All That Glitters in the Afterlife of the Mughal Empire

The Royal Institute Dictionary of Thai provides the following definition for kudan:

(n) Tong Kam Gaew, inlaid gemstones and mirror-work embroidery. Lai Pan Kudan, gilded and mirror-worked ceramic embellishments. Kod Ku Pon, an engraved and mirror-worked funeral urn plated in gold.
(n) a type of traditional Thai pattern consisting of tessellated four-petalled flowers. If the flowers are spread out, the pattern is known as Pra Jam Yam.

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The first part of the definition makes clear the association of kudan with an embellishing technique that features gems, small pieces of mirror (mirror-work) and gold-plating. And in fact, kudan is the Thai inflection of kundan (trans. pure gold) a branch of traditional Indian handcrafted jewelry that is inlaid with gemstones and burnished with gold foil. The resplendent jewelry worn with traditional Thai dress, such as the shoulder chain, is typically made by this method.

Kundan jewelry flourished during the Mughal empire, which ruled over the Indian subcontinent between the 16th and 19th centuries, but its origins date further back to jeweler communities in Rajasthan or Gujarat during the Rajput era. The first step in the process of making kundan is the fashioning of a base made of pure gold or gold-plated metal. Next, the design is lightly carved on the surface of the structure, and the precious stones and polished gems inlaid as indicated. Lasty, the newly-crafted piece of jewelry is polished to a shine. Kundan meena, a branch of kundan jewelry, is the pride of Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan. The base, composed of gold pieces of different shapes, is decorated with enameling and mirror-work on one side and inlaid gems on the other.

RCB Auctions has procured a rare specimen of kudan craftsmanship– palm-sized opulence for the passionate connoisseur– for the upcoming Live Auction: an exquisite silver kudan tray decorated with engraved dragons, coiled floral vine scrolls and inset rubies.

Lot 86
A rare and fine silver tray carved and pierced with dragons amidst floral vine scrolls and inset rubies (1 pc.)
Style: Thai - Chinese
Dimensions: W 9 cm L 16 cm H 2.5 cm weight 138 gram
Circa: Early 20th Century
Estimated Price: 50,000 - 70,000 THB
Starting Price: 24,000 THB