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Restoration of a gold rose water sprinkler with a pear-shaped body

The gold rose water sprinkler embellished with large emeralds is a luxury item from the treasury of the Mughal Emperors. Vessels for scented water of this kind were originally used in India during the performance of religious rites. At the court of the Mughal dynasty, who ruled India from 1526 until the mid-19th century, they turned from ritual utensils into domestic objects.

The rose water sprinkler consists of two separate parts: the round body and long tapering neck. Inside there is a silver bulb that would hold the liquid. The entire surface of the vessel is covered with precious stones. Narrow vertical bands of rubies divide the body of the sprinkler into eight sections that are decorated with floral ornament made of emeralds finished in the form of high cabochons. The largest of the stones are covered with carving. This rarely seen technique was known in the East from ancient times. The place where the neck and body connect is also marked by a horizontal belt of engraved emeralds. The scale-like pattern on the neck is formed by alternating small-sized rubies and emeralds. The decoration displays the red and green colour scheme typical for the works of Mughal jewellers. The exquisite vessel ends in an eight-lobed rim, into the centre of which is a screw stopper decorated with a large pearl. It closes the small round opening through which the rose water was released.

  • 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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The Mughal treasury was plundered by Nadir Shah, the ruler of Iran in 1736–47, during the capture of Delhi in 1739. In the autumn of that same year, Nadir Shah dispatched an embassy to Russia bearing precious gifts, including this object.

Before restoration, the item had abrasions, cracks and darkened areas. There was some serious deformation. The mastic inside the reservoir had dried and cracked. The stones were loose and falling out, with breaks and cracks in their gold mounts.

In the course of the restoration work all elements were studied under an electron microscope; traces of previous restorations (wax, glue), cracks and soiling were removed; the dried-out shellac mastic was restored; the deformation of the mountings was corrected, and the emerald, rubies, diamonds and pearls fixed in place.

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 PJSC Gazprom Neft.