(Maharani Sita Devi is seen adjusting the clasp of the Baroda Pearl necklace, worn by Maharaja Pratapsinh Rao; image courtesy of Pinterest.)
The Baroda Pearl Necklace is a renowned piece of jewellery from those counted among the Gaekwad’s Jewels. It was commissioned by the Maharaja Khande Rao Gaekwad (the 10th ruler of Baroda)
The pearls made their way to the jeweller from the Gulf region (Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Munnar and the Red Sea). Those underwater beauties were white in colour, some were spherical in shape and some were almost-spherical and were close to perfection in terms of appearance, i.e.; blemishes weren’t visible to the naked eye. There were approximately 300-350 pearls in number, of matching quality, colour, size and shape strung together on seven separate strands; forming an extraordinary lustrous necklace of a rich calibre.
There was a book published in 1908 by a gentleman called George Frederick Kunz, called the Book of the Pearl. There was a photograph of Maharaja Sayaji Rao III (the 12th ruler of Baroda) wearing the seven strand pearl necklace in the book; that is how the piece came to be internationally renowned as the Baroda Pearl Necklace. Another photograph starring Maharaja Pratapsinh Rao (the 13th ruler of Baroda) wearing the pearls, taken by Henri Cartier Bresson brought the necklace, once more, into the spotlight internationally.
Apparently a lot of the royal jewels were moved to Monaco, shortly before India received her independence, where Maharaja Pratapsinh Rao had a place of residence. Upon order by the Indian Government, the Maharaja had to return the jewels to Indian shores. On arrival, however, the seven strand necklace was reduced to six strands of pearls. Among other crown jewels, this necklace was then kept at Lakshmi Vilas Palace, the Baroda residence of the Gaekwads.
(The restructured two-stranded Baroda Pearl Necklace; image courtesy of Pinterest.)
In 2007, at an auction by Christie’s in New York, a two stranded pearl necklace was presented which was believed to have been fashioned out of the seventh strand that was missing from the Baroda Pearl Necklace, the clasp is a cushion-cut diamond by Cartier. This particular piece of jewellery was auctioned off for a price (highest ever where pearls were considered) of $7.1 million, setting a world record.
The restructured two-stranded Baroda Pearl Necklace appeared to have the finest of the pearls from the original necklace set in a perfect design which made it one of the most consummate pearl necklaces in the world.