Patiala Ruby Choker
Commissioned by Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala (r. 1900–1938), the ruby, pearl and diamond choker made by the Paris jewellery house Cartier in 1931 is popularly known as the Patiala Ruby Choker. The Art Deco–inspired choker is one of several ornaments that the French designers created for the ruler of the princely state using his heirloom gems — another prominent example being the Patiala Necklace containing the De Beers yellow diamond. Like the diamond necklace, the choker too disappeared for many decades before its reappearance and eventual restoration by Cartier in Geneva in 2012.
Between 1925 and 1930 Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, known for his extravagant tastes, enlisted the house of Cartier to set a large number of gems from his treasury into jewellery that reflected a European design aesthetic. During the Art Deco period, Cartier and other Parisian luxury design houses evolved a dual aesthetic to cater to their clientele, offering a European design sensibility to Indian royalty, and injecting an Indian flavour into certain designs for Western customers. Completed in 1931, the ruby choker represented such a mix of South Asian elements with a European style. Bhupinder Singh gifted it to one of his wives, Maharani Sri Bakhtawar Kaur Sahiba, who is seen wearing it with other Cartier necklaces in some photographs.
The choker contains 292 crimson ruby beads, altogether weighing 356.6 carats. These are strung in six rows in the central section and five rows in two sections on either side, punctuated by four clusters of natural pearls. Of the 132 pearls, a few are also arranged on either end of the choker, adjacent to the clasps, which are studded with six cabochon rubies each. The central section is bookended by six rubies in a floral arrangement and sixty diamonds set in platinum, on either side.
It is unclear when the ruby choker was smuggled away or taken from Patiala’s royal treasury, and its whereabouts remained unknown until it re-emerged in the art market of Switzerland in the year 2000. It had been shortened into a bracelet, with a length of rubies removed. Cartier acquired and restored it to its original form in 2012, before selling it to the ruling Al Thani family of Qatar. As part of the Al Thani collection the choker has travelled widely to be displayed in museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and The Palace Museum in Beijing. In 2019, the choker was auctioned for 975,000 USD at Christie’s in New York as part of the Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence sale.
Christie’s. “The Patiala Ruby Choker: An Art Deco Ruby, Diamond and Natural Pearl Choker Necklace, Cartier.” Maharajas & Mughal Magnificence. Accessed March 31, 2023. https://www.christies.com/lot/lot-the-patiala-ruby-chokeran-art-deco-ruby-6212009/?lid=1&from=relatedlot&intobjectid=6212009.
Christie’s. “Cartier and the Indian Style.” Accessed March 31, 2023. https://www.christies.com/features/cartier-and-the-indian-style-9918-7.aspx?pid=mslp_related_features5.
“Lifting the Lid on a Priceless Collection: 400 Pieces of Ancient Indian Treasures to be Auctioned in NY.” The Economic Times, May 24, 2019. Accessed March 31, 2023. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/lifting-the-lid-on-a-priceless-collection-400-pieces-of-ancient-indian-treasures-to-be-auctioned-in-ny/inkwell-and-pen-case-or-davat-i-dawlat/slideshow/69475616.cms.
Stewart, Courtney A. “Former Incarnations: The Secret Lives of Objects in Treasures from India.” Metropolitan Museum of Art. November 19, 2014. Accessed 31 March, 2023. https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/now-at-the-met/2014/former-incarnations-treasures-from-india.