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Case study

A jewelled necklace with a hidden treasure

This locket houses a tiny manuscript and both required careful conservation

Jewelled necklace with amulet Quran

This talismanic necklace (taviz) is said to have belonged to Zinat Mahal Begum, the wife of Bahadur Shah Zafar (r. 1837–57), the last Mughal emperor. The necklace comprises a small, gold enamelled case set with diamonds, emeralds and rubies attached to silver thread cords. The right side of the case slides open to reveal a miniature Quran manuscript inside.

When book conservators at Windsor Castle carefully examined the tiny manuscript they saw that it had been well used by its previous owners. The goat leather covers and gold painted pages all showed signs of wear and tear from regular handling. Some pages were fused together – evidence of its earlier life in a humid environment. The book therefore required some treatment to make it stable enough to be displayed in an exhibition.

First the conservator detached the spine to allow access to the textblock. She then cleaned the pages by gentle brushing and repaired any vulnerable edge tears using a lightweight Japanese paper and wheatstarch paste as an adhesive. The book’s sewing structure was then repaired to realign the pages before she reattached the textblock to the spine. She also restored small areas of the leather binding that had lifted or were torn.

The case itself was generally structurally sound but there were some areas of fractured enamel which were in danger of detaching from the surface. A Royal Collection decorative arts conservator consolidated the enamel into position using a conservation adhesive diluted with a solvent. When brushed along the sides of the cracked enamel, the solvent carried the adhesive into and under the cracks by capillary action, and secured the fragments of enamel in position. Apart from this, the enamelled surface simply required a careful clean with deionised (pure) water.

Conservation work on the case required even greater delicacy than usual because the cord of the necklace (made of thin silver foil wrapped around a silk core) is extremely fragile, so touching had to be kept to an absolute minimum.

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RCIN 11512

An amulet or taviz necklace formed of a rectangular box of turquoise enamelled gold inlaid with diamonds and rubies, and enamelled dark and light green on the back. The side of case slides to reveal a leather bound miniature Quran manuscript (RCIN 1146163).

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