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Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani

Photo by Hugh Routledge / Rex Features

In a remarkably short time, Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani amassed what is likely the most important collection of historical Indian jewelry in private hands today. The Qatari national, who serves as the CEO of the QIPCO holding company and is a first cousin to the emir of the country, first became interested in jewelry from India in 2009, when he viewed the Maharaja exhibit at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. In his pursuit of Indian jewelry’s finest examples, historic and contemporary designs alike, Sheikh Hamad enlisted Amin Jaffer, international director of Asian art at Christie’s. In less than two years, Jaffer meticulously assembled more than 400 pieces of jewelry and jeweled artifacts, whose origins range from the Mogul era to the 21st century.

Sheikh Hamad’s prizes include a 17th-century jade dagger once owned by Emperor Jahangir and later his son, Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal; it also passed through the hands of Samuel Morse (the inventor of Morse code) before it came to the sheikh in 2013. Its fine jade hilt ends in an exquisite sculpture of a European-style head. Also part of the collection is a finial from the throne of the legendary 18th-century leader Tipu Sultan, known as the Tiger of Mysore. The decoration from the regal seat features a golden tiger head inlaid with diamonds, emeralds, and rubies. Among the other highlights: North Indian turban ornaments made between 1875 and 1900 that reflect how Western influences changed Indian jewelers’ approach to their design; and contemporary creations, including pieces by Joel A. Rosenthal, or JAR, of Paris, and India’s Viren Bhagat, both of whom sell through their private salons and in limited numbers. 

Recently some of the sheikh’s jewels were on display in Treasures from India: Jewels from the Al-Thani Collection, which ran at the Metropolitan Museumof Art from October 2014 to January of this year. He hosted a preshow party at the Met for 150 guests,in a style befitting a modern maharaja. On hand at the event were more than 100 waiters dressed in white tie and tails. 

See the Wealth-X profile for Sheikh Hamad bin Abdullah Al-Thani

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