Maharaja's silver-gilt dinner service auctions for $3m at Christie's

A magnificent silver-gilt dinner service commissioned by the former Maharaja of Patiala has topped Christie's July 4 auction in London, entitled The Exceptional Sale.

Maharaja of Patiala gilt dinner service
The Maharaja surrounded himself with extravagent items, such as the famous Patiala Necklace

The service comprises 1,400 silver-gilt pieces, which were commissioned in 1922. Bearing the hallmarks of the Goldsmiths' and Silversmiths' Company, it sold for £1.9m ($3m), making a 31% increase on estimate.

The price is a new record for an English dinner service sold at auction.

The service was commissioned by Maharaja Bhupiner Singh especially for a visit from the then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII. Patiala is the third-largest city in the Indian state of Punjab.

The three-day visit was intended as a restful time for the Prince of Wales and, aside from the review of 10,000 former soldiers who had served in the first world war, there was no official timetable.

As such, he spent the majority of his time in Patiala being entertained with polo matches, pig-sticking and shooting. The event was crowned by a lavish state banquet for 200 people on the final night.

Each of the pieces included in the dinner set is decorated with a scroll and foliage border, which sits atop cast and chased panels of animals, separated by cast daggers. Each of these daggers is engraved with a coat of arms, crown and initials.

The maharaja's lifestyle was typically lavish. His wealth and status afforded him many luxuries, such as being the first man in India to own an aircraft and patronising some of the leading jewellers in the world, such as Cartier, who created the famous Patiala Necklace for him.

He was also an avid motoring enthusiast and collector, travelling in a motorcade of 20 Rolls Royces. Not only this, he also served as the captain of the Indian cricket team that visited England in 1911.

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