A 55-carat Indian gem, a ruby-red spinel , will be auctioned at Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic World sale in London on April 26 . The interesting story behind the ruby-red spinel, which is the size of a walnut hanging on a golden chain with a tassel of seed pearls, is that in the 1920s, according to a cutting from a local paper in Pennsylvania, two children in Leicestershire used to played with this imperial Indian gemstone, reports the Guardian. Engraved 400 years ago in minute Persian script with the names of three Indian emperors, the Indian gem will come up for auction at Sotheby’s next month, estimated at up to £80,000. The article Under the headline “$25,000 ruby, once pride of great Indian mogul, plaything for children”, appeared in the Shamokin Dispatch, which ceased publication in the 1930s.
It said that Graham Pole was travelling to northern England when she lost the gem.
According to the story it was found by the track in Leicestershire by a railway worker, Joseph H Wade, who brought the pretty “piece of red glass” home as a toy for his twins.
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He only realised the truth when he read a newspaper account of the loss a fortnight later. Wade found the stone in a corner where his children had thrown it, and handed it in.
Benedict Carter, an expert on Middle Eastern art at Sotheby’s, who has spent months researching the gem, suspects the jewel came back from India with Pole’s daughter Dorothy, who was married to Hugh Ruttledge, deputy high commissioner in Lucknow and Almora in the 1920s. Once recovered, it stayed in the family – until now.
The Mughal emperors were fond of spinels, gemstones ranging in colour from pink to wine, which they called rubies.
“Carving names into such stones was a highly skilled art which added to their value. These are engraved in a beautiful, flowing Persian script, which you can barely appreciate the details of under a jeweller’s loupe. I’ve seen spinels with one name, occasionally two. I’ve never seen one before with three names, ” said carter.
Britain holds a number of Indian gems and artifacts that were either ‘gifts’ to the empire or were acquired via force from their erstwhile colonial dominions and on the top of the all sits the much debated ‘Kohinoor’.
India has repeatedly demanded that Britain return the 105-carat diamond, which some believe was presented to Queen Victoria in 1850 and today sits on display as part of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.
India lays claim to the gem, which it believes is a reflection of the exploitation, plunder and the perverse rule of the British Raj.