19th century
Gold, diamonds, cloisonne
Overall: 1 5/8 x 3 x 1/4 in. (4.128 x 7.62 x 0.635 cm)
Arts of Asia
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Alta Brenner in memory of her daughter Andrea Bernice Brenner-McMullen
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

General Description

Enameled gold jewelry was popular from at least the 16th century onward in north India, and the best-known center of production is Jaipur in the modern state of Rajasthan—from which this buckle probably originates. However, enameled jewelry is also made elsewhere, and Varanasi, famous for its pink enameled hues, is another important source. Enameled gold jewelry was manufactured by a team of workmen that included a designer, a goldsmith, an engraver, an enameler, a polisher, a stone setter, and in some cases a stringer. Enamelers in Jaipur originally came from Lahore, today in modern Pakistan, when Raja Man Singh, an important general in the Mughal court, brought them to his capital in the 16th century.

While enamel work is often visible when worn, in many cases the enamel work is on the back and is not generally visible. The buckle is representative of this, for while there is some enamel work on the front, it is the buckle's opposite side that bears fine enamel work with peacocks, birds, and delicate flowers in reds, greens, and blues on a white background. Ironically then some of the finest craftsmanship appears on the backs of some jewelry items, where only the owners might be aware of its quality. Yet in fact the gold, usually 22 karat and sometimes 24 karat, and the gemstones that embellish the piece, are considered more valuable than the fine enameling. The buckle's front is an example of this, for its dominant features are large, flat-cut diamonds inlaid into the blue enameled surface to form floral designs. This piece could have been worn by a man or a woman and underscores the tendency in India to adorn the male and female body with ornament from head to foot.

Adapted from

Catherine Asher, "Buckle," in The Arts of India, South East Asia, and the Himalayas, Anne R. Bromberg (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 142.