Mughal emerald to go under hammer

Updated: Jan 24, 2011, 20:37 PM IST

London: An important inscribed Mughal emerald personal seal set in a diamond encrusted gold bangle and bearing the name of an East India Company officer will be sold at an auction here in April and is estimated to fetch 50,000 pounds.

Auctioneers Bonhmas said that the rectangular table-cut emerald has a lower price estimate of 30,000 pounds at the April 5 sale of Indian and Islamic Art.

The three-line Persian inscription on the face of the emerald is in Nasta`liq script and reads, "Amin al-Mulk Ashraf al-Dawla Alexander Hannay Bahadur Arsalan Jang AH 1185/AD 1774-5".

"This is a particularly fine example of an inscribed Mughal gem whose history and known provenance adds to its interest. The glorious Victorian setting is in particularly appropriate and sympathetic to the long-standing Mughal tradition of combining gems and enamelling," said Alice Bailey, head of Indian and Islamic Art at Bonhams.

Major Alexander Hannay was in the service of the East India Company under William Hastings at the time when the company had transferred its trading role into a more military administrative one.

In 1778, Hannay left Hastings` service and entered that of the Nawab of Oudh. He managed the district of Gorakhpur, when during this period there were a number of disturbances as a result of his suspected oppression and misconduct.

The Nawab dismissed him in 1781 and would not hear of his return. Hannay also took part in the war against the Rohillas in 1774 and was afterwards examined with reference to alleged cruelties practiced towards these people.

The bangle has passed down through the family to the present owner.

The rulers of Mughal India often ordered their names and titles to be inscribed on rubies, emeralds and diamonds, a practice which originated in Iran under the Timurids (1370-1507).

The inscription on the emerald may possibly be the work of Muhammad Salah Khan, a known seal-engraver working in Faizabad who engraved emeralds for other East India Company officers during the latter part of the 18th century, the auction house said.