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Restoration of the Rose Water Sprinkler

The shape of the rose water sprinkler was well known in the Islamic world for many centuries. In the East, the tradition of sprinkling rose water had a ritual significance and was an important element of court ceremonial for the reception of guests.

The appearance of this item in the Hermitage collection is due to the Iranian ruler Nadir Shah. After waging a successful campaign of conquest against India in 1738–39, Nadir Shah dispatched an embassy to the Russian imperial court to bring news of his victory and diplomatic gifts that included fourteen elephants and sumptuous fabrics, as well as precious vessels and adornments from the treasury of the Mughal Emperors that were made of gold, silver and jade, sprinkled with diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls and embellished with polychrome enamel. Sadly, of all the extensive list of gifts only some twenty objects have survived down to the present. The work of studying the archival materials connected with the history of that embassy is still continuing.

  • Rose Water Sprinkler. Gold, diamonds, emeralds, rubies, silver, pearls India. 17th century A gift of the embassy sent by Nadir Shah, ruler of Iran. 1741
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Before restoration, abrasions, cracks, darkened areas, deformations and breaks in the metal were identified on the surface of the vessel. The mastic inside the reservoir had dried and cracked. The stones were loose and falling out, with some missing and others cracked.

Under the project, the following restoration work was carried out:

  • examination of all elements under an electron microscope
  • complete dismantling of the sprinkler to determine the state of preservation of all parts
  • removal of traces of previous restorations (wax, glue) and also copper oxides and other soiling using pulsed nanosecond fibre laser cleaning equipment
  • mending all the cracks and gaps in the metal using millisecond laser welding
  • partial correction of the deformation
  • restoration of the dried-out shellac mastic using a heated spatula and humidifier (the most time-consuming stage)
  • correction of the deformation in the mounts for the stones
  • fixing the emeralds, rubies, diamonds and pearls in place, impregnating cracks in the stones with a polymer compound

The restoration was carried out by Igor Malkiel (head of the State Hermitage’s Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Precious Metals). The keeper of the sprinkler is Anatoly Ivanov (Department of the East).

After the completion of restoration, the rose water sprinkler was put on permanent display in the State Hermitage’s Treasure Gallery.

The project was carried out with the support of the House of Cartier.