1.- The Indian Empire and ‘The Raj Collection’ by Decimononic
Orientalism achieved great popularity during the Victorian era and this ‘exotic’ Orient was a fluid concept in its meaning.
Before the XIX century, the term Orient made reference to the geographic area we call the Middle East now-a-days, an area that runs from modern day Turkey to Egypt to Iran. During this period the Orient revolved around the areas controlled by the Ottoman Empire and other following Arab nations/empires. As geographic knowledge of continental Asia increased and spread throughout Europe, the meaning of the Orient changed to include all these ‘brand new’ areas; the Orient grew to encompass India and then China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia.
Steampunkers have traditionally paid a lot of attention to the western countries during the Victorian era. However, and even focusing on this historical period only, there are many other amazing geographical areas to ‘explore’. Precisely this has encouraged us to look at the British India.
British Raj (rāj, lit. “reign” in Hindustani) was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947. After 1876, the resulting political union was officially called the Indian Empire. The system of governance was instituted in 1858, when the rule of the British East India Company was transferred to the Crown in the person of Queen Victoria (and who, in 1876, was proclaimed Empress of India). The British Raj extended over all regions of present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, including other adjacent territories during some periods.
We do think that this can become an amazing source of inspiration. If you are wondering which aesthetic results could it bring, we suggest you to have a look at this Beyond Victoriana blog post: #88 Pakistani Fashion Designer Ali Fateh’s “Steampunk Elegance” Collection. Or at this blog post of Multiculturalism for Steampunk entitled ‘CYL: Burma and the Magnificence of Mandalay’.
2.- ‘The Kerala pendant’ by Decimononic
2.1.- The pendant
Kerala is an Indian state -or pradesh- located on the Malabar coast of south-west India. Now-a-days it has the highest Human Development of the country and is a global top tourist destination.
Kerala was under the rule of English East India Company and the English Crown in the former Malabar district; almost all of Malabar except Wynad ceded to the English East India Company by the Treaty of Seringapatam (19th March 1792, ending Third Anglo-Mysore War). The British rule brought many social and economic changes and for this reason Mappila riots began twenty years before the transfer of power to the Crown and continued for a century. The outbreaks were a series of riots by the Mappila (Moplah) Muslims of Malabar in the XIX century and the early XX century against Hindu landlords and the state. The roots of the Uprising traces back to the land and taxation polices of Company after the Anglo-Mysore wars.
But, why have we chosen Kerala to name this pendant? The answer to this question is that a humanitary campaign in this pradesh is directly related with the origin of Decimononic. Maybe you are wondering now why we have chosen a coin as main element of the firs piece of a new Decimononic collection… this decision was inspired by my collection of antique coins, as this seemed a good option to pay our humble tribute to these small treasures.
Kerala pendant features an original Victoria silver rupee with handmade sterling silver bezel and bail. Although framing the coin entails that its numismatic value will fade way, we still wanted to keep its original patina. For this reason it has been cleaned using an ultrasonic cleaner and a soft cloth.
At this point you will probably want to know more about this coin and this is why we are including some details about it below. Go on reading!
2.2.- British India monetary system
Before going into detail on Victoria silver rupees, we would like to provide you with some information about the British India monetary system.
Coinage spanned whole India, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma (except Goa, Daman and Diu).
1 pie = 1/12 anna (one twelfth anna)
3 pies = 1 paisa / pice (one quarter anna)
2 half pices or 2 dhelas = 1 pice ( one quarter anna)
12 pies = 1 anna
4 Pies = 1 anna
16 anna’s = 1 rupee
15 rupees = 1 mohur (gold)
Weight of all the coins from 1835-1956 was in Grains/grams and from 1957-2002 in grams.
1 gram = 15.432 grains
180 grains = 1 Tola= 12 Mashe= 96 Ratties = 11.66 grams.
Urdu legend may be found on almost all the coins from 1835 to 1947.In addition to this, Telgu and Bengali legends are also found on coins from 1907 to 1947.
2.3.- Victoria silver rupees
Rupees had a weight of 11.66 grams and were coined with ‘standard silver’ ( 91.7% silver + 8.3% copper).
- Coins minted from 1862 through 1873 all have the date 1862.
- The legend reads “Victoria Queen” for coins dated 1862 – 1876.
- It reads “Victoria Empress” for coins dated 1877 – 1901.
2.3.1.- Coin description
The Rupee coin has three distinct Obverse designs, which can be identified by examining the panels on the front of the dress:
- Bust A.- The front of the dress has 3-3/4 panels
- Bust C.- The front of the dress has 3-½ or 3-1/3 panels … check the flower on the right of the bottom panel … it has fewer leaves than the one in Bust A
- Bust B.- The front of the dress has 4-¼ panels
The Rupee coin has several Reverse designs, which can most easily be identified by examining the flower at the very top of the coin. There appears to be many minor varieties. Following is a description of the basic reverse types.
- Reverse I.- The top flower is open with long, curved petals. The “1” in the date has a flat top.
- Reverse II.- The top flower is closed. The “1” in the date has a slanted top.
- Reverse IIa.- Variant of Type II on a few 1862 Rupees. Similar to type II, but the flower buds above the “E” of “ONE” and above right of the second “E” of “RUPEE” have a pineapple-like pattern.
- Reverse III.- The top flower is half open. The “1” in the date (1862) has a flat top.
- Reverse IV.- Variant of Type II reported by W.A.T. Aves in a Feb 1984 Seabys Coins and Metals Bulletin and confirmed by collector Bob Johnston. This reverse type is so far known to exist on the Bombay Rupees for the years 1879, 1880, 1881 and 1882. Reverse IV is slightly different in many areas but the most recognizable difference is in the lotus flower to left of the date. The type II flower has five petals, while the type IV has three larger petals.
2.3.2.- Mint Marks
There were three mints that produced the Rupee. For this reason the reverse many coins include a mark that identifies in which mint were coined:
- Calcutta mint.- It was represented by no mint mark or an indented letter “C” on the ornamental figure at the bottom of the coin (6 o’clock position). However, a dot above the ornate was used on 1877-1880 rupees.
- Bombay mint.-
- From 1874 to 1883 it was represented by a dot mint mark, normally just above the ornate at the bottom of the coin. An 1879 variety has the dot in the rosette. In 1883 (the transition year) there are Rupees with the dot, the raised “B”, and both dot and raised “B”.
- From 1883 to 1901 it was represented by an incuse “B” or a raised “B” (sometimes inverted), usually on the flower-like ornamental figure at the top in the coin (12 o’clock position). The 1884 Rupee has the raised “B” on the whorl at the bottom (on the reverse).
- Madras mint.- This mint was closed in 1867. Accordingly, it is represented by rupees dated 1862 only.
There are many sources of information about this topic, but we recommend you the website VICTORIA · The Coins of British India · Queen Victoria 1862-1901 for a comprehensive approach.
And now, what do you think? How should ‘The British Raj Collection’ evolve? Which other jewelry pieces should we be designing? We would love to hear from you!