'Lost' Indian gemstone 'worn by emperors' sold at auction

image source, Michael Bowles
image captionThe pendant was once worn by Mughal emperors in the 1600s and was brought to England in the 20th Century

A gem from 17th Century India, believed to have been worn by Mughal emperors, has been auctioned for more than a quarter of a million pounds.

The ruby-red Mughal spinel pendant is inscribed with the names of royal patrons and was lost for several weeks in England during the 1920s.

A US newspaper at the time reported that it was found by a Leicestershire railway worker before it was reclaimed.

It was bought by a private collector for £272,750 on Wednesday.

The estimated guide price for the auction on Wednesday was between £60,000 and £80,000.

Benedict Carter from Sotheby's auctioneers said the gem was a symbol of "power and prestige" and was expertly inscribed in "flowing Persian script" with the names of three Mughul emperors.

The spinel pendant is walnut-sized and hangs on a gold chain with a tassel of pearls.

Mr Carter said he found the American newspaper article in the archives but was unable to confirm the details because the paper had closed down in 1930s.

"The story was in the Shamokin Dispatch in Pennsylvania but I wasn't able to find any other references to it in papers in the US or here in Britain.

"I have no reason to believe it's not true, though," he said.

Mr Carter said the jewel probably came back to England with the wife of the UK deputy high commissioner in Lucknow in the 1920s.

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