The $3.5 million spectacles said to ward off evil

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written by Megan C. Hills, Granthshala

Two pairs of 17th-century glasses are expected to fetch millions of dollars at auction next month. The jewel-adorned glasses, which have lenses made of diamonds and emeralds instead of glass, are believed to have originally belonged to the royals of the Mughal Empire, which once ruled the Indian subcontinent.
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Designed to help the wearer gain wisdom and ward off evil, they are set to go on public display for the first time when touring New York, Hong Kong and London ahead of the October sale.

According to Edward Gibbs, President of Sotheby’s Middle East and India, the glasses are an exceptionally rare example of Mughal jewelery craftsmanship. “As far as we know, there is no other like him,” he said in a phone interview.


Each eyeglass is expected to cost up to $3.5 million. Credit: Courtesy of Sotheby’s

The rarity of the objects is reduced even to the sheer size of their gemstone lenses. The lenses in a pair, known as “halo of light” glasses, are believed to have been isolated from a 200-carat diamond found in Golconda, an area in the present-day Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Is. (Sotheby’s estimates that the original diamond was “probably the largest ever found.”) The second pair of green lenses, called the “Gate of Paradise”, meanwhile, are believed to weigh over 300 carats by Colombians. The page has been cut.

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The shape of the original stones hints at the identity of the first owners of the glasses, with Gibbs conjecturing that the glasses “could have only belonged to an emperor, his inner circle, or a high-ranking courtier”. “Any gem of this size, magnitude or value would have been brought directly to the Mughal court,” he said.

The gems were highly valued in Islamic and Indian traditions, where they had a strong association with spirituality. According to Gibbs, in Indian societies diamonds were associated with “celestial light” and “enlightenment”, as the shining stones were considered “vehicles for subtle forces” that could transmit auspicious intentions to the universe.

the lens

The lens of the “Halo of Light” glasses is believed to have been cut from a 200-carat diamond. Credit: Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Green is also a color associated with heaven, salvation and eternal life in Islam, a religion practiced by the Mughal rulers. Therefore, while viewing the world through these emerald-tinted glasses would be of particular importance, Gibbs suggests that the experience “took you through the gateway to heaven” may have been “a view of a lush green sea of ​​green heaven”. The glimpse that awaits”.

royal precedent

The Mughal Empire was renowned for advancing jewelery craftsmanship throughout South Asia, and these glasses are an example of the genius of its jeweller. According to Gibbs, the Indian subcontinent was “the only source of diamonds in the world” in the 17th century.

Therefore, the area was home to some of the most advanced technologies of that era. Making these lenses required “extraordinary technical skill and scientific dexterity,” Gibbs said, because Muggle gem cutters would have carved them by hand and there would be no room for error.

“There’s a big risk to the stone being cut and shaped,” he said. “If it goes wrong, you lose the stone.”

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The design of the glasses was most influenced by gemologists who visited the Mughal court from Europe, said Gibbs, who described the objects as “the meeting of European and Indian technology and ideas”. The arrival of Jesuit missionaries, some of whom wore pint-nez glasses (which balance on the nose and have no weapons), may have also influenced the original frame of the glasses. In the late 19th century, however, both sets of frames were replaced with current ones, which include the lens rim and bridge with several rose-cut diamonds.

Gibbs said the colored lenses were a favorite of Emperor Nero, who wore green gemstone glasses to “soothe his eyes from the sight of blood” at Roman gladiator games, Gibbs said. King Charles V of France is believed to have worn beryl glasses in the 14th century. According to Sotheby’s, a similar story revolves around the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who is said to have lived several days after the death of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal (for whom he built the Taj Mahal as a mausoleum). She used emerald to soothe her tired eyes after crying.


The glasses for the “Gate of Paradise” are believed to have been cut from Colombian emeralds. Credit: Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s estimates the two pairs of glasses will sell for between £1.5 million and £2.5 million ($2.1 million to $3.5 million). And though they may be centuries old, their glossy frames and narrow silhouettes are remarkably on-trend. Members of the hip-hop group Migos known for their diamond-studded Cartier Show, while Kylie Jenner is seen wearing opaque bejeweled glasses Gal. with and on social media.

“The allure of jewelry, shiny stones and shiny things lasts for all ages, doesn’t it?” Gibbs said. “The adoption of current pop and celebrity in fashion is a testament to the enduring style and sophistication of Indian jewelry.”


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