Queen loans V&A hidden treasures of the Sikhs

A RARE JEWEL, unseen by the public for nearly 150 years, has been loaned by the Queen for the first ever international exhibition of the Sikh artistic heritage. It will take pride of place alongside priceless stones which once belonged to Shah Jahan, the Mogul emperor who built the Taj Mahal.

Experts believe the Timur ruby, which is really a translucent stone called a spinel, once regarded in the East as more precious than diamond, has not been seen in public since the Great Exhibition of 1851.

As well as the ruby, the Queen is loaning a belt of emeralds, pearls and diamonds, seized by the British from the Punjab in the mid-19th century.

She is also lending the original gold enamelled setting of the legendary Koh-i-noor diamond - although not the diamond itself - for the exhibition which opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London later this month. A spokesman for the Queen said: "These are part of the royal collection, but they don't often see the light of day, because of their nature and the requirements for showing them."

The Timur ruby gained its name from a spurious association with the Central Asian ruler Timur, known in the West as Tamburlaine. It was really the possession of Shah Jahan, whose name is inscribed upon it.

The jewel, like the Koh-i-noor diamond and its setting, was later acquired by Ranjit Singh, the greatest Sikh maharaja of the Punjab, whose court in Lahore was a scene of dazzling brilliance last century.

Susan Stronge, the curator, expects the pieces to revitalise the Maharaja's image. Respected by the British for his military prowess, he was dubbed the "Lion of the Punjab". But Ms Stronge believes the exhibition will reveal the magnificence of his court and his role as an avid collector of treasures. "Many people think the Sikh court was not very interesting, but it was really splendid," she said.

A 19th-century visitor, Henry Edward Fane, wrote: "The dresses and jewels of the Rajah's court were the most superb that can be conceived; the whole scene can only be compared to a gala night at the Opera."

The exhibition has at its core the V&A's own collection of textiles and one of its most prized pieces, the Golden Throne of Ranjit Singh. The Sikh community, led by the Sikh Foundation of America, has provided works from private collections and museums in India, Pakistan, Europe and North America. It marks the 300th anniversary of the Khalsa, one of the most important events in Sikh history when the visual symbols associated with Sikhs - such as uncut hair for men - were prescribed.

Among other exhibits that the Queen is lending the V&A are photographs and paintings of Maharaja Dalip Singh. The youngest son of one of Ranjit Singh's queens and the last Sikh ruler of the Punjab, he came to Britain after the British annexed the region in 1849 and was befriended by Queen Victoria.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'