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IF YOU couldn’t get to the British Museum’s recent exhibition then the catalogue, with full provenance and literature, is the next best thing, as is a quotation from Sir Thomas Roe, England’s first ambassador (1615-1619) to the court of the Great Mogul, Emperor Jahangir: “In jewells (which is one of his felicityes), hee is the treasury of the world, buyeing all that comes, and heaping rich stones, as if hee would rather build then weare them.” [sic].

Written by Manuel Keene, curator of the collection, the catalogue contains some 300 pieces from the completely OTT collections of Sheikh Nasser al-Ahmad al-Sabah of Kuwait, much of it from the reigns of the Great Mughals who ruled India from the mid-16th to the early 18th century.

One of the gemstones, known as the Talisman of the Throne, is a 249.3 carat spinel ruby with six royal inscriptions which was eventually stuck into the famous, or infamous Peacock Throne. The famed Timur Ruby, another royal Mughal spinel, was on loan from HM The Queen and is the most famous of Indian jewels. Shown at the Great Exhibition in 1851, set in a necklace by Garrard and given to Queen Victoria, it came thence to the present Queen. If you tire of all those jewelled daggers and swords, earplugs and boxes, take a look at the plate opposite the acknowledgements page, with a smaller version as 9.11 in the catalogue. This is a pendant with a cameo portrait of the emperor Shah Jahan, he of the Taj Mahal.

The catalogue refers in a number of instances to the small matter of the Iraqi wars and the removal of much of the museum’s holdings, noting darkly that most of the collection was eventually repatriated. Another one for the reference shelves.