just one year before he was assassinated in the year 1896 by a fanatic.

Royal Sword or Shahi Sword

Amin-us-Sultan is reported to have served as the Minister of Interior, and the Minister of Treasury and Customs under Nasser-ed-Din Shah’s father Muhammad Shah who ruled between 1834 to 1848, and perhaps he might also have served for a few years under Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834). Even though Amin-us-Sultan had earned the highest regard of the Shahs, he was not so popular among the common people. In his capacity as minister and prime minister he had acquired sufficient wealth, that enabled him to present such an expensive sword to his king, the Shah of Iran.

The Shahi Sword of the Qajar dynasty subsequently became part of the coronation regalia of Qajar Shahs after Nasser-ed Din Shah. It was in keeping with this tradition that the second Shah of the Pahlavi dynasty, and the last Shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, used the Shahi sword for his coronation in the year 1967. On that day after the religious ceremonies associated with the coronation, an officer carrying the emerald belt on a cushion covered tray, approached the Shah; and the Shah took the belt from the tray and tied it around his waist. Later, another officer carrying the Jewel studded Shahi sword approached the Shah; and the Shah took the sword from the tray and hung it on the belt. This was followed by the Shah receiving the Imperial robe which was placed around his shoulders, and then the climax of the coronation, in which the Shah receives the Imperial Crown of Iran from an officer, and then places it on his head, while facing the invited guests, in effect crowning himself as the Shah of Iran.


The Sword of Fath Ali Shah

This sword is older than the Shahi sword, dating back from the period of Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834). In fact the sword is said to be one of his favorite swords, and there are many miniature portraits such as the one shown here that depicts him carrying this sword. There are many scratches on the hilt of the sword indicating that much use was made of the sword, including possible combat.

Fath Ali Shah’s Sword

Fath Ali Shah’s Sword

The unique feature of the sword is its curved blade which is said to be advantageous for cutting than a straight blade, and ancient Iran was one of the countries in Asia where the curved blade first originated. The curved blade was subsequently introduced into European warfare through Turkey.

The manufacture of Fath Ali Shah’s unique curve-bladed sword is credited to a generation of experienced swordsmiths employed by the royal courts of Iran in the 17th century. The steel used for the blade is of very high quality, and there is an inscription in gold with the name of Fath Ali Shah dated 1213 A.H. which is equivalent to 1798 A. D.

G = H – H/33 + 622

G = 1213 – 1213/33 + 622

G = 1213 – 37 + 622

G = 1176 + 622 = 1798 A.D.

This was just one year after he ascended the throne in 1797, on the death of his uncle Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar, the founder of the Qajar dynasty.

The hilt and the scabbard of this historic royal sword is encrusted with jewels in floral patterns. the jewls consist of emeralds, rubies, spinels, and diamonds. The large spinel on the hilt is about 40 carats and the two large spinels on the scabbard are between 20 and 25 carats.


Ivory-Handled Sword

Ivory Handled Sword

This sword is displayed on the lower shelf of a special display case reserved for large numbers of loose emeralds in the National Iranian Jewels Collection. The sword is known as a “yataghan” in the Persian Language and consists of a handle made of ivory. It is a straight-bladed sword with a length of only 73 cm, much shorter than the conventional sword which has an average length of about one meter. The scabbard of the sword and its handle are encrusted with emeralds. On the scabbard there are at least 10 equally spaced large emeralds surrounded by smaller jewels in a floral pattern. The same pattern is repeated on the ivory handle at two different places.

According to historical records this sword was a gift from Reza Gholi Khan to Nasser-ed Din Mirza, prior to his coronation as Nasser-ed-Din Shah, around the year 1848.



Nadir Shah’s Mighty Sword

This curve-bladed combat sword with a length of 100 cm (1 meter or 3.2 ft.), according to legend is the mighty sword of Nadir Shah that conquered and subdued lands belonging to the most powerful empires of the period, such as the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire of the Czars, the Mogul Empire, and the Afghan rulers, in the twenty-year period between 1726 and 1747. Nadir shah was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant and successful soldiers in the history of Iran, who within a short period of 20 years was able to create a vast empire that stretched from the Indus River to the Caucasus Mountains, and rivaled the territorial extent of the ancient Iranian empires.

The Naderi Sword

A curve-bladed sword is said to be more advantageous than a straight-bladed sword for purposes of combat and Iran is one of the countries where it first originated. Even though popular beliefs hold that this particular sword belonged to the mighty conqueror Nadir Shah, an inscription on the sword attributes it to Fath Ali Shah. However there is no further evidence to show that Fath Ali Shah ever used this sword. In fact in many of the portraits of Fath Ali Shah available we cannot see the sword in even one of these portraits. However, a mural in the marble room of Golestan Palace shows clearly, Fath Ali Shah’s grandson and successor Muhammad Shah Qajar wearing the sword while on horse back. The appearance of Fath Ali Shah’s name on the famed Naderi sword may not have any significance as he had a penchant for putting down his name on all things durable, such as the two famous diamonds, the Darya-i- Nur, and the Shah Diamond, even though these diamonds were inherited by him from his predecessors.

The Naderi Sword

As the other swords in the National Iranian Jewels Collection, Nadir Shah’s sword is also studded with jewels, but mainly diamonds. There are altogether 850 diamonds, encrusted on the scabbard, the handle and the hilt, but unlike other scabbards this one is only encrusted on one side. The largest diamond on the sword weighs 20 carats.


The Jeweled Dagger

The Jeweled Dagger

The shape and size of daggers vary according to the country of oigin. The Indian katar dagger had a flat triangular blade; the Gurkha kukri dagger had a short curved blade; and the Malayan kris had a short wavy blade. Likewise the jeweled dagger in the National Iranian Jewels Collection has a traditional Iranian shape. The dagger is slightly longer than usual, having a length of almost 1.5 ft (18 ins or 40 cm), and slightly curved to one side. The handle of the dagger and the apex of the sheath are encrusted with jewels such as spinels, diamonds and emeralds. The largest and most distinct jewels are the spinels of varying shapes such as square, rectangular, oval, pear etc. The largest spinel has a weight of 60 carats. The diamonds and the emeralds are much smaller in size and embedded between the spinels. A row of diamonds can be seen embedded at the end of the handle. An inscription on the dagger identifies it as belonging to the period of Fath Ali Shah.


The Ruby Dagger

Ruby Dagger

The Ruby dagger is a dagger with a straight blade, and unusually long, having a length of nearly 2 ft. (23 ins. or 57 cm). The whole length of the dagger, the handle and the sheath are entirely encrusted with cabochon type rubies of varying sizes, on a golden background and the largest rubies are about 10 carats in weight. But, unfortunately nothing much is known about this dagger, such as its period of origin or the ruler to whom it belonged.


The Naderi Shield

The Naderi shield made up of the tough hide of an animal believed to be a rhinoceros is about 1.5 ft ( 46 cm or 18 ins) in diameter. Nadir Shah is said to have carried this shield into battle during his campaigns in Afghanistan and India. But, the shield then was plain and not studded with jewels as we see it today. Even the bow used by him and kept in the Golestan Palace is plain, covered with a coating of varnish, and devoid of any adornments. Thus the encrustation of the shield with jewels like emeralds, rubies, spinels and diamonds must have been carried out at a later date, in his honor, possibly during the time of Fath Ali Shah.

The Naderi Shield

The Naderi Shield like Fath Ali Shah’s hat ornament, is a superb artistic creation and a perfect example of symmetry and mathematical precision. The center of the mosaic is occupied by one of the largest spinels in the world weighing 225 carats, and surrounded by a row of tiny colorless diamonds. The spinel is at the center of an eight-rayed star made up of smaller diamonds, rubies and emeralds. The space between the rays are occupied alternatively by a large emerald and a smaller ruby, each of them being surrounded by a row of small diamonds. As we move further out in the mosaic we can see eight large emeralds placed in tandem with the emeralds and rubies occupying the space between the rays of the star. Emeralds matching in size and shape are placed at opposite ends of the outer circle of emeralds. Thus as far as the larger jewels are concerned, we can identify four distinct rows, one vertical, one horizontal, and the two rows in between these two. The vertical and horizontal rows have the following jewels from one end to the other :- emerald, ruby, spinel, ruby, emerald. The jewels in the other two rows are in the following order :- emerald, emerald, spinel, emerald, emerald. The horizontal and vertical outer emeralds are surrounded by similar elaborate patterns made out of diamonds and rubies. The other four outer emeralds are surrounded by less elaborate but similar patterns also made up of diamonds. The border design extending right round the shield is also studded with diamonds, rubies and emeralds.

Thus the Naderi Shield is a combination of mathematical precision and artistic refinement. The designer of this unique piece of jewelry art would undoubtedly have faced an arduous task of sorting out matching diamonds to be placed at corresponding positions in the mosaic. Even today the setting of less complicated jewelry with matching jewels is quite a difficult task in spite of the precision equipment available for cutting matching jewels. How this enormously difficult task was achieved more than 200 years ago without any precision equipment, using archaic cutting tools, defies one’s imagination. Therefore the Naderi Shield with its intricate jewelry design will forever remain as a living monument to the great artistic and manipulatory skills of the ancient Iranian jewelry designer.

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Iranian Crown Jewels: Part 4

Jewel-studded utility items among the Iranian Crown jewels

Among the fabulous collection of jewels in the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels there are several household utility items which under normal circumstances may not qualify to be included among the Crown Jewels of a nation, but these items belonged to the royal palaces of the mighty Iranian Kings and were studded with the most expensive of jewels like diamonds, emeralds, rubies and spinels, and sometimes cast out of expensive metals like gold and silver, and thus became part of the Crown Jewels of Iran. The jewel-studded household items turned out of gold and silver give an indication as to the extravagant life styles led by the Iranian monarchs. The philosophy behind such extravagance seemed to be that the kings were chosen by God, and being representatives of the divine on earth deserved an extraordinary life style that elevated them from the rest of humanity.

The utility items found among the Iranian Crown Jewels are :-

1) water decanter and basin 2) the jeweled flacon 3) the royal dish cover 4) the candle holder 5) the coffee cup holder


1) Water Decanter and Basin

The water decanter and basin was a common household item used in Iran by people of all classes and was used for washing one’s hands before and after meals. Perhaps the water decanter and basin could have had an alternative use in Islamic Iran, for taking one’s ablutions before the five daily prayers.

However the water decanter and basin used in the royal household was very special made of gold and encrusted with jewels such as emeralds , rubies, pearls and spinels. The period of origin of the water decanter and basin among the Iranian Crown Jewels is not exactly known, but European travelers of the 17th and 18th century had reported the usage of such items in the royal household and by the common people of Iran. This corresponds to the period of rule of the Safavid dynasty after Abbas I (1588-1629) until the end of the dynasty in 1722 after the murder of Shah Sultan Hussain (1694-1722). The period of rule of the Afsharids Nadir Shah and Shah Rukh, Karim Khan of the Zand dynasty, and Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar the founder of the Qajar dynasty, also falls in the 18th century.

Water Decanter and Basin

According to the European travelers the water decanter was used to wash the hands of the Shah and his guests before and after meals. The water used for this purpose was lukewarm water scented with rose water. A servant of the royal household would pour the water on the Shah’s hands by tilting the decanter, while another servant held the basin beneath the hands to collect the discarded water. The two servants would then go round the table treating the Shah’s guests likewise. Whenever the Shah left the palace on an official tour of a certain region of his domain all his personal items such as his slippers, his water pipe and tobacco humidifier, including the water decanter and basin, and the other symbols of royal authority such as his sword, the mace and staff was carried by his entourage.

The decanter which is made up of solid gold is 42.5 cm in height and has a weight of 4.224 Kg. The entire surface of the decanter is encrusted with jewels, including the spout, the handle, and the lid. The jewels used are emeralds, rubies, pearls and spinels. Starting from the base of the decanter distinct layers of parallel motifs running right round the circumference of the decanter can be recognized. One of the most distinct designs repeated more often within these parallel zones is the flower motif with a large emerald at the center and surrounded by smaller rubies arranged in the form of petals. On the wide body of the decanter while in the lower parallel zone the emerald is at the center surrounded by petals of rubies, in the upper parallel zone the jewels are reversed with a large ruby at the center and surrounded by petals of emeralds. The largest emerald on the decanter is 30 carats and the largest ruby is 22 carats.

The basin which is 10.5 cm high is divided into two parts; a wider, circular, shallow, dish-shaped upper part with a diameter of 29.5 cm, which fits on to a narrower, deeper and pot-shaped lower part. The base of the upper part is actually a sieve through which water enters the lower pot, and can be discarded when full. The basin is also made up of solid gold, but covered with enamel decorations, and encrusted with emeralds, the largest of which is 25 carats. The weight of the basin is 1.87 Kg.


2 ) The Jeweled Flacon

There is evidence to show that long-necked flacons were in use in Iran even as far back as the 15th century. Some of the Persian miniatures of this period clearly depict these flacons. These flacons are also visible in several miniatures of Fath Ali Shah drawn during the early 19th century.

It is not exactly known to which period in history or to which ruler this flacon belonged. Long-necked flacons were traditionally used for wine in European societies, but in Islamic Iran it is doubtful whether it was used for this purpose, even though the city of Shiraz had been at one time famous for its wine. Flacons were in common use in the royal courts of the Iranian Shah’s, but it is highly improbable that the Shah’s would have permitted the use of wine in their courts, as most of them were devout followers of Islam which prohibited the use of spirits. Thus it is possible that these flacons were used for other drinks served in the royal courts such as coffee and sherbert.

The Jeweled Flacon

The flacon which has a height of 46 cm, is flask-shaped with an expanded base and a long narrow neck gradually becoming broader towards its mouth. The greatest diameter of the flacon falling in the expanded base is equal to 15.4 cm. The lid that fits into the mouth of the flacon is shaped like an hour glass, and a row of pearls hang from its upper edge. The whole surface of the flacon is encrusted with jewels, which include diamonds, emeralds, spinels, rubies and pearls. The large emeralds and the spinels are placed in symmetrical positions in the expanded region of the flacon and are surrounded by smaller white diamonds. The gaps in between are also filled by white diamonds. The neck and the lid are also studded with smaller diamonds. There are two large emeralds on the flacon weighing 45 carats each. The largest spinel on the flacon weigh 35 carats.


The Royal Dish Cover

Dish covers were used in the royal household to cover the food served into food bowls, in order to keep the food warm. The royal kitchens were situated quite far from the royal dining room. Therefore after the food was served into food bowls, they were covered immediately with dish covers in order to prevent the cooling of the food, and perhaps the poisoning of the food during its transfer from the kitchen to the dining hall.

Royal Dish Cover

There are many jewel studded dish covers in the treasury of the National Iranian Jewels but all of them conform to the same basic pattern. They are all circular in shape with a dome-shaped center, which acted like a handle. there is a broad lip at the edge, which covered the edge of the dish.

The jewel-studded dish cover in the picture is made of solid gold, and has a diameter of 19 cm and a height of 10cm at center of the dome. The summit of the dome is occupied by a large diamond surrounded by eight pearls. The dome itself is encrusted with emeralds, spinels, and diamonds of varying sizes. There is a ring of smaller spinels right round the base of the dome. Another ring of spinels is found towards the summit of the dome. Somewhere in between on the dome four large emeralds and four large spinels are placed alternating with one another, in the form of a ring. The large emeralds are surrounded by triangular-shaped white diamonds, in the form of a floral pattern. The circular flat area surrounding the dome is studded with six large emeralds and six large spinels alternating with one another, and each surrounded by a row of smaller diamonds. The twelve emeralds and spinels occupy the same positions as numbers on the dial of a circular clock. Just as many other masterpieces in the collection, such as the Naderi Shield, the design on this dish cover also combines mathematical precision with artistic beauty.


4) The Candlestick holder

In keeping with the status of royal palaces belonging to the mighty Shah’s, besides the interior decorations and the furniture every single item used in the palace including the humble candlestick reflects an aura of regality. Thus the candlestick holder shown in the picture is only one of two such items preserved in the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels, with its unique decorative design, befitting its royal origins.

Candle Stick Holder

It’s height is 40 cm (16 in) and has a broad dish like decorative base with a wave like margin. The metals used for the holder is not known, but has an enameled surface studded with jewels like diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls. The weight of the holder is 5 Kg equivalent to 12 lbs. The base of the central column is conical-shaped, and somewhere just above the half-way point on the column, an umbrella shaped expansion with serrated edges is attached, with a combination of pearls and beads hanging from the pointed end of each serration. The inner surface of the dish-like base, the central column and the upper surface of the umbrella-shaped expansion, are all encrusted with jewels.

It is said that two candle stick holders were placed on either side of the Peacock Throne during formal ceremonies of the royal court.


5) The Coffee-Cup Holder

Coffee as a beverage was first introduced into Arabia in the 15th century, even though the plant was first discovered in Ethiopia by the Arabs and its exhilarating effects were known as early as 850 A.D. Soon after this the coffee drinking habit spread rapidly among the Arabs and later the Persians. Coffee was introduced as a beverage in Europe only in the 16th and 17th centuries. Coffee became the favorite beverage of the monarchies of Arabia and Persia during this period. The main coffee growing area in the world during this period was the region of Yemen in southern Arabia. It is from Yemen that the coffee plant was introduced into Iran, where coffee became a popular beverage after the 15th century.

The Coffee Cup Holder

Coffee as a universal beverage is served either hot or cold, and either as plain black coffee or mixed with milk. In the court of the Iranian Monarchies coffee was served plain and hot and usually after meals in small round-bottomed cups made of ceramic or glass. The cups were placed in special coffee cup holders made out of white gold. The interior of the coffee cup holder was plated with a layer of yellow gold and the exterior was encrusted with blue turquoise cabochons that was found abundantly in Nishapur, in Iran. The height of a cup holder was about 5.5 cm (2.2 in).

References :-

1) The Crown Jewels of Iran – by Dr. Victor E. Meen

2) The Encyclopaedia Britannica – 2006

3) The Legacy of Persia – A. J. Arberry (1968)

4) A History of Persia – Percy Sykes (1969)

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Iranian Crown Jewels: Part 3

Special Settings in the Iranian Crown Jewels

Among the Iranian Crown Jewels exhibited at the Treasury of the National Iranian Jewels, there are several jewel studded special settings that contribute to the overall beauty and value of the collection. Some of these special settings are :- 1) The jewel-studded globe 2) Special setting of the Darya-i-Nur and 3) The jewel-studded sphere

Some of these special settings were constructed on the orders of the ruling Shah of the period with two main objectives in mind. The primary objective of making these settings was to make use of the enormous quantities of loose jewels in the treasury, so as to minimize the chances of pilferage, which was possible when jewels were kept in the loose state. The secondary objective was to turn out something of artistic value which could be preserved for posterity.


1) The Jewel-Studded Globe

The jewel-studded globe is without any doubt one of the most extravagant in the history of jeweled creations in the world with a staggering 35 Kgs. of gold and 51,000 jewels going into its production. The construction of the globe was ordered during the rule of Nasser-ed-Din Shah (1848-96) , with the main intention of ensuring the safety of the enormous quantities of loose jewels in the treasury. Nasser-ed-Din Shah together with his great-grandfather Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834), are credited with the greatest contributions made in re-assembling and enriching the Iranian Crown Jewels, after the plunder of the wealth of Isfahan including the Crown jewels of the Safavid dynasty in 1722, by the Afghan invader Mahmud.

The Jewel Studded Globe

The globe together with its stand has a height of 110 cm and diameter of 45 cm, and like all other terrestrial globes is mounted with the axis tilted at 23.5? to the vertical, and bears a map of the earth on its surface. The globe itself is made up of solid gold, but the stand and the frame holding the globe are made out of wood, covered with a layer of gold. The variety of jewels used on the globe include diamonds, emeralds, rubies, spinels and sapphires. The land masses on the globe are encrusted with rubies and spinels, the largest ruby being 75 carats and spinel 110 carats. The oceans and seas are shown with emeralds, the largest emerald being 175 carats. An interesting feature of the globe is that the countries of Iran, Britain, France and some South Asian countries are shown in diamonds, and the largest diamond used is around 15 carats.

The jewel-studded globe is perhaps the one and only of its type that exists in the world today, and without any doubt the most magnificent globe in existence.


2) Special Setting of the Darya-i-Nur (Sea of Light) Diamond

The pale pink table-cut diamond, the Darya-i-Nur (Sea of Light), weighing 186 carats, is the largest pink diamond in the world, and originated in the famous Kollur diamond mines of Southern India. It was believed to be part of the “Grand Table Diamond” or “Diamanta Grand Table” which Tavernier saw when he visited Golconda in 1642, during one of his many trips to India in the 17th century. Tavernier also reported that the “Great Table Diamond” was at one time mounted on the famous “Peacock Throne” of Shah Jahaan. Modern diamond historians in trying to trace the whereabouts of the “Great Table Diamond” eventually concluded that the 186-carat table-cut “Darya-i-Nur” diamond which formed part of the Iranian Crown Jewels, may possibly be a part of this diamond, and another 60-carat oval pink diamond known as the Nur-ul-Ain which also belonged to the Iranian Crown Jewels may be another part. A team of Canadian Experts who conducted research on the Iranian Crown Jewels in 1965, also came to the same conclusion, and it is now generally accepted that the Great Table Diamond was cleaved into two parts during the rule of one of the Mogul Emperors after Shah Jahaan, and the major portion was transformed into the Darya-i-Nur, and the lesser portion into the Nur-ul-Ain.

The Darya-i-Noor Diamond Special Setting

In 1739, Nadir Shah invaded the Mogul capital cities of Delhi and Agra, prompted partly by his desire to lay his hands on the riches of the wealthiest kingdom in the world during that period, and partly by his desire to punish the Mogul rulers for failure to return some of the Crown Jewels of Iran belonging to the Safavid dynasty plundered earlier in 1722 by Mahmud of Kandahar. Nadir Shah carried with him an enormous booty that included the Peacock throne of Shah Jahaan, and several famous diamonds like the Koh-i-Noor, the Darya-i-Nur, the Nur-ul-Ain etc. The two diamonds the Darya-i-Nur and the Nur-ul-Ain subsequently became two of the most celebrated diamonds in the Iranian Crown Jewels.

After Nadir Shah’s assassination in 1747, the Darya-i-Nur fell into the hands of his blind grandson Shah Rukh, who ruled the Afsharid State based in Khorasan with its capital at Mashhad, between 1748 to 1796. After Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar attacked and captured Khorasan and Mashhad in 1796, Shah Rukh was taken prisoner, and was subsequently tortured and forced to surrender all the jewels he possessed, including the Darya-i-Nur. In 1797, after the assassination of Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar, the Darya-i-Nur came into the possession of his nephew and successor Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834), who got his name inscribed on one facet of the diamond. After Fath Ali Shah the diamond was inherited by his grandson and successor Muhammad Shah (1834-1848), from whom it descended to his son and successor Nasser-ed-Din Shah (1848-96).

After Nasser-ed-Din Shah inherited the Darya-i-Nur diamond he wore it as an arm band for sometime believing that the diamond at one time decorated the Crown of Cyrus the Great. Later he also wore it as a brooch, but subsequently he ordered his jewelers to make a special mount for the diamond. The royal jewelers mounted the Darya-i-Nur on an elaborate rectangular frame, 7.2 cm by 5.3 cm , set with 457 smaller diamonds, and 4 rubies, surmounted by the royal symbols of the lion and the sun, signifying the Aryan origin of the Iranian people. The Darya-i-Nur diamond has been preserved in the same setting up to date.



3) The Jewel-Studded Sphere

The jeweled sphere is another extravagant special setting like the jeweled globe but precedes the jeweled globe perhaps by several decades. A comparison of the two settings may be interesting and informative.

While the jeweled sphere was produced during the time of Fath Ali Shah (1797 – 1834), the jeweled globe was produced much later during the time of Fath Ali Shah’s great-grand-son Nasser-ed Din Shah (1848-96).

While the jeweled sphere has a diameter of 7.5 cm, the jeweled globe has a diameter of 45 cm. Thus the jeweled globe is six times bigger than the jeweled sphere.

The Jewel Studded Sphere

While the jeweled sphere had an aesthetic value and perhaps some significance as a plaything for the mighty Shah, or a symbol of power, the jeweled globe had both an aesthetic and educational value.

While the jeweled sphere was encrusted with fewer number of jewels, the surface area of the sphere being only one-sixth of the surface area of the globe, the jewels were much larger in size than the jewels of the globe. On the other hand the surface area of the globe being six times greater than the surface area of the sphere, the globe accommodated an enormous number of jewels totaling up to 51,000, even though the jewels were smaller in size.

While the jeweled sphere was free and had no special mounting, the jeweled globe was mounted on a frame with a stand, and with its axis tilted at 23.5? to the vertical.

While the weight of the jeweled sphere is only a quarter kilo (250 grams), in the jeweled globe the weight of gold alone is a staggering 35 Kg.

The jeweled sphere like the Naderi shield, the royal dish cover, and Fath Ali Shah’s hat ornament, is an example of perfect mathematical symmetry and precision. At either end of the sphere is a large circular white diamond, surrounded by a single-layered zone of trapezium-shaped rubies. The next zone from the top is a single layer of semi-circular shaped emeralds, followed by a layer of leaf-shaped diamonds. The triangular gap between the apices of the leaf-shaped diamonds are occupied by small rubies. The next zone coinciding with the mid-circumference of the sphere, consists of six equally spaced oval-shaped white diamonds, with the intervening spaces occupied two symmetrically placed pear-shaped rubies, and two leaf-shaped emeralds in between the pear-shaped rubies. The remaining gaps in this zone are filled by rubies. The lower half of the sphere is occupied by six equally spaced large circular spinels, each surrounded by ten oval-shaped diamonds of the same size. The space between the large spinels are occupied by a vertical row of rectangular rubies. The large spinels surrounded by diamonds are positioned just below the two leaf-shaped emeralds in the zone just above it. At least another leaf-shaped emerald is paced in line with the previous two leaf shaped emeralds, but below it, so that each large spinel surrounded by white diamonds appear to be a fruit subtended by green leaves.

The mathematical symmetry and precision of this masterpiece in the Iranian Crown Jewels, baffles the modern generation of jewelry craftsmen and enthusiasts, as to how such great precision was achieved, when the tools available for craftsmen of the early 19th century were not so sophisticated as the tools available to the modern craftsmen. The jeweled sphere, in spite of doubts as for what purpose it was used for, undoubtedly is a living monument to the advanced skills possessed by the Iranian craftsmen of the 19th century.

References :-

1) The Crown Jewels of Iran – by Dr. Victor E. Meen

2) The Legacy of Persia – A. J. Arberry (1968)

3) A History of Persia – Percy Sykes (1969)

4) The Encyclopaedia Britannica – 2006

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Iranian Crown Jewels: Part 2

Loose Precious and Semi-precious stones of the Iranian Crown jewels

There are large numbers of loose diamonds and other gemstones among the magnificent collection of jewels and jewelry belonging to the National Iranian Jewels on display at the Treasury of the Central Bank in Iran. The loose gemstones found are sorted into five different categories :-

1) Loose white diamonds 2) Loose Indian Diamonds 3) Loose Iranian Yellow diamonds 4) Loose emeralds 5) Loose Spinels


1) Loose white diamonds

Among the National Iranian Jewels there are several larger diamonds that are displayed individually, but besides this there are collections of large numbers of smaller diamonds that are displayed together in trays. The collection of loose white diamonds is one such collection displayed on a brown colored circular plastic tray of diameter 20cm.

Loose White Diamonds among the Iranian Crown Jewels

An interesting feature of the collection of about 75 white diamonds on the plate is that most of them bear the ancient Indian cut in which the diamond is cut in the form of a thin slab or sheet of different shapes such as rectangular, square, pear, oval etc. with a polished upper and lower surface and simple facets on the sides. The diamonds do not have a pavilion and culet as modern cut diamonds, and are known as table-cut diamonds also referred to a lasque. This simple diamond cut was developed by ancient Indian diamond cutters in keeping with the simple tools, techniques and material available at that time.

Another interesting feature of the white diamonds displayed on the tray, is their extreme purity. Most of the diamonds would qualify for an internally flawless (IF) clarity grade, the highest clarity grade for diamonds. Likewise most of the diamonds would qualify for a D-color grading, which is the highest color grading for colorless diamonds, also referred to as absolutely colorless.

Thus without any doubt we can say that these white diamonds in the National Iranian Jewels collection, are all type IIa diamonds, which constitute about 1-2 % of all naturally occurring diamonds. These diamonds are absolutely colorless because they are chemically pure and structurally perfect diamonds. They are chemically pure because all chemical impurities that can cause color in diamonds such as nitrogen, boron and hydrogen are absent. They are structurally perfect as the diamonds have a perfect crystal structure, without any plastic deformations. Structural abnormalities in diamonds produce rare fancy colors such as red, purple, and pink and also brown color. In the absence of all factors that can cause color in diamonds, these diamonds are absolutely colorless and are known as D-color diamonds according to the GIA color grading for colorless diamonds.

Another interesting fact about these white diamonds is that we can predict the source of these diamonds from their characteristics. The important characteristics of the diamonds are :-

1) The ancient Indian table-cut of the diamonds.

2) The absolute purity of the diamonds without any inclusions.

3) The absolutely colorless nature of the diamonds.

Such diamonds are variously known as “diamonds of the purest water,” “purest of the pure,” ” whiter than white, brighter than bright” etc. From the above three characteristics we can safely predict that the diamonds are of Indian origin, and the one and only source of diamonds of the purest water in the world around this time was the famous Kollur mines of Golconda in Southern India, near Hyderabad. The Golconda mines were famous for the production of diamonds of the highest quality, with incredible transparency, whiteness and purity. Today the word Golconda is used to refer to any white diamond mined from any part of the world, which has the same high quality as the renowned Golconda diamonds. Thus Golconda diamonds have set a standard for comparing white diamonds produced in different parts of the world.


2) Loose Indian diamonds

There are large numbers of loose diamonds on display in the Museum of the Treasury of the National Iranian Jewels. Most of these diamonds are of Indian origin and became part of the Iranian Crown Jewels after Nadir Shah’s expedition into Northern India motivated partly by his desire to lay his hands on the wealth of the richest kingdom in the world at that time, the Mogul Empire, and partly as punishment for retaining stolen Iranian Crown Jewels of the Safavid dynasty, previously plundered by the Afghans in 1722. Nadir Shah carried an enormous booty that included the famous Peacock Throne of Shah Jahaan, and famous diamonds like the Koh-i-Nur, the Darya-i-Nur, the Nur-ul-Ain, the Taj-i-Mah, etc. and also several chests full of pearls, diamonds, emeralds, rubies etc. Most of these diamonds were undoubtedly mined in the five groups of mines in the river basins of the eastern Deccan Plateau in Southern and Central India, because India was the only known source of diamonds in the world during that period. The most prolific of these mines were the Kollur mines near Golconda in Southern India.

The Taj-i-Mah and other Indian Loose Diamonds in the Iranian Crown Jewels

Out of the larger diamonds in the Iranian Crown Jewels the three legendary diamonds are the Darya-i-Nur, the Nur-ul-Ain, and the Taj-i-mah diamonds. The Darya-i-Nur was mounted on a special setting consisting of 457 other smaller diamonds and 4 rubies surmounted by the royal symbols of the lion and the sun, on the orders of Nasser-ed-Din Shah (1848-96), and is still preserved in the same setting. The Nur-ul-Ain was incorporated into a special tiara designed and constructed by Harry Winston in 1958 for the occasion of Empress Farah Diba’s wedding to Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.

The 115-carat, Mogul-cut or Indian rose-cut Taj-i-Mah diamond, on the other hand remained unmounted, and today it is the largest unmounted or loose diamond among the collection of Iranian Crown Jewels.

Out of the five loose Indian diamonds shown in the picture the bottom left diamond is the 115-carat, mogul-cut, colorless Taj-i-Mah diamond. The Taj-i-Mah diamond was mined either in the Sambalpur mines on the banks of the Mahanadi River, one of the most ancient diamond mines in India, or in the famous Golconda mines on the banks of the Kistna River. It entered the court of the Mogul emperors before the invasion of Delhi and Agra by Nadir Shah in 1739. The Taj-i-Mah originally weighed 146 carats, and according to Sir John Malcolm, the British Diplomat who visited Persia in the early 19th century and had the privilege of an audience with the mighty Fath Ali Shah, and was given the rare opportunity of seeing the fantastic collection of Iranian Crown Jewels, the Taj-i-Mah and Darya-i-Nur diamonds were the principal diamonds in a pair of bracelets, valued at nearly a million sterling. Thus it appears that the Taj-i-Mah diamond had been removed from this bracelet setting sometime after Fath Ali Shah’s reign, and had also been re-cut to its present weight of 115 carats.

The remaining four diamonds in the picture are also mogul-cut or Indian rose-cut diamonds having weights of 72.5 carats, 54.5 carats, 54.35 carats and 47.5 carats, from the largest to the smallest diamond. The Mogul-cut or rose-cut was developed by ancient Indian diamond cutters, and consists essentially of a crown with a table facet and several triangular facets arranged in a symmetrical radiating pattern from the table facet. There is no pavilion and the bottom of the stone is left flat, like the table-cut diamonds. The Indian rose-cut was later adopted by western diamond cutters based in Antwerp in the middle of the 16th century.


3) Loose Iranian Yellow diamonds

The Iranian Yellow Diamonds are all of South African Origin and were acquired by Nasser-ed-Din Shah on his third trip to Europe in 1889. Altogether there are 22 diamonds in this collection, the largest which is a rectangular old brilliant-cut having a weight of 152.16 carats, and the smallest, a multi faceted trapezoid-cut having a weight of 38.18 carats.

Loose Iranian Yellow Diamonds

The list of the 22 Iranian Yellow Diamonds, in which the old-world color grading is converted to the modern GIA color grading, is given in the table below. According to this table the diamonds vary in color from colorless (D-F) to faint yellow (K-M), to very light yellow (N-R) and light yellow (S-Z).

Diamond No. 11 in the list is a champagne colored diamond, which is a brown diamond of unknown shade. Diamond No. 19 is described as a peach colored diamond which must be a diamond of pinkish-orange color.


Revised table of 22 Iranian Yellow Diamonds incorporating the GIA color grading



Carat Weight Shape/Cut Old world color grade GIA color grade

G. I. A. description

1 152.16 rectangular old brilliant silver cape K-M faint yellow
2 135.45 high cushion brilliant cape N-R very light yellow
3 123.93 high cushion brilliant silver cape K-M faint yellow
4 121.90 multi-faceted octahedron cape N-R very light yellow
5 114.28 high cushion brilliant silver cape K-M faint yellow
6 86.61 rounded triangular brilliant cape N-R very light yellow
7 86.28 irregular Mogul cut silver cape K-M faint yellow
8 78.96 high cushion brilliant cape N-R very light yellow
9 75.00 pendeloque brilliant silver cape K-M faint yellow
10 75.00 pendeloque brilliant silver cape K-M faint yellow
11 72.84 irregular pear shape champagne
12 66.57 cushion brilliant silver cape K-M faint yellow
13 65.65 rectangular brilliant cape N-R very light yellow
14 60.00 cushion brilliant dark cape S-Z light yellow
15 57.85 round brilliant silver cape K-M faint yellow
16 57.15 cushion brilliant silver cape K-M faint yellow
17 56.19 cushion brilliant silver cape K-M faint yellow
18 54.58 irregular oval Mogul cut finest white D-F colorless
19 54.35 high cushion brilliant peach
20 53.50 high cushion brilliant silver cape K-M faint yellow
21 51.90 elliptical Mogul cut finest white D-F colorless
22 38.18 multi-faceted trapezoid cut finest white D-F colorles


The triangular brilliant-cut diamond with rounded ends shown at the middle left of the picture is 86.61 carats. The largest diamond in the center is the 135.45-carat cushion-cut diamond. Most of the diamonds in this collection being faint yellow to light yellow in color are type Ia diamonds, in which the color is caused by aggregates of three nitrogen atoms called N3 centers. Aggregates of 2 and 4 atoms of nitrogen are also present but do not affect the color of diamonds.


4) Loose emeralds

Hundreds or perhaps thousands of loose emeralds of varying sizes and shapes and dark green in color are exhibited in rectangular boxes and rounded trays in a special display case known as the emerald display case at the museum. This is the same display case where the ivory-handled sword is displayed on the lower shelf of the case, together with Nasser-ed-Din Shah’s epaulettes studded with 300 diamonds are two large emeralds. Several brooches, necklaces and other items of emerald are also found on the lower shelf. A special display panel shows 13 large emerald rings in which the largest emerald weighs 16 carats and the smallest 8 carats.

Some of the loose Emeralds among the Iranian Crown Jewels

French jeweler and traveler Chardin, visited Iran in the mid-17th century, during the Safavid era, probably during the reign of Shah Abbas II (1642-66). In his travelogue Chardin wrote that while in Iran he often encountered people who were wearing 15 to 16 rings on their hands, and often wearing 5 or 6 rings on the same finger. With the fall of the Safavid dynasty in 1722, and the rise of the Qajar dynasty the rings went out of fashion, even among the court ladies, possibly due to the increase in popularity of the long sleeves which covered even the hands. Subsequently, after the end of the Safavid dynasty and the rise of the Pahlavi dynasty, popularity of rings picked up again.

Emeralds are the most commonly used variety of precious stones in almost all the settings of the Iranian Crown Jewels. This shows that the royal courts of the Shahs of Iran had a continuous supply of these valuable precious stones and the only source of emeralds in the world at that time was the South American countries of Brazil and Colombia. Ancient sources of emeralds were Egypt, Austria, and the Swat region of Northern India which is now in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan.

More loose emeralds among the Iranian Crown Jewels

Emeralds are a type of beryl (Beryllium Aluminum Silicate), in which the green color is caused by traces of chromium and sometime Vanadium. They have a hardness of 7.5 to 8.0 on the Mohs scale, a refractive index of 1.576 – 1.582, and a specific gravity of 2.70 – 2.78. Flaws, cracks and inclusions are common in emeralds, which can affect their clarity, and consequently their value. Like diamonds the value of emeralds depend on the 4 Cs, color, cut, clarity and carat weight. The color of emeralds can have different shades of green and bluish green. Emeralds of good clarity and dark green colors command the highest prices. Most of the Iranian emeralds are dark green emeralds with good clarity, but the cut employed is the simple cabochon cut, of various shapes such as round, oval, pear, square, rectangular etc. without any facets. Perhaps this was because faceting techniques was not so developed at the time these emeralds were cut and polished.


5) Loose Spinels

Spinels were also commonly used in most of the settings of the Iranian Crown jewels in combination with other gemstones like emeralds, rubies and diamonds. Most of the extraordinarily large red stones in the crown jewels are actually spinels, and not rubies. Perhaps in the past spinels were also considered as rubies as it was not possible to distinguish between the two categories of minerals. This accounts for the occurrence of several large spinels on the crowns and other jewelry belonging to the monarchy from around the world, including the 170-carat Black Prince ruby on the Imperial State Crown of England, which is actually a spinel. Likewise the 361-carat historic Timur ruby presently owned by Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom is actually not a ruby but a spinel.

Loose Spinels of the Iranian Crown Jewels

Two extraordinarily large spinels, uncut but polished, one weighing 500 carats and the other 270 carats are on display at the Museum of the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels. The spinel shown on the left of the photograph is the 500-carat Samarian spinel which is the largest spinel in the world. It is blood-red in color and polished without faceting, with a hole on one side. According to legend the stone is believed to have adorned the neck of the biblical golden calf which the Israelis are said to have made while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments.

The second largest spinel in the world weighing 398.72 carats and mounted on the Great Imperial Crown of Catherine the Great, is part of the Russian Crown Jewels and exhibited in the Museum of the Kremlin Diamond Fund.

The 361-carat Timur Ruby which is part of the British Crown Jewels is the third largest spinel in the world, and has the names of Mogul Emperors who once owned it engraved on one side of the diamond.

The 270-carat uncut but polished spinel on the right of the photograph is perhaps the fourth largest spinel in the world, and has great historical significance, as it has a 350-year old inscription on one side, indicating that it was once owned by the Mogul Emperor Jehangir Shah (1605-27), the son of the Mighty Akbar the Great (1556-1605), and the father of the famous Shah Jahaan (1628-58), the builder of the Taj Mahal.

Jehangir Shah is reported to have said that “This stone shall make my name more famous than the entire dynasty of Tamerlane.” in response to criticism for inscribing his name on the spinel. When Jehangir Shah made this statement between 1605 and 1627, Tamerlane’s dynasty had already died out in 1506 after the last great Timurid Husain Baygarah who ruled between 1478 and 1506. But, as predicted Jehangir Shah’s name still lives on inscribed on this 270-carat spinel as well as on other gemstones in the Iranian treasury and other foreign museums. It is said that Nadir Shah also used this gemstone as an armband during his reign.


References :-

1) The Crown jewels of Iran -Dr. Victor E. Meen

2) Encyclopaedia Britannica – 2006

3) A History of Persia – Percy Sykes (1969)

4) The Legacy of Persia – A.J. Arberry (1968)

5) Wikipedia – Iranian Crown Jewels

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Iranian Crown Jewels: Part 1

Jewel-studded adornments

Among the fabulous collection of jewelry in the Iranian Crown Jewels exhibited at the Museum of the Treasury of the National Iranian Jewels there are several jewel-studded ornaments that were used by the Shahs and Shahbanous that ruled Iran over the centuries, particularly after the period of the Qajar king Fath Ali Shah (1797-1834). Some of the important items of jewelry that come under this category are :-

1) The emerald and diamond necklace 2) Bracelets 3) Pearl brooches 4) Diamond and platinum necklace 5) Sapphire and diamond brooch 6) Pearl necklaces 7) Emerald bead necklace 8) Emerald brooch and necklace 9) Jeweled armband 10) The emerald belt 11) Flat diamond brooches 12) Coronation necklace.


1) The emerald and diamond necklace

The diamond and emerald necklace in the Iranian Crown Jewels is a unique piece of jewelry, noted for its perfect symmetry and mathematical precision combined with artistic beauty, that has become a living monument to the artistic skills of the jewelry designers of the distant past. The necklace undoubtedly belonged to the period of Fath Ali Shah who ruled from the end of 18th century to the mid-19th century. Documentary evidence shows that this beautiful necklace once belonged to a young lady with the respectable title of Ghamar-o-Saltaneh. Historians believe that this is a reference to none other than the Qajar Princess, who had descended from the family of Fath Ali Shah, who subsequently married Nasser-ed-Din Shah the great-grandson of Fath Ali Shah. In other words the necklace belonged to the mother of Mozaffar-ed Din Shah, the son and successor to Nasser-ed Din Shah.

Emerald and Diamond Necklace

The necklace is made of silver, but the diamonds and emeralds are mounted on frames of gold. The upper half of the necklace is single stranded, but the lower half is double stranded. From the double stranded section of the necklace seven single stranded loops arise, out of which six loops are placed symmetrically, three on each side. The seventh loop which is placed centrally carries a pendant made up of a large cushion-shaped emerald surrounded by smaller cushion-shaped diamonds. All strands are made up of cushion-shaped or oval-shaped small diamonds, with similar emeralds placed symmetrically at regular intervals on the strand. Cushion-shaped similar emeralds are also placed symmetrically at the intersections of the loops. Similar drop shaped emerald pendeloques (pear-shaped drop-cut) and briolettes (elongated pear-shaped drop-cut) are placed at symmetrical positions on the necklace. A careful study of the necklace brings out the mathematical precision and perfect symmetry of the necklace.


2) Bracelets

Most of the pieces of jewelry in the Crown Jewels of Iran, contain a combination of jewels such as emeralds, rubies, spinels, diamonds, and sometimes turquoise. These are the gemstones commonly used in the settings. Pieces containing gemstones other than the above commonly used ones are very rare. The two bracelets shown in the photograph seem to be exceptions.

Garnet and Pearl Bracelet in the Iranian Crown Jewels

The bracelet shown above contains a large clear red garnet weighing 70 carats as its centerpiece. The garnet is a cabochon-cut, oval-shaped stone, surrounded by a layer of small white diamonds. Two pearls are set on either side of the garnet, surrounded by a leaf-shaped row of small white diamonds. A hexagonal row of white diamonds broken on either side by leaf shaped row of diamonds, completes the main setting of the bracelet. The remaining part of the bracelet is a simple gold band without any setting.

The second bracelet shown below is a half-round, multicolored bracelet made up of a variety of gemstones, surrounded by a row of small white diamonds. The centerpiece of this bracelet is an oval-shaped, 35-carat, cabochon-cut blue sapphire.

Multicolored Bracelet with Blue Sapphire,Tourmaline,Chrysoberyl and Sardonyx

The gemstones to the left of the centerpiece are an oval-shaped 20-carat cabochon-cut tourmaline and an oval shaped, cabochon-cut sardonyx of unknown weight. The gemstones to the right are an oval-shaped, cabochon-cut, 25-carat chrysoberyl, and another sardonyx of unknown weight, but closely matches the first sardonyx in size.


3) Pearl Brooches

The pearl and diamond brooches in the Museum of the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels are unique artistic creations designed in the form of swans while swimming or in flight. The body of the swimming swan is made up of large white pearls, and the neck, wings and tail are made of enameled metal and studded with white diamonds. The webbed feet and beak are perhaps made out of gold. The body of the flying swan is made up of a large black pearl.

Pearl and Enamel Swan Brooches in the Swimming and Flying Postures

Nothing much is known about the history of these pearl brooches, such as their period of origin or the persons who used them.


4) Diamond and platinum necklace

Reza Shah Pahlavi the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty who ascended the throne of Iran in 1925, sent his son Mohammed Reza to Switzerland where he received his formal education. In 1935, Mohammed Reza returned to Iran, and soon after his return his father Reza Shah Pahlavi arranged for his marriage. On the occasion of this marriage a group of Iranian and French jewelers were assigned the task of designing and manufacturing jewelry for the royal wedding. The diamond and platinum necklace of the Iranian Crown jewels, was designed and manufactured for this wedding, for the use of the Shahbanou’s mother (Queen mother).

Diamond and Platinum Necklace

The necklace is a two-stranded necklace made out of platinum. Both strands are studded with diamonds. The inner strand is studded with smaller diamonds and the outer strand is studded with larger diamonds. Altogether there are 469 diamonds on the necklace. Nine of the diamonds are drop-shaped briolettes hanging from the lower strand. The central briolette is 45 carats in weight, and the remaining eight briolettes arranged symmetrically according to size as four briolettes on the right and four on the left, weigh between 10 to 35 carats.


5) Sapphire and diamond brooch

This brooch is also of unique design and made out of gold, sapphires and diamonds. The brooch consists of two sections, a lower oval-shaped wreath-like section, and an upper section in the form of a bouquet of flowers. The wreath-like section is made up of two oval-shaped concentric rings, made out of gold. The center of the wreath-like section is occupied by a large blue sapphire weighing 12 carats. the space between the two rings, and the inner ring and the central sapphire are occupied by diamond blossoms and leaves. Blue sapphires are also mounted between the two rings along the vertical and horizontal diameters of the rings.

The Sapphire and Diamond Brooch in the Iranian Crown Jewels

The bouquet of diamond and sapphire blossoms arise from the region of the upper blue sapphire along the vertical diameter. The blossoms have a long curved flower stalk made out of gold, and the blossoms themselves are made of diamonds or sapphires, subtended by bracts made out of diamonds. The height of the brooch along the vertical axis is 12 cm.


6) Pearl necklaces, belts, rosaries, and brooches

In the Museum of the Treasury of the Iranian Crown Jewels there are three special display cases allocated for the display of jewelry and other items made out of pearls. The items on display in this case include necklaces, belts, rosaries and brooches, besides a row of curtain tassels hanging at the top.

Pearl Necklaces Belts,Rosaries and Curtain Tassels

The necklaces seven in all and of different sizes are exhibited on the plastic mould of the neck and chest at the bottom center of the picture. Long emerald belts formed by stringing together pearl beads of uniform sizes, with tufts of wool on either side are exhibited at the center and sides. The belts at the center are made of larger pearls, and ones on the sides are made of smaller pearls. A large number of pearl rosaries are hanging on the center right of the display case. The row of curtain tassels hanging horizontally at the top of the display case are made out of hundreds of thousands of tiny pearls strung together and has a total weight of 20 Kg.

Most of the pearls used in the above settings were sourced from the famous and historic pearl fishing grounds of the Persian Gulf, noted for the production of the finest oriental salt water pearls. The pearls are found at a depth of 8 to 20 fathoms (48 to 120 feet). Even though white is the commonest color in which pearls are formed, depending on the species of the mollusk and the environment, pearls can also be formed in a variety of colors such as black, rose, gray, cream, green, blue, yellow, lavender (pale bluish purple), and mauve (pale reddish purple). Pearls also vary in size. The tiniest pearls weighing less than a quarter grain (12.5 mg) are known as “seed pearls” as the ones used in curtain tassels above. On the other hand some pearls like baroque pearls can grow to enormous sizes and weights up to 1860 grains have been recorded.

It is said that Fath Ali Shah was a lover of pearls, and several portraits of him, depict him virtually covered with strings of pearls. Whenever Fath Ali Shah went on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Qom, he removed all his jewelry adornments in keeping with tradition, but carried only a pearl rosary when he entered the city.


7) Emerald beaded necklace

A miniature portrait of Fath Ali Shah show him wearing a broad belt with a number of emerald beads hanging along its length, but this belt is not among the collection of Iranian Crown Jewels exhibited at the Museum of the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels. The fate of this belt is not known, but it appears that the beads on the emerald beaded necklace shown below are the same ones depicted on the lost belt. Thus experts who studied the Iranian Crown Jewels have suggested that the belt was dismantled at some stage after Farh Ali Shah’s rule and then re-assembled into the beaded necklace. At what time this transformation took place and the identity of the royal personality who used it are matters of conjecture.

Emerald Beaded Necklace in the Iranian Crown Jewels

The necklace is made up of 39 beads and an equal number of natural pearls. All beads are uniform and are equal in size and shape. They are spherical in shape with vertical ridges running from one end to the other. It is indeed puzzling how the jewelry craftsmen of the time were able to cut such beads of uniform size and shape, which in modern days is achieved only with state-of-the-art precision equipment. A hole seems to have been drilled along the length of the bead as well as through the small spherical pearl below it. A gold wire passing through both holes secures the pearl firmly to the bead, and ends in a hook on the other side of the emerald bead. The 39 emerald and pearl combinations are then strung together by a gold wire that passes through all the hooks, forming the beautiful necklace.

The emerald and diamond pendant shown above is exhibited together with the emerald beaded necklace, and was meant to be worn as a pendant to a necklace. It is set with three large emeralds and diamonds. The largest emerald weighing 80 carats, is drop shaped like a pendeloque and is suspended at the bottom of the pendant, from the frame set with diamonds. The second largest emerald is spherical in shape with ridges running longitudinally from one end to the other, and mounted horizontally at the center of the diamond studded frame at the top of the pendant. The smallest emerald is a 15-carat spherical emerald mounted horizontally somewhere in the middle of the pendant. The entire frame of the pendant is studded with small white diamonds.


8) Emerald brooch and necklace

The emerald brooch and necklace are each made up of a large emerald weighing approximately 250 carats. An inscription on each of the emeralds dates it back to 1811, the period of rule of Fath Ali Shah who reigned between 1797 and 1834.

The centerpiece of the brooch is the 250-carat perfectly rounded cabochon-cut emerald, surrounded by a star-shaped diamond-studded frame, which in turn is surrounded by another oval-shaped diamond-studded frame. The gaps between the emerald and the star-shaped frame are studded with rubies, and so are the gaps between the star-shaped frame and the oval-shaped frame.

The Emerald Brooch and Necklace in the Iranian Crown Jewels

The centerpiece of the necklace is the 250-carat hexagonal-shaped cabochon-cut emerald, surrounded by a hexagonal golden frame. From the lower side of the hexagonal frame three drop-shaped (pendeloque) emeralds are suspended, out of which the central emerald is a little larger than the one on the sides. The larger emerald weighs around 60 carats and the smaller ones around 30 carats each. The hexagonal emerald is suspended by three vertical golden chains interspersed with gold florets, mounted with small spherical white pearls. The three vertical chains are suspended from a single-stranded gold chain, and the design of the florets mounted with pearls is continued for some distance along the V-shaped part of the necklace, until it becomes free of florets, and only the bear chain remains.


9) Jeweled arm band

Armbands were a fashionable item of jewelry used by the monarchs of Iran in the past. Armbands at that time seemed to have served a dual purpose; one as a highly decorative ornament, elevating the status of the monarch and the other as an ornament of mystical significance, as provision was made in the armband to hold a small amount of soil from Karbala, the holy site in Iraq, where Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, and the second Imam of Shi’ite Muslims was martyred. Armbands were so fashionable among the Iranian monarchs, that at one time the most valuable jewels in the treasury were used for this purpose. It is said that the Darya-i-Nur, the table-cut, pink diamond, which according to Sir John Malcolm was considered to be the diamond of the finest luster in the world, was at one time incorporated in an armband for the monarch. But, armbands fell out of fashion during the middle of Nasser-ed-Din Shah’s rule.

Jeweled Studded Armband

The jeweled armband shown in the picture and displayed in the Museum of the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels, was probably designed just before armbands fell out of fashion, around the middle of the 19th century and therefore does not show signs of wear and tear. This armband consists of a jewel-studded shield-shaped front, with a decorative and jewel-studded band on either side. The shield-shaped center is enameled with a blue background on which jewels like spinel, rubies and diamonds are studded on decorative regions. Two large spinels are incorporated on the design of the central shield. The larger spinel which weighs 15 carats is mounted somewhere on the top of the shield along the median vertical line, just below a large white diamond situated right at the top. The spinel is surrounded by a row of smaller white diamonds. The largest diamond weighing 20 carats is situated below the largest spinel, somewhere at the center of the shield, and is surrounded by a row of eight smaller diamonds, in a floral pattern. The second largest spinel is situated below this diamond, still along the median vertical line, but below the halfway point along this line, and is also surrounded by a row of smaller diamonds. Another large white diamond is situated just below this. The floral patterns in the gaps are all studded with small white diamonds. The edges of the shield and the decorative bands on either side are studded with rectangular and square shaped rubies. The decorative design on the shield is perfectly symmetrical with respect to the median vertical dividing line, and thus conforms to the symmetrical designs in other settings of the Iranian Crown jewels



10) The emerald belt

The emerald belt had been a part of the coronation regalia of the Shah’s of Iran since the time of Nasser-ed-Din Shah (1848-96), and can be seen in photographs of Nasser-ed-Din Shah taken in the second half of the 19th century. Perhaps the belt would have originated even earlier during the time of Muhammad Shah the father of Nasser-ed-Din Shah who reigned between 1834 and 1848. The length of the belt is 119 cm and perhaps might have been made either for Nasser-ed-Din Shah or Muhammad Shah, both of whom had wider waists. But the belt undoubtedly was not made for Fath Ali Shah who had a very narrow waistline.

The Emerald Belt in the Iranian Crown Jewels

The whole world witnessed the use of the emerald belt in 1967, as a coronation regalia during the coronation of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi. After the religious ceremonies associated with the coronation, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi stood up from the Naderi Throne on which he was seated, and then an officer carrying the coronation belt on a cushion covered tray approached the Shah. The Shah took the belt and tied it around his waist. Then another officer carrying the royal sword approached the Shah. He took the sword and hung it from the belt, which he had just worn. Then two of the Shah’s relatives brought the coronation robe, which they placed across the shoulders of the Shah. Then came the climax of the ceremony, when an officer carrying the Imperial Crown of Iran approached the Shah, who took the crown in his hands, and while still facing the invitees, placed the crown on his head, in effect crowning himself as the Shah of Iran.

The emerald belt is woven of gold and has a length of 119 cm. A 175-carat oval-shaped cabochon-cut emerald is mounted on the belt buckle. This emerald of enormous size has a length of 5 cm along its longest diameter, and is surrounded by a row of smaller cushion-shaped diamonds. Before being mounted on the buckle of the royal belt, the emerald might have been used on a different setting. Nothing much is known about this enormous emerald but there is evidence to show that it once existed in the court of Jehangir Shah (1605-27) the Moghul Emperor of India, son of the great Mogul Emperor Akbar the Great (1556-1605), and father of the Mogul Emperor Shah Jahaan (1628-58) of Taj Mahal fame. Thus the emerald would have been part of the enormous booty carried away by Nadir Shah after his Indian campaign of 1739.

The same golden belt was also used for the coronation of Reza Shah Pahlavi, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty in 1925, but for the coronation of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi a different belt band was used even though the belt buckle was the same.


11) Flat diamond brooches

Flat diamonds known as lasque is a type of table-cut developed by ancient Indian diamond cutters, in which the diamond is cut in the form of thin sheets or slabs of different shapes such as rectangular, square, pear, etc. with both upper and lower surfaces polished, and simple facets on the sides. The diamonds being thin and flat and having polished upper and lower surfaces are usually transparent and light can be transmitted through the diamond.

Pear-Shaped Flat Diamond Brooch

The two brooches shown in the picture and exhibited at the Museum of the National Iranian Jewels have a flat diamond incorporated as their centerpiece. The brooch above has a pear-shaped transparent flat diamond weighing 20 carats, as its centerpiece and is surrounded by a gold frame of similar shape, studded with smaller white diamonds. Several diamonds on this frame are missing. From the upper part of this pear-shaped frame nine linear rows of diamonds radiate, one row placed along the median vertical line and four rows placed symmetrically on either side. The median vertical row is the longest and bears four rounded brilliant-cut diamonds. The other eight rows are shorter but equal in length and bears three rounded brilliant-cut diamonds each. The height of the brooch is 7.5 cm along the median vertical line.

Flat Diamond Brooch

The second brooch shown above has a 15-carat flat diamond incorporated in the center, having the shape of a combined square and trapezium. The diamond is surrounded by a golden frame of similar shape, studded with a row of white diamonds. The frame has a set up similar to the famous Darya-i-Nur frame designed on the orders of Nasser-ed-Din Shah (1848-96), but on a smaller scale. The frame is surmounted by the crown and two lion symbols on either side, which signify the Aryan origins of the Iranian people. The height of the brooch is 8 cm along the median line.


12) The coronation necklace

The necklace worn by Empress Farah Diba at her coronation on October 26th, 1967, is a single-stranded necklace composed of white diamonds, yellow diamonds, emeralds and pearls. The precious metal used for the frame is not known, but it appears to be silver or white gold, The single strand right round is studded with small white cushion-cut diamonds. The main pendant hanging from the center of the strand is composed of a large hexagonal-shaped cabochon-cut emerald surrounded by a row of white diamonds interspersed with yellow diamonds. Above the hexagonal-shaped pendant is a spherical setting composed of centrally placed emeralds surrounded by diamonds.

Symmetrically placed appendages arise from the main strand, but the larger of these appendages are set only half way up the circumference of the necklace starting from the main pendant. Considering the appendages on the right hand side of the main pendant, first we see a pearl appendage combined with a spherical setting of emeralds and diamonds. This is followed by an emerald appendage consisting of a large square-shaped emerald, surrounded by diamonds. The third appendage is a pearl appendage like the first one, and the fourth appendage is a large emerald appendage like the second one. Similar appendages are placed on the left side symmetrically and in the same order. There are four large square-shaped emerald settings and four large pearl settings placed alternately on either side of the main pendant.

The upper half of the circumference of the necklace have shorter appendages, which are of two types alternating with one another. The first type is a spherical setting with a spherical emerald surrounded by smaller diamonds. The second type is a square setting. with a square emerald surrounded by smaller diamonds. There are six settings of the spherical type and six of the square type alternating with one another.


References :-

1) The Crown Jewels of Iran -Dr Victor E. Meem (1968)

2) The Legacy of Persia – A. J. Arberry (1968)

3) A History of Persia – Percy Sykes (1969)

4) Encyclopaedia Britannica – 2006

5) Iranian Crown Jewels – Wikipedia

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Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World

Afghanistan at the British Museum

Afghanistan has long been at the heart of trading routes linking ancient Iran, Central Asia, India, China and the Mediterranean.

This major exhibition at the British Museum highlights Afghanistan’s cultural heritage and its importance as a centre of international trade.

Treasures from the National Museum of Afghanistan

Most of the artefacts in the British Museum exhibition come from the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul.

Following the Soviet invasion in 1979, and the civil war that followed, the National Museum was rocketed. Figural displays were later destroyed by the Taliban.

However many precious objects survived after being hidden by Afghan officials. Now a selection of these is touring the world while the museum in Kabul is rebuilt.

Afghanistan Exhibition Highlights

There are hundreds of artefacts on show at the Afghanistan exhibition. The earliest were found at the site of Tepe Fullol, which dates to 2000BC.

Later finds come from three sites in Northern Afghanistan, dating from the third century BC to the first century AD, including Tillya Tepe (“Hill of Gold”), an elite nomadic cemetery.

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Delicate gold ornaments worn by the nomadic elite
  • Polychrome ivory inlays from Indian furniture
  • Enamelled Roman glass
  • Polished stone tableware from Egypt
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Research Paper: Ceramics

          Ceramics are classified as inorganic and non-metallic materials that are essential to our daily lifestyle. This category of materials includes things like tile, bricks, plates, glass, and toilets. Ceramics can be found in products like watches, snow skies, automobiles, and phone lines. They can also be found on space shuttles, appliances, and airplanes. Depending on their method of formation, ceramics can be dense or lightweight. Typically, they will demonstrate excellent strength and hardness properties; however, they are often brittle in nature. In this essay, I will discuss about the history of ceramics starting from around 24000 BC. till the 15th century. Then I will provide examples of ceramics in many parts of the world.

    Archaeologists have uncovered human-made ceramics that date back to at least 24,000 BC. These ceramics were in the form of animal and human figurines, slabs, and balls and were made of animal fat and bone mixed with bone ash and a fine claylike material. After forming, the ceramics were fired at temperatures of 500-800°C in domed and horseshoe shaped kilns partially dug into the ground with loess walls. The first use of functional pottery vessels is thought to be in 9,000 BC. These vessels were most likely used to hold and store grain and other foods. Pot making is one of humankind’s first inventions and because of the durability of fired clay it remains one of the best records of the beginnings of culture. Even so the record fades the further back in time we look. The earliest known pot making dates to about 10,000 BC in parts of Asia with other evidence from the Middle East dating to about 6,000 BC. Because of the difficulty in firing to higher temperatures, and thus more durable ware, it is likely that the very earliest ceramic work was too soft to have survived or perhaps too scarce to have been found. The earliest know glazes are found in the Nile valley about 5,000 BC – “Egyptian past”. Water soluble soda and copper was mixed with the clay. This proved to be a technical oddity that did not lead to true glazing anywhere in the Mediterranean area. Most of what we call “high temperature ceramics” ­ stoneware, porcelain, glazes, was developed by the Chinese about 2000 years before the rest of the world. Because of this, early development, the history of ceramics in Asia is a very complex and distinct subject. Potters Wheels are known to have been used in the Indus valley (Pakistan and northern India) about 3 to 4,000 BC but possibly earlier. Early port-potters wheels were simply a round base that could be pivoted easily to make hand building quicker. The idea evolved to the point where true potters wheels (able to sustain a constant rotation and powered by kicking a flywheel) appeared around 3000 BC in several areas of the Middle East and China.

    The Orient’s cultural development as evidenced by their technology is even older than the West’s beginnings in the Middle East. In areas of southern China Taiwan and Japan the oldest know ceramic objects are found (9 to 12 thousand BC) Earthen ware similar in technique and designs to other areas of the world. By 1,400 BC a few Chinese potters were making the first high temperature ceramics using sophisticated kilns of many different designs. From this period on the Chinese potters continued experiments with materials and by 700 BC were making glazes independent of the wood ash. By the 7th century AD the Chinese were making true porcelain – there were large deposits of Kaolin in China. They used very elaborate kiln designs – climbing kilns, tunnel kilns. The Sung Dynasty in China 1000 -1300 AD developed most high fire techniques used today – porcelain, reduction firing control that produced reduction reds celadons. Chinese porcelain was frequently decorated with Cobalt (the purist form of cobalt available was imported from Persia and very expensive) they also developed over glazing techniques with lead based “China paints”.

    The many cultures east of the Mediterranean produced ceramics in styles that reflected both the individual culture and the influence of their neighbours. Typical of these ancient people were the Minoans (2500 to 1100 B.C.) on the island of Crete. They made earthenware vessels decorated in colored slips with representations of animal life in the sea. They fired their work in updraft cylindrical kilns with wood as the fuel. The Islamic potters tried to duplicate the white Chinese porcelains with a low temperature alternative. In Persia potters began making an opaque white low fire glaze using tin and lead. Much of the ceramics of this area took the form of architectural decoration of mosques and palaces as well as vessels.

    The Greeks from about 800 BC onward produced the classical Black figured ware and Red figured ware using the potter’s wheel, colored slips for decoration. To produce the shiny Black surfaces a complex firing technique involving alternating cycles of reduction and oxidation were used to reduce iron to Black iron. This work was extremely refined and detailed – very smooth surfaces with fine lines painted with single haired brushes were common. Much of this work is found in Italy when it was imported during the Roman Empire.

    The African continent has a complicated history that is probably the least understood of the world’s peoples. This is partly because the many African cultures tended to not make durable records of their activities. Because of its durability, much of what we do know of ancient African culture comes from their ceramics. Most of what we know about these ancient cultures is of those that developed royal courts that commissioned art. Ceramics were also produced for ceremonial occasions – Male and female initiation to adulthood; Fertility, harvest. Utilitarian ceramics were regarded as art as well simple containers and incorporated traditions of decoration and form. Until modern times, all African ceramics were hand built. The potters wheel was never used. Similarly, Africa never developed glazes or kilns – With a few variations; firing was done in open fires on the ground. In almost all African cultures pottery making tasks were strictly governed by gender taboos. Every household had a potter (a woman) who made the containers for cooking and storing food. Females who had not passed puberty were forbidden to dig clay. In some cultures the roles were reversed with only men allowed to make pots.

    India’s very complex history involves repeated invasions by people from many different cultures Persians, Greeks, Arabs etc. and has a correspondingly complex ceramic history. Indian ceramics tended to be low temperature and unglazed until relatively modern times. Like the Middle East it had strong traditions of fired clay as architectural decoration. Unlike the Islamic world which had a prohibition against representational imagery, the Hindu and other sects of India developed a very elaborate tradition of figurative sculpture that was often used to decorate temples.

    European ceramics in northern areas first appears about 4000 BC and, except for a brief period during the Roman occupation, continued the low temperature unglazed handbuilt tradition until the twelfth century. Southern Europe, notably Spain was geographically near other active cultures and after 700 A.D. occupied by Islamic North Africans. Because of this much of Spain’s ceramic techniques and imagery grow out of the Persian and Arabian techniques of tin glazing and metallic luster decoration. Italy had its own tradition of slip decorated earthenware during the Roman Empire which had disappeared by the fifth or sixth centuries. Ceramic traditions are reinvented in parallel with the rise of the Italian cities mercantile successes. This time the Italian potters are seeing imported ceramics from all over the know world including china. The 11th century Italians made a version of the Persian lead-tin glazes called majolica. Italian renaissance ceramics included extensive architectural work, figurative sculpture and of course, vessels. In the 11th century northern Europe, potters were still working with low temperature clays but were using simple lead glazes and the potters wheel. About this time potters working in the Rhine valley found deposits of stoneware or high fire clay and had developed kilns able to fire about cone 6. During the 15th century these same potters invented salt glazing which, despite their efforts to keep the process a secret spread to France, England and the new world.

    The early people of the Americas apparently migrated slowly southward from Asia over a land bridge that existed before the last Ice age. As in Africa, most of these people lived in relatively small groups and developed pottery traditions and techniques that are similar to the African people – low temperature, no potters wheels or glazes and open firing methods. Larger more organized civilizations also developed in Mexico and Central America like the Maya and the Aztecs. These people used similar techniques but had more elaborate decoration using multicolored slips. Also like Africa, these early potters were either men or women depending on the culture. In North America, among the most interesting cultures and pottery makers are the people known as the Pueblos after the Spanish word referring to their villages. There most notable cultural achievements occurred during a 200 year period starting around 1100 AD. The similarity of their designs to the Mayan Cultures a thousand miles to the south suggest that they either migrated north from that culture or had trading relationships with them.

        Since these ancient times, the technology and applications of ceramics has steadily increased. We often take for granted the major role that ceramics have played in the progress of humankind.

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Research Paper: Comparing and contrasting 2 paintings

          Saturday, I went to the royal academy of art museum to look at paintings that I find were good to use for this essay. Arriving there, the museum was holding an exposition about the Byzantine Empire and an exposition about Andrea Palladio. I decided to go to the Palladio exposition because I was curious to see what this person did or was. Entering this exposition, I had noticed that there were limited paintings but I got intrigued by two paintings that were being held there. Each one was in a different part of a room. In this essay, I will introduce each painting then I will discuss the comparisons and differences of these two paintings and finally I will conclude by giving my own opinions about them.

    The first painting came from the Museo Civico “Luigi Bailo”, Treviso and it was painted by Lodewyck Toeput, known as Pozzoserrato. Historiens are not sure when he was born or when he died but they estimate that he was born around 1550 and died around 1605. About 1577, he had painted the “The Fire in the Doge’s Palace of 1577” which was made with oil on canvas. This painting depicts with eyewitness immediacy the fire that broke out in the huge sala of the Maggior Consiglio on the upper floor of the Doge’s Palace on the night of 20 December 1577. Written sources recount how armed noblemen defended the piazza and the Mint (seen of the left), in which the Republic’s bullion reserves were held, while worker from the Arsenal fought the fire.

    The second painting came from the Galleria Nazionale, Parma and it was painted by Giovanni Antonio Canal, mostly known as Canaletto. He was born in 1697 and died in 1768. He painted the “Capriccio of Palladio’s Design for the Rialto Bridge”, with buildings from Vicenza, before 1759. Also, as the first painting, it was painted with oil on canvas and it measured 56 x 79 cm. this painting is in a imaginary view of the Grand Canal, Canaletto combines three of Palladio’s principle architectural projects. The Rialto Bridge (centre) as it would have appeared had Palladio’s design been realized, and the Basilica (right) and Palazzo Chiericati (left) both in Vicenza. The painting is a tribute to Palladio, summing up his achievement and presenting an idealised image of Venice, one transformed by his architecture.

    These two paintings are comparable because first of all, the location in these paintings is in Venice. Both of them are made with oil on canvas and both have precise details and important architectural buildings and artefacts. In the paintings, we can see that there is water canals because Venice has been build on water so it flows everywhere you go. Even though, it said that the fire in the Doge’s Palace started at night, both of them seem to be during the day because of that beautiful and light blue sky. Both are have almost the same size and are horizontally painted. Both are painted in a way that as further as you see the painting gets lighter.

    But also, these two paintings painted by two different Italian painters, they are different because each painting shows us a different period in time. The Pozzoserrato painting is older; it was painted around 1577 whereas the other one which was painted by Canaletto dates around 1759. Even though, Venice is a small city, each painting illustrates a different aspect of the city. The Pozzoserrato illustrates the fire which goes on the Doge’s Palace and the one painted by Canaletto illustrates the Rialto Bridge surrounded by buildings from Vicenza. The Fire in the Doge’s Palace is a dramatic painting because on the upper floor of the Doge’s Palace, the huge sala of the Maggior Consiglio is burning and everyone is running around to get water to turn off the fire. Whereas the second painting is calmer, it seems that it is a weekend day, you can either see people buying goods, some are riding their boats and others are just walking around in the beautiful and sunny day.

         As a conclusion, these paintings are both so similar but also so different. Each painter has his ideas of painting a different aspect of Venice. Even though, there were limited paintings in the museum, I thought that these two were quite beautiful and interesting to look at. Because each one tells a different story about Venice which is a very old and magnificent city with its architectural buildings that are on the water, and boats passing everywhere in those small canals. These paintings are so intriguing because if I had never seen the painting did by Pozzoserrato, I would not know that in Venice there was a palace called Doge’s Palace and that it had burned. Also, when I went to Venice when I was a child I did not pay attention to the Rialto Bridge which seems to be a very important and beautiful bridge. Therefore, when I got next time to Venice I will pay more attention to those wonderful places.

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