Bhupinder Singh, Maharaja of Patiala (1891-1938), ruled the princely state of Patiala from 1900 to 1938. Best known for his extravagant lifestyle, Bhupindar Singh believed in excess and had an insatiable appetite for women, food, travel, sports, politics and every day luxuries. Legend tells that he had a motorcade of over twenty Rolls-Royce, which would transport the Maharaja along with his countless wives, aides, servants and staff, when traveling in Europe.
Bhupindar Singh was born into a family accustomed to over-indulgence and expenditure. His father, Rajendra Singh (1872-1900) was even more gluttonous with his spending than his son. Often traveling to Europe to acquire new treasures, he was the first Maharaja to marry a European woman and the first to import a motor car to India – specifically a French De Dion-Bouton with the license plate ‘Patiala 0’.
When Rajendra Singh died in 1900, a council of regency took over the state as Bhupindar Singh was only nine years old at the time. Spoilt beyond belief, the young Maharaja enjoyed the same luxuries that his father did, inheriting some of the most incredible jewels of the time, including the De Beers yellow diamond of approximately 234.50 carats – which he later had mounted by Cartier and a grand Western style diamond-set tiara.
A key patron to English and French luxury firms during the early 20th century, the Maharaja of Patiala was a frequent client of Asprey, Boucheron, Cartier, Garrard and many others. Heir to a treasury of the finest gemstones and diamonds, the Maharaja brought truckloads of jewels and stones for the firms to work with.
In the mid-1920s, the Maharaja supplied Cartier with countless gemstones from his treasury to be reset and redesigned. He preferred platinum over gold and requested jewels be made for himself as well as his many wives and concubines.
One of the most impressive jewels to derive from the collaboration between Cartier and Patiala was an incredible ruby, natural pearl and diamond multi-layer necklace. Worn in a famous portrait of the Maharaja and his many wives and consorts, Lot 272, ‘The Patiala Choker’, is a surviving portion of this superb masterpiece.
As with many jewels from the 1920s and 1930s, the necklace was eventually reset and restyled to adapt to evolving trends. In 2012, the necklace was restored and restrung to its original design by Cartier Tradition. Considered by the firm to be one of the most important necklaces ever made, the ‘Patiala Choker’ represents one of the greatest relationships that developed during this period and truly captures the romance between the East and West in the early part of the 20th century.