GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 190-5
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM-6:30 PM


DIRLAM, Dona Mary1, WELDON, Robert2, ROGERS, Chris L.2 and WELDON, Orasa3, (1)Carlsbad, CA 92008, (2)Gemological Institute of America, 5345 Armada Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008, (3)OW Design, Carlsbad, CA 92010

A robust international trade stretched by land and sea across the globe in the 17th century. In this remarkable time, the gem miners and merchants enabled gifted craftsman in India to work with over 40 gem minerals. Many were used to decorate India’s Taj Mahal, and others augmented the treasury of the Mughal leaders including Shah Jahan (1592-1666). India was a land of fabled wealth that lured merchants and conquerors from antiquity to Mughal times. Fortunately, palace scribes, mineralogists, and gem merchants documented these gems to an extent never before witnessed. Consequently, we can create a map of the gem sources and their trade routes. Our goal is to inspire mineralogists to research these gems’ unique properties to aid in origin determination of gem minerals.

This map of gem localities is at the heart of our poster. Of over 40 gem materials that have been documented, 20 key gems are traced on our map from their origin through the routes that brought them to Agra, India and the Taj Mahal. Emeralds came from what is now Colombia and were treasured by the Mughals for their green color. Until the arrival of these emeralds in the Mughal era, there was no source of emerald that could match the fine color, size, and abundance. Pearls from the Americas were eagerly sought. Amber and garnets came from Europe. Turquoise, emerald, garnet, aquamarine, peridot, and rock crystal quartz traveled from Africa. Central Asia produced turquoise, spinel, and Lapis Lazuli. Over the Silk Roads jadeite and nephrite traded alongside silk and gun powder. Much effort was made to recover ruby, sapphire, and spinel from the mines of Mogok in present-day Myanmar along with jadeite from other sources. The gem rich island now known as Sri Lanka produced chrysoberyl, corundum, spinel, topaz, garnet, and peridot. India’s unique Golconda diamonds provided the main gem for trading along with other Indian gems.

Mughal jewelry features these extraordinary gems. Photos present the hard stone decorative work of India where this lapidary skill reached its pinnacle. Antique maps illustrate the countries as they were known. A 21st century map reminds us how many localities still produce gem minerals today. Examples of geographic origin studies of gems mounted in Mughal jewelry are included in the bibliography.