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  • Place of origin:

    Burma (Possibly, made)
    Assam (Possibly, made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Jadeite jade, fashioned on a bow-driven lathe using abrasive-charged tools.

  • Museum number:

    02531(IS) to 02531A/(IS)

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This pair of earplugs would have been worn in stretched earlobe piercings and they have been fashioned in jadeite jade.
Although in China a wide variety of translucent to opaque, green stones are generically referred to as "jade", there are only two minerals - nephrite and jadeite - that are officially accepted as such and they can occur in many colours other than green. Both are hard and durable materials that have been used to carve both decorative and functional objects. Being different minerals, they have differing chemical compositions and structures, with nephrite jade generally being composed of interlocking fibrous crystals and jadeite jade generally being composed of interlocking, more granular crystals. However, they can sometimes be very similar in appearance which then require testing to separate.
It was previously owned by the notable 19th century collector of Mughal jade and rock crystal objects, Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie.

Physical description

A pair of matching earplugs with each being tubular with a circular cross-section. The diameter at one end is larger than at the other and the profile curves inwards between them. Fashioned in mottled green jadeite jade, the inner surfaces are smooth but unpolished with the outer surfaces having a lustrous but incomplete polish.

Place of Origin

Burma (Possibly, made)
Assam (Possibly, made)

Materials and Techniques

Jadeite jade, fashioned on a bow-driven lathe using abrasive-charged tools.


Length: 35.8 to 36.0 mm 02531(IS), Diameter: 24.9 and 22.35 mm 02531(IS), Diameter: 20.3 mm 02531(IS), Thickness: 1.7 to 2.2 mm 02531(IS), Length: 35.65 mm 02531A/(IS), Diameter: 24.9 and 22.0 mm 02531A/(IS), Diameter: 20.3 mm 02531A/(IS), Thickness: 1.9 to 2.1 mm 02531A/(IS)

Object history note

This pair of earplugs was originally in the Guthrie collection and was purchased for the sum of £9-10-0, 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. This is Guthrie Collection 161.

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

A matching pair of earplugs for stretched pierced ears, mottled green jadeite jade, Burma or Assam ? Formerly in the Guthrie collection




Gemstones; Hardstone; Jewellery


South & South East Asia Collection

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