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Huqqa mouthpiece

Huqqa mouthpiece

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal empire (made)

  • Date:

    18th century (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Greenish grey nephrite jade, rubies (or pink sapphire), gold and possibly red spinel, fashioned using a variety of techniques.

  • Credit Line:

    From the collection of Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This is a mouthpiece for a huqqa, or water pipe, and was made within the Mughal empire in the 18th century. It was used to inhale smoke drawn from the huqqa base via a long flexible tube. Nephrite jade, imported from Khotan was used for Mughal court artefacts from the early seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth. It was often set with precious and semi-precious stones using the kundan technique. Here the stones used to decorate the jade are spinels, and the relatively poor quality of the workshmanship suggests it may have been made in a regional court rather than in the imperial ateliers.

Physical description

Huqqa mouthpiece, fashioned in greenish grey nephrite jade with inset cabochons of ruby (or pink sapphire) and possibly some red spinel, with a waisted constriction approximately half way along its length. On one side of the waist, the body is wide and of the same external diameter, with a wide bore. On the other side of the waist, the body narrows and has a narrow hole drilled down its length, through to the other half. Around either side of the waist there is a collar of fourteen triangular, flat-topped cabochons in reflective, closed-back mounts and which are inset in gold so that they point away from the waist.
Around the end of the wide half, just inside the edge, there is a band of sixteen elongated oval cabochons in reflective closed-back mounts inset between two narrow bands of gold. Between this band and the collar adjacent to the waist is a symmetric design of twelve oval to pear-shaped cabochons in reflective closed-back mounts inset into leaf-shaped gold settings, each with a stem, with all the leaves pointing towards the waist.
On the narrower half of the mouthpiece, about 12 mm from the tip, there is a band of nine oval cabochons similarly mounted to the band at the other end. Between this band and the collar adjacent to the waist, there are a further eight oval to pear-shaped cabochons in the same type of leaf-shaped settings as on the other half.
All the mounts for the inset stones appear to have originally been coloured red, but they have since deteriorated with loss of colour. There are also several small cracks or fractures to the nephrite body.

Place of Origin

Mughal empire (made)


18th century (made)

Materials and Techniques

Greenish grey nephrite jade, rubies (or pink sapphire), gold and possibly red spinel, fashioned using a variety of techniques.


Length: 78 mm, Length: 39.2 mm, Diameter: 20.7 to 21.2 mm, Diameter: 14.8 to 15.0 mm, Diameter: 8.0 to 8.3 mm

Object history note

This huqqa mouthpiece was originally in the Guthrie collection and was purchased for the sum of £7-0-0, when he sold 81 of his objects to The India Museum in 1868. It was subsequently transferred to The South Kensington Museum (later renamed The Victoria & Albert Museum) in 1879.

Charles Seton Guthrie was an important collector of eastern coins and Mughal Empire jade and rock crystal objects. He was the second son of Scottish parents, both of whom were from noble and landed families, and his father worked for the East India Company in Calcutta.
Guthrie most probably developed his interest in jade and rock crystal when he studied geology as a 17 year old cadet in 1825 in Addiscombe, and he joined the Bengal Engineers in 1828.
Through his family’s established connection with the Inglis and Lister families, he became acquainted with Harry Inglis and his Anglo-Indian wife Sophia (nee Lister). He may well have received gifts of objects that Harry had acquired as proceeds from his Indian military campaigns. Harry was the son and heir of George Inglis who owned Inglis & Co., a large Indian trading company.
During his time in India, Charles Guthrie enhanced his collections with acquisitions financed by his army pay and also income from properties in his late mother’s estate.
He subsequently retired at the honorary rank of Colonel in 1857, although he returned to England in 1855, at the same time as Harry and Sophia, due to having 2 years of accumulated leave.
Following Harry’s death in 1860, his embalmed body was returned to India, accompanied by Sophia and Charles, where it was interred in an above-ground tomb. Sophia inherited Harry’s vast estate, which almost certainly contained many fine jewels and Mughal objects. Sophia began living together with Charles in Calcutta, bearing him a son in 1862. Following a financially significant arrangement being agreed by Sophia with Charles, the two eventually married in 1863 with the family returning to England a short time thereafter.
Sophia died in 1866, with Charles being named as an executor with instruction to liquidate her un-itemised English estate which included “jewels, trinkets and shawls”.
Soon thereafter, in 1868, Guthrie sold part of his collection of jade and rock crystal objects to The India Museum and his large coin collection to a museum in Germany. Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie died in 1874 and the remainder of his collections was sold at auction, in accordance with the terms of his will, with many objects finding their way into other important collections and then subsequently to the museum.

Descriptive line

Huqqa mouthpiece, waisted, greenish grey nephrite jade, inset rubies in gold, Mughal, 18th century, formerly in the Guthrie collection

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

pps. 40 and 41
Jackson, Anna and Ji Wei (eds.) with Rosemary Crill, Ainsley M. Cameron and Nicholas Barnard, compiled by the Palace Museum, translated by Yuan Hong, Qi Yue and Liu Ran. The Splendour of India' Royal Courts : Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Beijing: the Forbidden City Publishing House, 2013. Text in English and Chinese. ISBN 9787513403917.
Rogers, Emma: Arts of Asia, vol. 45, no. 5, September - October 2015, "The Parasol Foundation Trust Programme: digitising and cataloguing the V&A's South Asian collection.", p. 112, pl. 41.


Nephrite; Ruby; Gold; Spinel


Gemstones; Hardstone; Smoking accessories


South & South East Asia Collection

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