Prince’s Ruby at the Bowers Museum

Origin of name

The historical “Prince’s Ruby” on display at the Bower’s Museum of Cultural Art at Santa Ana, California, gets its name from Prince Khurram – the third son of Mughal Emperor Jehangir (1605-27) – who ascended the Mughal Throne as Shah Jahaan in 1628, after the death of his father. The “Prince’s Ruby” is believed to have been owned by Shah Jahan, who is better know the world over for his architectural marvel, the “Taj Mahal,” as revealed by the Arabic inscriptions etched on the stone. Shah Jahaan was reputed to have owned one of the most splendid collection of jewels in the world, and the “Prince’s Ruby” was a part of this collection.

Characteristics of the gemstone

The 4Cs of the Ruby

Out of the 4Cs of the gemstone, color, cut, clarity, and carat weight, only the color and carat weight of the stone are known for certain. The Stone being a ruby must have a red color, but the tone of the red color is not known. The carat weight of the stone is 174.67 carats. The clarity of the stone must also have been good, considering the fact that it formed part of the fabulous collection of jewels of Shah Jahaan, and only stones of exceptional quality would have entered this collection. For rubies the best clarity one could get is the “eye clean” clarity, as the presence of inclusions is a normal occurrence in rubies. Readers who might have had the opportunity to see the stone at the Bower’s Museum of Cultural Art, California, and have further information on the 4Cs of the stone, particularly its cut, are requested to upload the same as comment.

A case of mistaken identity in the past

Most of the large red gemstones that originated during this period were classified as rubies, and such stones had entered the prestigious jewelry collections of monarchies around the world. However, after the development of modern gemology such enormous red gemstones have been subjected to laboratory tests and have been found to be mainly red spinels. The “Timur Ruby,” and the “Black Prince Ruby” of the British Crown Jewels, the “Catherine the Great Ruby” of the Russian Crown Jewels, are some of the large spinels, which were previously thought to be rubies. Likewise several large red gemstones in the Iranian Crown Jewels which were previously thought to be rubies have now been found to be actually red spinels.

The “Princes Ruby” is the largest gem quality ruby in the world

The 174.67-carat “Princes Ruby” displayed at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, at Santa Ana, California, whose origins have been traced to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahaan of India, is in all probability a true ruby, as there are no reports to the contrary. If this is so the 174.67-carat “Prince’s Ruby” undoubtedly becomes the largest gem-quality ruby in the world, followed immediately by the “Rosser Reeves Star Ruby” and the “DeLong Star Ruby.” Please click here to see the comprehensive list of gem-quality faceted rubies greater than 10-carats in weight arranged in descending order of weights.

History of the “Prince’s Ruby”

Golconda and Badakhshan comes under Shah Jahaan’s sovereignty

Emperor Shah Jahaan was the fifth Mughal Emperor of India who reigned for 30 years between 1628 and 1658. He was the third son of Emperor Jahangir Shah, and ascended the throne after the death of his father in October 1627. During his reign he was able to subdue the Deccan states, which included Ahmadnagar, Golconda, and Bijapur. He also extended Mughal authority in the nothwest, and captured Qandahar, Badakshan and Balkh. The subjugation of Golconda and Badakshan were significant, as Golconda around this time was a prolific producer of diamonds and Badakhshan a producer of Balas rubies (spinels). Significant quantities of diamonds, spinels and other gemstones from these two regions, entered  Emperor Shah Jahaan’s court during this period.

Shah Jahaan’s passion for building

Shah Jahaan transferred the capital of the Mughal Empire from Agra to Delhi in 1648. He had a great passion for building, and in Agra he built the world renowned Taj Mahal, a mausoleum in memory of his favorite queen Mumtaz Mahal who died during child birth. He also constructed two great mosques at Agra, which came to be known as the Moti Masjid and the Jami Masjid. In Delhi he constructed an elaborate fortress-palace complex, which came to be known as the Red Fort. He also built a large mosque befitting his new capital city, which was known as the Jami Masjid.

The Peacock Throne – the most magnificent throne ever created in human history

The splendor of the Mughal court reached a climax under Emperor Shah Jahaan, whose court was renowned for its great pomp and pageantry. He extended his patronage to literary activities, and also encouraged the arts such as painting and calligraphy. His treasury housed a fabulous variety of gems and jewelry, that perhaps was the most splendid and valuable collection in the whole world. The chronicler of the Mughal court Nizam-ud-Din Bakshi wrote that Shah Jahaan was of the view that holding a magnificent collection of jewels hidden away from public view would not serve any purpose. Such a wonderful collection could only render one service, that of adorning the throne of the empire, which might help to elevate the status of the King as he shines with increased brilliance, and giving an opportunity to his subjects to appreciate the beauty of these gifts of nature. This was the philosophy behind the Great Emperor’s directive to the royal jewelers and craftsmen to design and construct a throne that could accommodate most of the valuable pieces of gems in his enormous collection. The royal directive eventually materialized into the most magnificent throne ever created in human history, which came to be known as Shah Jahaan’s Peacock Throne, which by today’s estimates would have cost at least one billion dollars. According to historians the estimated cost of the Peacock Throne at that time was double the cost of constructing the magnificent Taj Mahal.

The throne was studded with innumerable numbers of the most precious of gemstones, such as diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls and sapphires. Among the notable diamonds mounted on the throne were the “Koh-i-Nur Diamond,” the “Akbar Shah Diamond,” the “Jehangir Shah Diamond,” the “Shah Diamond,” the “Golconda-D Diamond,” and the “Great Table Diamond.” Perhaps the “Prince’s Ruby” might have been one of the large rubies mounted on the Peacock Throne.

The dismantling of the Peacock Throne

Little did the great emperor Shah Jahaan realize, that the bringing together of such a large and priceless collection of jewels into a single but magnificent creation, might someday become the prime target and booty of a mighty conqueror and plunderer. This is what exactly happened in the year 1739, 73 years after Shah Jahaan’s death in 1666, when Nadir Shah the mighty conqueror of neighboring Iran invaded northern India, during the rule of Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah. Nadir Shah’s troops sacked the capitals of Delhi and Agra and carried an enormous booty that included the famous Peacock Throne, and a second Peacock Throne that was the exact duplicate of the first, the Koh-i-Nur diamond, the Darya-i-Nur and Nur-ul-Ain diamonds, and large numbers of chests filled to the brim with emeralds, rubies, pearls and other precious stones. The current estimate of the booty is about 5 billion dollars. After Nadir Shah’s assassination in 1747, most of the Iranian Crown Jewels were looted by his commanders and generals who were close to him. The Peacock Throne was dismantled and all the precious jewels and gold, that once formed part of the throne were stolen and never recovered. Most of these jewels eventually reached the western capitals, and the “Prince’s Ruby” might have been among them.

Rubies in the Mughal treasury that might approach the weight of the “Prince’s Ruby”

According to historical records available of the rubies and sapphires that were once stored in the Mughal treasury, and published by Aziz in his book in 1942, there were at least five rubies more than 100-carats in weight that were once owned by Shah Jahaan, that may somewhat approach the weight of the “Prince’s Ruby” which is equal to 174.67-carats. It must be noted however, that the original weights were actually given as Ratis, and have been converted to metric carats on the basis that the average jeweler’s rati is equal to 0.8618 carats, which is of course an approximation.

1) A ruby of 192-ratis equivalent approximately to 165.47-carats, belonging to Raja Maldeo, and presented to Prince Khurram (Shah Jahaan), who later offered the stone to his father Emperor Jahangir Shah. This ruby might approach the 174.67-carats weight of the “Prince’s Ruby”, given the ambiguity of the old units and the approximations used in the conversion.

2) The largest ruby in the Mughal treasury weighing 456-ratis, equivalent to 372.10-carats. This ruby was presented to Emperor Jahangir Shah by Prince Khurram. However the weight of the ruby significantly exceeds the weight of the “Prince’s Ruby,” and being of enormous size the ruby is most probably a spinel.

3) A 132-rati ruby equivalent to 113.76-carats offered by Prince Khurram to Nur Jahan the most influential and powerful wives of Emperor Jahangir Shah, whose niece he married in 1612. This ruby however falls short of the weight of the “Prince’s Ruby.”

4) A 221-rati ruby equivalent to 190.46-carats bestowed by Emperor Jahangir on Prince Khurram. This ruby was originally presented to Prince Salim (Jahangir) at the time of his birth, by his grandmother, the mother of Emperor Akbar the Great. However, the weight of this ruby is substantially greater than the “Prince’s Ruby.”

5) A 288-rati ruby equivalent to 248.20-carats, that formed the central ruby of Emperor Shah Jahaan’s Sarpech. It was said to be superior in quality to the 456-rati ruby, which was the largest ruby in the Mughal treasury. However, the weight of this ruby significantly exceeds the weight of the “Prince’s Ruby.”

The “Prince’s Ruby” on display at the Bower’s Museum

The “Prince’s Ruby” which is said to have belonged to Shah Jahaan is a historical ruby that is on display at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana, California. The gemstone weighs an astounding 174.67 carats, and is engraved with Arabic calligraphy.

Readers who might have access to an image or images of the Prince’s Ruby  displayed at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana, California, are kindly requested to upload the same at this link

References :-

1) Ruby & Sapphire – Richard Hughes.

2) JCK on Line – Gem notes – 7-1-1998.

3) Encyclopaedia Britannica – 2006

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