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Turban ornament

Turban ornament

  • Place of origin:

    Mughal empire (made)

  • Date:

    1700-1750 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    White nephrite jade, and gold inset with rubies, emeralds, probably topaz, with gold foil, rock crystal and pearl

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Col. Charles Seton Guthrie

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    South Asia, Room 41, case 19

This turban jewel is a superb example of precious stone setting in jade. In the upper section, emeralds, rubies and crystals are cut to fit each leaf with as many as seven small, shaped rubies on one leaf, though most have only one or two. The veins of the leaves have been carved onto the shaped gemstones before setting. At the back, relief decoration on the surface of the jade also suggests flowers and leaves. A ring behind the large rosette would have held a feather plume, while the stem would have been used to fit the ornament into a turban. Wearing plumes in a turban indicated royal status in the Mughal empire.
The turban jewel was part of the collection of Indian hardstones, including imperial Mughal artefacts, owned by Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie. He sold much of his collection to the Indian Museum in Leadenhall Street, London, and his objects were transferred in 1879 to this museum. The turban jewel, exceptionally, was a gift by Guthrie to the Indian Museum.

Physical description

Turban ornament:
The jewel is made in two sections, the upper part fashioned from a single block of white nephrite jade and worked at the back to include a holder for a feather plume. The setting of gemstones is masterly, with each petal filled by two or three stones carved to fit the curving spaces exactly. The wearing of a plume in the turban indicated royal status.

Place of Origin

Mughal empire (made)


1700-1750 (made)



Materials and Techniques

White nephrite jade, and gold inset with rubies, emeralds, probably topaz, with gold foil, rock crystal and pearl


Height: 19.7 cm, Width: 4.6 cm at widest point

Object history note

From the collection of Col. Charles Seton Guthrie. Transferred in 1879 from the India Museum to the South Kensington Museum, which later became the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Descriptive line

Turban ornament, Mughal empire, jade and gemstones, first half of the eighteenth century

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

PIACENTI, Kirsten Aschengreen, Susan Stronge, Cristina Del Mare, Rita Sharma et al.,
Gioielli dall’India dai Moghul al Novecento, La Rinascente, Milan, 1996, catalogue number 143, p.176

HENDLEY, Thomas Holbein, The Journal of Indian Art and Industry, Vol. XII, 1906-9, Part I pl.4 no. 15
HALL, M. 'Indisches Kunsthandwerk', Indien und Südostasien, Berlin, 1971, pl.204b
BLACK, J.A., A History of Jewels, London, 1974, illustrated on p.205
For information on turban ornaments, see:
Susan Stronge, Jewels for the Mughal court, The V&A Album V, 1986, pp. 308-317
UNTRACHT, Oppi, Traditional Jewelry of India, Thames and Hudson, London, 1997, pp.380-388

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.111, pl. 37.
Susan Stronge, "Colonel Guthrie's Collection. Jades of the Mughal Era", Oriental Art, Winter 1993/1994, vol. XXXIX, no. 4, fig. 11
p. 109, cat. no. 309
The Indian Heritage. Court life and Arts under Mughal Rule London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982 Number: ISBN 0 906969 26 3
pps.36 and 38
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.
p. 88, pl. 4.6
Barnard, Nick, Indian Jewellery: The V&A Collection London: V&A Publishing, 2008 Number: ISBN 9781851774838
p. 225, cat. no. 1111
The art of India and Pakistan, a commemorative catalogue of the exhibition held at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1947-8. Edited by Sir Leigh Ashton. London: Faber and Faber, [1950]
p. 44, cat. no. 17
Swallow, D., Stronge, S., Crill, R., Koezuka, T., editor and translator, "The Art of the Indian Courts. Miniature Painting and Decorative Arts", Victoria & Albert Museum and NHK Kinki Media Plan, 1993.
Stronge, Susan, Jewels for the Mughal Court, pp. 308-317
The V&A Album, 5, London: 1986 Number: ISBN 1851770771

Production Note

The Mughal empire straddled territory including both the modern states of India and Pakistan, which were created as separate entities in 1947. The object could have been made anywhere in the empire.




Jewellery; Gemstones; India Museum


South & South East Asia Collection

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