Ever since we had Philip Sajet’s Moon of Baroda on display last year, I wanted to write about the Baroda’s most famous treasure; the pearl Carpet of Baroda, a carpet completely encrusted with diamonds and pearls. It was auctioned at Sotheby’s in March 2009 for 5,458,500 USD. If the Wonders of the World would be objets de vertu, this carpet would be one of the Wonders…
History of the Pearl Carpet of Baroda
The carpet gets its name from Maratha Princely State of Baroda, one of the four Princely States of the Maratha Confederacy, that was ruled by the Gaekwad dynasty since 1740. It was commissioned by Khande Rao Gaekwad, and took around five years to complete.
Khande Rao Gaekwad, a Hindu Maharaja and notable jewellery collector, was fascinated by Islam. He ordered the carpet in 1865 with the wish to cover the tomb of the Holy Prophet in Medina, just like the Pearl Carpet over Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb in Taj Mahal, to show his respect to Islam, but Khande Rao died before the pearl carpet could be delivered and was kept as a state treasure. It was brought to Delhi in 1903 for its first public viewing. In 1943, Sita Devi became the second wife of the then Maharaja of Baroda Pratap Sinh Gaekwad. She moved the complete collection of the House of Baroda to Europe. When the State of Baroda merged with India in 1947, the government forced the Maharaja to return the Pearls of Baroda and the Diamonds of Baroda, but Devi (after her divorce) hit the carpet in Geneva.. It surfaced in 1985 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In fact, it was here that it was recognised as a national treasure of India.
The Pearl Carpet of Baroda is 2.64 meters long, 1.73 meters wide, and is made from a mixture of silk and deer hide. Its design was inspired by the Indian Mughal period and the Safavid period of Iran, but its motifs could easily be ignored, if it weren’t from the millions of precious stones covering it.
Most of the Pearl Carpet of Baroda is covered with colored glass beads, and an estimated 1.5 to 2 million natural seed pearls harvested from the coasts of Qatar and Bahrain. In the middle of the carpet there are three large rosettes made of 2,520 table-cut and rose cut diamonds, placed in silver-topped and blackened gold. Over 1,000 cabochon rubies and 600 Colombian emeralds can be found on the carpet.