Shah Jahan (1593-1666) was the fifth ruler of the powerful Moghul or Mughal empire in much of the Indian sub-continent. The empire was rich and vast during his reign (1627-58) and he was a great patron of the arts.

All his portraits show him wearing lots of jewelry. He had a jewelry obsession and he had it bad. A historical eyewitness account described his full attention in jewels that were being presented to him and total disinterest in various scantily clad dancing girls cavorting before him. His personal jewelry collection was so vast that someone estimated that it would take a jeweler 14 years take stock of it all.

The famous Koh-i-nor (Mountain of Light) diamond was once his. Another diamond that belonged to him is now owned by Elizabeth Taylor. The diamond is uncut and is the central heart-shaped gemstone in the pendant (right).

However, the true jewel in his life was his second and favourite wife, the beautiful and loving, Mumtaz Mahal ("Chosen One of the Palace", 1593-1631). She was his helpmate and constant companion, following him everywhere even on his military campaigns. She died suddenly at the age of 38, giving birth to their fourteenth child. The loss devasted Shah Jahan. For two years, he mourned her deeply, shunning everything indulgent including jewelry. After that he commissioned a mausoleum for her, another "jewel" which is his most famous achievement, the Taj Mahal.

The last eight years of his life were spent in forced seclusion, whilst his sons fought for his throne. The son who won was his least favourite, Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb eventually took away all his jewels but Shah Jahan was able to keep his rosary pearls to say his prayers. He spent much of his remaining days staring towards the memorial he built for his beloved Mumtaz. When he died, Aurangzeb placed his tomb in the Taj Mahal .


Bamber Gascoigne (2002). The Great Moghuls : India's most flamboyant rulers.Constable and Robinson Ltd.
Elizabeth Taylor (2002). Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry. Simon and Schuster.

Hugh Tait (1986). Jewelry 7000 years. British Museum

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