On February 1, the Faberge Museum
unveiled the lavish banquet service of the Maharaja of Patiala (now Punjab in India). This exquisite service was made by the leading gold and silversmiths of early 20th century England.
The Faberge Museum is dedicated to collecting and exhibiting the art and work of the great czarist-era Russian jewelry, Carl Faberge and his company. However, over the past few years the museum has widened its mission and now it also acquires the finest examples of jewelry arts of all centuries and cultures.
The Maharajas banquet service is comprised of 40 types of items made from silver and gold-plating that number more than 1,400 pieces and with a total weight of 600 kilos. The service is the finest made in England in this period, and it breaks records in many categories: the worlds largest silver banquet service; the largest royal service; the largest English service ever made; and the worlds most expensive gold-plated silver service.
The Faberge Museum paid £1,965,875 ($2,995,994) for the service at a Christies auction in London on 4 July 2013; its pre-sale estimate was £1 million to £1.5 million ($1.6 million to $2.3 million).
"It was a great honor to be entrusted with the sale of this truly magnificent service and we laid out as many of the 1,400 pieces as possible in order to show just how lavishly the Maharaja dined and entertained," said Dr. Amin Jaffer, International Director of Indian and Asian Art at Christies. "How wonderful that we can see it once again, this time in the glorious surroundings of the Fabergé Museum in Baden-Baden."
The Maharaja's banquet service was made for 200 people, and it was originally packed in 12 large trunks. It was first used on 24 February 1922 for the state dinner held by the Maharaja in honor of the Prince of Wales, future King Edward VIII, during his visit to India. In subsequent years, since there were no other luxurious services in the world capable of serving 200 guests, the Maharajas service would sometimes return to the English court. But after each banquet the number of pieces would diminish because guests were keen to take home a small souvenir of the royal service. Hence, the service is currently incomplete, though the Faberge Museum is actively buying missing pieces when they appear on the market.
Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala (1891-1938) succeeded his father, Maharaja Rajinder Singh, at the age of nine, and went on to become one of India's richest and most ambitious rulers during the time of British colonial rule. He loved luxury, for instance, he owned the famous "Patiala Necklace" made by Cartier with almost 3,000 diamonds and with a center diamond from DeBeers that weighed 428 carats. He was also one of the most progressive leaders of the time and he represented India in the League of Nations and served in the Chamber of Princes. He was married 10 times and had 88 official children. He was also captain of the Indian cricket team, the first man in India to own an aircraft and is said to have travelled in a fleet of 20 Rolls Royces.