I’m always happy to design jewellery to commission. So in 2009 when I was asked by the Victoria and Albert Museum to design an exclusive collection for their shop I was delighted. This was to be launched in line with the 2009/10 exhibition “Maharaja: the Splendour of India's Royal Courts”
“The word maharaja, literally ‘great king’, conjures up a vision of splendour and magnificence.”
This was a really exciting commission and another great excuse to visit the V&A, one of my favourite places for design inspiration.
The exhibition at the V&A spanned the period from the beginning of the 18th century to the mid-20th century, bringing together over 250 magnificent objects, many being lent from India’s royal collections for the first time. It examined the changing role of the maharajas within a social and historical context and reveals how their patronage of the arts, both in India and Europe, resulted in splendid and beautiful objects symbolic of royal status, power and identity.
Visiting the V&A before the Maharajah exhibition there was already a wealth of inspiration, for me to draw on, in the museum’s permanent display of jewellery.
I loved the turban ornaments. Combinations of rich oranges, reds and gold with pops of Emerald green yellow Citrine and pink Ruby... antique pewter grey and silver with jewelled accents of blue Lapis Lazuli, and purple Amethyst.
I was also inspired by the multi strands of tiny white Pearls used in earrings and neckpieces, and the use of textiles and threads, often metallic, wrapped and braided.
Here are a selection of pieces from the finished Maharajah collection. The collection was available for sale at the V&A museum shop in 2009/10.