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Inscribed Gem-Set
Jade Mughal Comb

Width: 6.0 cm. (2 1/4 in.)
Height: 3.9 (1 1/2 in.)

19th century A.D.

The small greyish-celadon colored nephrite jade comb was fashioned with multiple short, broad teeth projecting from a wide flat handle with scalloped edges and decorated on its face with a pair of peacocks one on either side of a petalled floret and each facing outwards with floral sprays to the sides and below the peacocks, the motifs boldly outlined with raised strings of gold and the cloisonné inset with rubies, possibly backed with foil, with a diamond at the center of the floret. Two gold bands inscribed in Persian [?] flank the short teeth of the comb.

The Chinese were not the only artisans creating utilitarian and decorative works from jade for the privileged class. In India jade was sourced from Central Asia in Kashgar, beginning during the rule of emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605). While some of the finest Mughal jade carvings can easily compare to the workmanship of 18th century Chinese jade, Mughal Indian craftsmen were also masters of embellishment, adorning jade surfaces with gold and precious and semi-precious stone, a distinctly Indian technique and tradition. Where the color of the stone is the most important aspect of a Chinese jade ornament–flawless white or yellow being the most desirable,–the fine lapidary work on a Mughal jade object would elevate its stature. The present work is carved from an average stone and the teeth on the comb seem too short to be of use, however the beautiful gem set decoration and the inscribed bands suggest the piece might have been made for a wealthy lady’s or gentleman’s dressing table as a decorative object.

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