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Mughal Jewelry: Antique Royal Jewelry of North India

I completed a course in jewelry designing with the dream of one day becoming an established jewelry designer.

This Mughal bracelet consists of miniature portrait paintings of Mughal emperors and empresses

This Mughal bracelet consists of miniature portrait paintings of Mughal emperors and empresses

About Mughal Jewelry

Five centuries ago, India was under the rule and influence of the Mughal dynasty. The Mughal royalty were connoisseurs of architecture, arts, food, clothing and, of course, jewelry. During the Mughal rule, jewelry-making was given utmost importance. This art gave birth to unique jewelry pieces studded with chunky gemstones and enameled with motif designs. Royal family members and people of high rank proudly displayed such jewelry all over their bodies, from jeweled turbans and head-jewelry to thick-set toe rings.

After the Mughal era ended, most of the royal jewelry was preserved in Indian museums.

Centuries later, Mughal jewelry retained its lost glory thanks to the 2008 release of the movie Jodhaa Akbar about a romance between Mughal emperor Akbar and Rajput princess Jodhaa. The magnificent jewelry worn by the leading pair, with its ornate patterns and imperial look, got the attention of both the common people and the jewelers. Now, many jewelry stores are stocked with splendid Mughal-styled jewelry.

Besides North India, Mughal jewelry is also popular in several other states of India. Though present-day Mughal jewelry has a modern twist to its look, it still emphasizes stonework and enameling and stays true to its roots.

An ivory-based miniature portrait painting of Mumtaz Mahal, to whom the Taj Mahal, the world-famous monument. is dedicated.

An ivory-based miniature portrait painting of Mumtaz Mahal, to whom the Taj Mahal, the world-famous monument. is dedicated.

The History of Mughal Jewelry

During the Mughal rule in India, which began in the 16th century, the art of jewelry-making flourished. Wearing expensive jewelry marked one's position. Emperors and empresses, as well as courtiers and other people of high ranks, were adorned with heavy jewelry beset with massive stones and beads. Various jewelers were hired privately to create magnificent jewelry pieces for the royal family and other important people. Rajasthan, a northwestern state of India, served as an exclusive hub for jewelry-making. The Mughal royalty often formed alliances with the Rajput rulers and married Rajput princesses. As a result, Mughal jewelry was further influenced by the Rajputs, and thus began the combination of Rajput quaint craftsmanship and Mughal delicate artistry. Some Mughal jewelry pieces were also influenced by 17th-century European Renaissance fashion.

The Impact of Mughal Jewelry on India

The Mughal emperors conquered most of India, and as a result, their influence extended well beyond North India. The typical Mughal style is visible in the jewelry of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, and Orissa. Mughal enameling and stonework were adopted by other Indian regions for their regional jewelry. The most notable jewelry style influenced by the Mughals is the Nizam jewelry of Andhra Pradesh in South India, which is now exhibited at the museum in the same state.

The Artwork of Mughal Jewelry

Important precious gemstones used in Mughal jewelry

  • Diamonds (mostly uncut)
  • Rubies (cut or uncut)
  • Emeralds (cut or uncut)
  • Pearls
  • Sapphire
  • Turquoise
  • Tourmaline
  • Topaz
  • Jade
  • Quality Beads

Though there are many more gemstones to name, the above-mentioned gemstones are frequently used in Mughal jewelry.

Mughal jewelry is a marriage of Indian intricacy and Middle Eastern elegance, uniting Indian goldwork with Middle Eastern floral designs. Heavy stonework and elaborate enameling are two major features that distinguish Mughal jewelry from other Indian jewelry. Its base is made mainly of gold. Gold-plated silver and other metallic bases are the affordable alternatives. Large precious and semi-precious gemstones are incorporated into the jewelry pieces. Kundan and polki stones are important aspects of Mughal jewelry.

Polki stones are white colored uncut diamonds with a matte finish. Kundan is one of North Indian specialized methods of setting gemstones in gold jewelry. Enameling is a time-consuming process that produces a stunning floral finish on both sides of a jewelry-piece. Birds, flowers, and paisley are the most common designs used in this jewelry technique. In India, the enameling process is known as meenakari and stone-setting is called jadau. Other unique forms of Mughal craftsmanship include filigree (threads or beads of gold) and thewa (gold patterns fused onto melted glass).

Mughal turban ornament made of gold and precious gemstones

Mughal turban ornament made of gold and precious gemstones

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Turban Ornaments and Head Jewelry

The Mughal emperors wore silk turbans sequined with decorative, drooping feather-like ornaments. These turban ornaments are cast in enameled gold and are augmented with precious gemstones and pearls.

Mughal hair ornament made of gold and embellished with gemstones and beads

Mughal hair ornament made of gold and embellished with gemstones and beads

Empresses, as well, wore feather-like ornaments on their wide silk crowns. In their palaces, the royal ladies wore dainty head jewelry that hung downwards on one side of their foreheads. Such head jewelry was made of either gold or silver and decorated with precious gemstones and quality beads.

Mughal gold earrings strewn with gemstones, premium beads, and long strings of tiny pearls

Mughal gold earrings strewn with gemstones, premium beads, and long strings of tiny pearls

Earrings, Ear Studs, and Earring-Strings

The Mughal emperors and courtiers wore ear studs or small round earrings made of pearls or gemstones.

The empresses wore exquisite long earrings, which could be termed today as chandelier earrings. These stunning earrings were beautifully crafted out of fine enameled gold or pure silver and laden with multiple large gemstones, pearls, and premium beads.

Pretty strings attached to the earrings were fastened to the hair of royal ladies with tiny hooks. Some Mughal earring-strings were so long and thick that they almost covered the whole ear.

Mughal nose-ring crafted out of gold and studded with various precious gemstones

Mughal nose-ring crafted out of gold and studded with various precious gemstones

Nose Rings

Thanks to its introduction by the Mughals, Indian women have developed a special liking for this unique ornament that adorns their noses. Nose rings are produced out of fine gold or silver. They vary from cute tiny pins studded with minuscule gemstones or pearls to great circular hoops covered with multiple gemstones, pearls, and quality beads. Like earrings, nose rings may be joined to long strings fastened to the hair with tiny hooks.

Mughal necklace made of gold and embellished with pearls and precious gemstones.

Mughal necklace made of gold and embellished with pearls and precious gemstones.

Necklaces and Chains

The Mughal emperors and empresses wore rich necklaces and chains, strewn with pearls, gemstones, and quality beads. Necklaces and chains ranged from thin ornaments with enameled pendants to heavy ornaments with glittering gemstones. Gemstones and premium beads feature prominently on these ornaments, to give wearers a richly bejeweled look.

Bangles and Bracelets

What sets Mughal bangles apart from other Indian bangles are their unique shape and prominent stone-setting.

Bracelets are created in a circular shape with two ends (clasps) that touch each other.

These wrist ornaments are mostly produced with enameled gold elaborated with intricate floral designs and gemstones.

Mughal ring made of jade and decorated with precious gemstones and gold filigree

Mughal ring made of jade and decorated with precious gemstones and gold filigree

Rings and Hand Ornaments

The Mughal emperors wore multiple showy rings, made of pure gold or enameled gold or jade. Some Mughal rings are so huge that they cover two or three fingers. The ring centerpieces are either circular or square in shape and embedded with bulky gemstones.

Mughal thumb-ring made of garnet studded with diamonds and gold filigree

Mughal thumb-ring made of garnet studded with diamonds and gold filigree

Some rings, particularly thumb rings, designed for royal ladies had tiny mirrors installed for them to admire their reflections.

Hand ornaments are string-like jewelry pieces that covered the entire hands of empresses and stretched either from rings or bangles or both.

Armlets

Armlets worn by royal ladies were adjustable with either clasps or strings. They appeared in pure gold or enameled gold and were studded with many gemstones and pearls.

A waist belt combining the authenticity of temple jewelry of South India and the antique style of Mughal jewelry.

A waist belt combining the authenticity of temple jewelry of South India and the antique style of Mughal jewelry.

Waist Belts and Hip Chains

Waist-belts were chiseled out of gold to adorn the waists of emperors and empresses and festooned with gemstones and pearls.

Golden hip-chains strung with gemstones or pearls decorated the hips of empresses.

Anklets and Foot Ornaments

Royal Mughal ladies wore anklets of silver or gold-plated silver. Some anklets were covered with gemstones and trinkets, while others were intricately carved.

Foot ornaments consisted of strings of tiny trinkets, small gemstones, or pearls attached to anklets. Toe rings made of minuscule gemstones were also fastened to the anklets with jeweled strings.

 Jade scabbard with gold filigree in the shape of a royal horse

Jade scabbard with gold filigree in the shape of a royal horse

Other Mughal Jeweled Possessions

So great was the Mughal royalty's fondness for enameling and stonework that they commissioned intricate craftsmanship for their swords, thrones, utensils, cases, weapons, and other treasures. The Mughal possessions were made of enameled gold, jade, and ivory and embellished with precious and semi-precious gemstones.

Revival of Mughal Jewelry After the Release of the Movie Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

After the Mughal Empire declined, most of its valuable jewelry was either forfeited or sold. However, some jewelry pieces were recovered and are now displayed in museums. After the Mughal period, women preferred pure gold jewelry and jewelry pieces adorned with tiny beads and gemstones.

Thus, Mughal jewelry was forgotten for a considerable period of time until the year 2008, when the Mughal epic movie Jodhaa Akbar was released. This much-hyped film was a 16th century period romance-drama. One of India's leading jewelry companies, Tanishq, was commissioned to create the jewelry for this film. It was said that two hundred jewelers were employed to produce authentic-looking pieces in the 16th-century Mughal style. The stars of the film, Hrithik Roshan, who portrayed Emperor Akbar and Aishwarya Rai, who played the Rajput princess Jodhaa, wore such heavy jewelry throughout the film that the leading pair claimed that the toughest task in the entire film-shooting was wearing the bulky jewelry.

The popularity of Mughal jewelry was revived when people viewing the film were stunned by its splendor. Tanishq's Jodhaa Akbar jewelry line got tremendous response from buyers and inspired many other leading jewelry stores. Mughal jewelry is now extremely popular among women of all ages. It is commonly worn by brides at weddings to endow them with a royal look. With the escalation of gold prices, many imitation reproductions of Mughal jewelry were created to cater to enthusiastic buyers.

Mughal Jewelry in the Trailer for Jodaa Akbar

A Concluding Note

Five years later, after the release of Jodhaa Akbar, Mughal jewelry is now:

  • every bride's dream;
  • part of every aspiring jeweler's inventory;
  • a center of attraction in jewelry stores and exhibitions;
  • a big hit among the glitterati;
  • and a jewelry collector's delight.

Clearly, Mughal jewelry is here to stay, now and forever.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Ishwaryaa Dhandapani

Comments

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on August 15, 2013:

@ Indian Chef: Thank you for the read & engaging comments. Happy Hubbing! Take care

Indian Chef from New Delhi India on August 15, 2013:

Ishwaryaa, Beautiful Jewellery from the Moghul era. I don't know much about Jewellery but the old movies with girls full of gems always attract me. Voting it up, awesome and interesting.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on April 18, 2013:

@ Blond Logic: Hi, thank you for the visit & encouraging comments. I enjoyed learning about different types of jewelry including Mughal jewelry. Happy Hubbing! Take care

Mary Wickison from USA on April 18, 2013:

Absolutely beautiful! I had never seen this before. A waist belt, now that has to be the prettiest belt I have ever seen.

Thank you for bring this to our attention. I will be sharing this page.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on February 14, 2013:

@ Beltane73: Thank you for the read & encouraging comments. Happy hubbing!

Holly Kline from South Jersey on February 14, 2013:

So interesting, thank you! Voting up and interesting.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on January 23, 2013:

@ FullOFLoveSites: Thank you for the read & encouraging comments. Happy Hubbing!

FullOfLoveSites from United States on January 22, 2013:

Beautiful and stunning jewelry -- I like the necklace with dangling gemstones (amethyst, maybe?!?). Another interesting look at your culture. Thanks for sharing. Up, beautiful and a following. :)

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on January 18, 2013:

@ Glass-Jewelry: Thank you for the read and insightful comments. Happy hubbing!

Marco Piazzalunga from Presezzo, Italy on January 18, 2013:

Indian jewelry is very charming, very different from the Italian one but certainly very rich of oriental inspiration and attention to detail.

I had never heard of Mughal jewelry, and its stone processing with application of enamels, which was rarely used in the past by the Italian jewelry, is truly amazing.

Voted Beautiful!

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on January 12, 2013:

@ Au fait: Thank you for the read & encouraging comments. Jewelry is one of my favorite things. Happy hubbing! Take care

C E Clark from North Texas on January 12, 2013:

Beautiful jewelry and interesting history. Very much enjoyed learning something new. Voted up, beautiful, interesting, and awesome. Will share with my followers!

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on November 28, 2012:

@ dinkan53: Hi, thank you for the visit & for your encouraging comments. I agree with you that the Mughal gold-plated silver anklet looked very pretty & nice to know that you will be ordering a ring of this type. Happy hubbing! Take care

dinkan53 from India on November 28, 2012:

They are awesome and thanks for sharing the history. I really like the Mughal gold plated silver anklet and will surely order a ring of that kind. Voted and shared!

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on November 18, 2012:

@ Millionaire Tips: Hi, thank you for the visit and for your encouraging comments. Nice to know that you watched the film and saw the typical Mughal jewelry worn by the cast in this film. Happy hubbing! Take care

Shasta Matova from USA on November 18, 2012:

I watched the movie and was really impressed with the jewelry but didn't know that it had made that kind of jewelry even more popular. It is gorgeous, and I appreciate learning about the history. Voted up.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on November 05, 2012:

@ molometer: I agree with you that they had a common ancestor. Once again thank you for sharing your engaging insights. Happy hubbing!

Micheal from United Kingdom on November 05, 2012:

It is surprising how similar they are in design. It shows they had a common ancestor.

Very interesting hub ishwaryaa22

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on November 02, 2012:

@ molometer: Wow! You shared your engaging insights, especially about the Celtic jewelry. Thank you not only for the visit & for your encouraging comments but also your knowledge of Celtic jewelry. Happy hubbing! Take care

Micheal from United Kingdom on November 02, 2012:

What a beautiful collection of fine jewelry.

These exquisite examples of craftsmanship, show us that our ancestors knew a thing or two about how to fashion gold, silver and precious gems.

There is one piece in this collection that is particularly interesting.

The Mughal gold plated silver anklet.

It is beautiful and looks remarkably like an early iron age (500 B.C.) Celtic Torc.

These were usually made from gold and are believed to have been introduced to the Celts by the Scythians, nomads of Eastern Europe and Asia Minor.

How fabulous to think that these designs are so ancient. That makes them even more desirable and precious.

Thanks for sharing.

Voting up and sharing. $$$$

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 29, 2012:

@ livingsta: Hi, thank you for the visit & for your encouraging comments. Happy hubbing! Take care

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 29, 2012:

@ rahul0324: Hi, thank you for the visit & for your insightful+ encouraging comments. Your insights on the Mughals are absolutely right. Happy hubbing! Take care

livingsta from United Kingdom on October 29, 2012:

That was a beautiful hub with beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing. Enjoyed reading it!

Voted up and beautiful!

Jessee R from Gurgaon, India on October 29, 2012:

Detailed... descriptive in exhaustive form... what more info could one want..

Excellent writing Ishwaryaa... Mughals were indeed connoisseurs of every art form.

May it be food or jewellery... or architecture.. perfection and exquisiteness were their key features which is clearly evident from your hub

Awesome writing

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 23, 2012:

@ rcrumple: Hi! He ha - some jewelry are too pretty for women to resist them! Sometimes, I, my mother and my female relatives could not resist seeing stunning jewelry pieces even if they are priced very high! Thank you for the visit & sharing your encouraging+humorous comments. Happy hubbing! Take care

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 23, 2012:

@ Jools99: Hi, thank you for the visit & for your encouraging comments. Seeing photos of jewelry of any country is one of my joys in life. Happy hubbing! Take care

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 23, 2012:

@ lindalou1963: Thank you for the read & for your encouraging words. Happy hubbing! Take care

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 23, 2012:

@ jainismus: Hi, thank you for the visit & for your encouraging comment. Happy hubbing! Take care

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 23, 2012:

@ Daisy Mariposa: Hi, thank you for the visit and for your very encouraging comments. I enjoyed observing and reading about different types of jewelry in different countries of the world. Happy hubbing! Take care

Rich from Kentucky on October 23, 2012:

Really beautiful jewelry. Fascinating information. Remind me to keep my wife away from this hub. lol Great Job! Up & Interesting!

Jools Hogg from North-East UK on October 23, 2012:

Ish, very detailed interesting hubs with some great photos. Voted up and shared.

Linda from Texas on October 23, 2012:

Beautiful jewelry!

Mahaveer Sanglikar from Pune, India on October 23, 2012:

Great Hub with great information. Thank you for sharing it. Voted up and shared.

Daisy Mariposa from Orange County (Southern California) on October 23, 2012:

Ish (ishwaryaa22),

This is such a well-researched, well-written, beautiful Hub. Thanks for taking the time to publish it.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 16, 2012:

@ Ruchira: Hi, thank you for the visit & for your very encouraging comments. Nice to hear from a fellow-admirer of rich jewelry. Happy Hubbing! Take care

Ruchira from United States on October 16, 2012:

such a beautiful hub with beautiful pix of jewelry. I love rich and delicate jewelry and mughai era was rich thus, that kind of jewels.

very informative hub, Ishwaryaa.

voted up as interesting and sharing it across

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 14, 2012:

@ SilverGenes: Thank you for the read and for your engaging comments. I enjoyed seeing the photos of jewelry in different countries of the world. Happy hubbing! Take care

SilverGenes on October 13, 2012:

The jewelry is beautiful! What a legacy of art! I was completely unfamiliar with the history and the style and want to thank you for opening the door to a fascinating part of history.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 13, 2012:

@ Vinaya Ghimire: Thank you for the second visit & read. I am always honored by your visits. Happy hubbing! Take care

Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on October 13, 2012:

Mughals were invaders but they left awe inspiring legacy.

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 13, 2012:

@ unknown spy: Thank you for the second visit. Happy hubbing! Take care

Life Under Construction from Neverland on October 13, 2012:

sharing this again Ish!

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 12, 2012:

@ sgbrown: Thank you for the visit & for your engaging+encouraging comments. Yes, Mughal jewelry has made a come-back thanks to the Mughal-era movie! Happy hubbing! Take care

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on October 12, 2012:

Such beautiful jewelry! I love jewelry and I am glad that the Mughal jewelry has made a come back. It is truly beautiful! Voted up and beautiful as well as interesting! :)

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 11, 2012:

@ shabushaj: Thank you for the read and for your encouraging comment. Happy hubbing. Take care

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 11, 2012:

@ thumbi7: Hi, thank you for the visit and sharing your encouraging feedback. Happy hubbing! Take care

shabushaj from india on October 11, 2012:

very interesting ...a treasure which make us proud till now. Really nice

JR Krishna from India on October 11, 2012:

You have taken lot of pain to search the topic and to write this hub

Pictures look georgeous.......

Thanks for sharing:)

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 10, 2012:

@ SweetiePie: Hi, thank you for the visit & read. Happy hubbing! Take care

SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on October 10, 2012:

The imagery of this jewelry is quite beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 08, 2012:

@ barbergirl28: Hi, thank you for the visit & for your very encouraging feedback. Happy hubbing! Take care

Stacy Harris from Hemet, Ca on October 07, 2012:

What gorgeous jewelry. I have always admired the culture because of their eye for beautiful adornments. Great job!

Ishwaryaa Dhandapani (author) from Chennai, India on October 07, 2012:

@ vespawoolf: Hi, even my few relatives lost 1 or 2 tiny semi-precious jewelry pieces many years ago and we searched for them but unable to find them. We all should be more careful with the things that we liked. Nice to know that you admired Mughal jewelry. Please let me know after you purchased them. Happy hubbing! Take care

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on October 07, 2012: