This weekend, Sotheby’s Auction House will exhibit a pair of rare sunglasses that date back to the peak of India’s Mughal Empire, around the mid-1600s. Named “Halo of Light” and “Gate of Paradise,” their construction has led historians to believe they were owned by the royal family of India, and the spectacles are expected to fetch as much as $3.5 million when they are auctioned in October.
Scottish commentator William Dalrymple said, “What really sets these objects apart is the lenses themselves, that’s the heart of the object… This is the work of a supreme master, both of gemstones and of optics.”
“The Halo of Light” had its lenses reportedly cleaved from a 200-carat Golconda diamond, and Dharmic tradition would have held that the gem endowed its owner with “celestial light” and “enlightenment,” according to Edward Gibbs, chairman of Sotheby’s Middle East and India. Interestingly to have created the sunglasses from a single diamond suggest to the auction house that it may “possibly the largest ever found.”
By contrast, the “Gate of Paradise” had its lenses made from a 300-carat Colombian emerald, and its design draws upon the influence of Islam on the Indian subcontinent. “[I]f you’re a Muslim and you associate [the color] green with The Prophet [Muhammad],” Dalrymple notes, “with Paradise, with salvation, with eternity, this is like sort of entering paradise.”
“As far as we know,” Gibbs told CNN, “there are no others like them.” Visit Sotheby’s New York Showroom, located at 1334 York Ave in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, from Friday, September 17 through Sunday, September 19 to see the eyewear prior to their October 27 sale.