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The $ 3.5 million glasses supposed to ward off evil

Written by Megan C. Hills, CNN

Two pairs of 17th-century glasses are expected to fetch millions of dollars at auction next month. The jewel-encrusted glasses, which feature diamond and emerald lenses rather than glass, are believed to have originally belonged to the royal family of the Mughal Empire, which once ruled the Indian subcontinent.

Designed to help the wearer achieve enlightenment and ward off evil, they are expected to be on public display for the first time as they tour New York, Hong Kong and London ahead of the October sale.

Eyeglasses are an exceptionally rare example of Mughal jewelry craftsmanship, according to Edward Gibbs, president of Sotheby’s Middle East and India. “As far as we know, there are no others like them,” he said in a telephone interview.

The glasses are expected to fetch up to $ 3.5 million each. Credit: Courtesy of Sotheby’s

The rarity of the items is also due to the size of their gemstone glasses. The lenses of a pair, known as the “Halo of Light” glasses, were said to have been cleaved from a single 200-carat diamond found in Golconda, a region of the present-day Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. . (Sotheby’s estimates that the original diamond was “possibly the largest ever found.”) The green glasses of the second pair, nicknamed the “Door to Heaven”, are said to have been cut from a Colombian emerald weighing more. of 300 carats.

The original stone cut alludes to the identity of the original owners of the glasses, with Gibbs speculating that the glasses “could only belong” to an emperor, his entourage or a high-ranking courtier. He said: “Any gemstone of this size, magnitude or value would have been brought directly to the Mughal court.”

Gemstones were highly prized in Islamic and Indian traditions, where they were strongly associated with spirituality. According to Gibbs, diamonds were associated with “celestial light” and “enlightenment” in Indian societies, as shining stones were seen as “vehicles of astral forces” which could channel the auspicious intentions of the universe.

The $ 3.5 million glasses supposed to ward off evil

The lenses of the “Halo of Light” glasses are said to have been cut from a single 200-carat diamond. Credit: Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Green is also a color closely related to paradise, salvation and eternal life in Islam, the religion practiced by Mughal rulers. Seeing the world through these emerald-tinted glasses would therefore have had special significance, Gibbs suggesting that the experience may have “led you through the gate of paradise” by offering “a glimpse of the verdant sea of ​​green paradise that awaits. . “

royal precedent

The Mughal Empire was renowned for advancing jewelry craftsmanship across South Asia, and these glasses are an example of the talents of its jewelers. In the 17th century, the Indian subcontinent was the “world’s only source of diamonds,” according to Gibbs.

The region was therefore home to some of the most advanced techniques of the time. Creating these lenses would have required “extraordinary technical skill and scientific mastery,” Gibbs said, as Mughal gem cutters would have hand-carved them with no margin for error.

“There is a huge risk associated with cutting the stone and its size,” he added. “If it turns out badly, you lose the stone.”

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Gemologists from Europe visiting the Mughal court most likely influenced the design of the glasses, said Gibbs, who described the items as “a meeting of European and Indian technologies and ideas.” The arrival of Jesuit missionaries, some of whom wore nose-clip glasses (which balance over the nose and have no arms), may also have influenced the original spectacle frames. At the end of the 19th century, however, both sets of mounts were replaced by the current mounts, which feature numerous rose-cut diamonds along the edges of the lens and bridge.

Colored lenses had been favored by Emperor Nero, who wore green gemstone glasses to “soothe his eyes from the sight of blood” during Roman gladiatorial games, Gibbs said. The King of France Charles V, meanwhile, is said to have worn beryl glasses in the 14th century. According to Sotheby’s, a similar story surrounds Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who allegedly used emeralds to soothe his tired eyes after he cried for days after the death of his wife Mumtaz Mahal (for whom he built the Taj Mahal as a tomb) .

The $ 3.5 million glasses supposed to ward off evil

The “Gate of Paradise” glasses are said to have been cut from a Colombian emerald. Credit: Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s estimates that the two pairs of glasses will sell for between £ 1.5 million and £ 2.5million ($ 2.1-3.5million) each. And although they are centuries old, their sparkling frames and narrow figures look remarkably on-trend. Members of hip-hop group Migos are known for their diamond-studded Cartier glasses, while Kylie Jenner has been seen wearing jeweled opaque glasses at the Met Gala and on social media.

“The appeal of jewelry, shiny stones and shiny things persists through all ages, doesn’t it? Gibbs said. “The current adoption of these fashions by pop and celebrities is a testament to the enduring style and sophistication of Indian jewelry.”