Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

Investigating the Role and Importance of Persian Crown Jewels in Economic and Political Developments in Shah Abbas I Era (1587-1629)

Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

Investigating the Role and Importance of Persian Crown Jewels in Economic and Political Developments in Shah Abbas I Era (1587-1629)

Article excerpt

Abstract

From their early history, Persians have always been charmed by jewelry and whenever a powerful dynasty came to power, economy of the country would become more dynamic and a collection of the most precious gems and jewels would be accumulated. The glorious age of the Safavids was not an exception to this. In the reign of Shah Abbas as the greatest Safavid king, the importance of possessing a treasury full of jewels, gold and silver for king's own person made him expand his treasury and jewelry collection more than ever and use it in achieving other political ends during his reign. Using existing resources, this study aims to investigate the role and importance of crown jewels in the economic and political developments in the reign of Shah Abbas I. Library research method and comparison and analysis of existing resources, especially the original resources are used in this article. After necessary data are collected, they are organized and then analyzed and finally conclusions are drawn.

Keywords: crown jewels, Shah Abbas, the Safavid era

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1. Introduction

From the beginning of their history, Persians have been living with various jewelries. The liveliness of the country and people's penchant for a luxurious and splendid living mingled with their high aesthetic feelings have always attracted Iranians to jewelries and gems.

Persians' national epic, The Shahnama, is replete with allusions and passages referring to various gems and jewelries which Persians had discovered and put to use:

...

Once sought gems from granite, searched for light in it

Gems of many types he gained, such as ruby, topaz, and gold and silver

Using existing resources, this study aims to investigate the role and importance of crown jewels in the economic and political developments in the reign of Shah Abbas I. Using comments by different Iranian and European writers, we intend to show that aside from the known and determining internal and foreign factors, there were other factors such as crown jewels which played a significant role in the politics of the Safavid era.

Emerging of great and powerful empires and creation of magnificent and affluent courts in Persian history led to accumulation of rare and exquisite gems in Iranian treasuries. The glorious age of the Safavids was not an exception to this. The Safavid kings not only endeavored to preserve the jewelries handed down from the past, but also continued to purchase and acquire collections of gemstones, invaluable jewelries and gold and silver collections. They bought gems from India, the Ottoman Empire, Italy and France and brought them to Isfahan to be used in unique artifacts. Crown jewels had different roles and positions according to the historical conditions of the time of each king's reign.

When Shah Abbas came to power in 1587, the situation in Iran was chaotic and the royal treasury had become almost empty due to the lavish generosities of Shah Abbas' father and predecessor, Sultan Mohammad, the emirs were busy fighting each other, and foreign forces had violated Iranian boundaries. Shah Abbas set upon resolving these problems. He first started to control the turbulent domestic situation and establish order and security throughout the country. Then he made some changes in the military forces and economic structure of the country. The primary stage of the king's movements was expelling foreign forces that had encroached Persian lands from east and west. The eastern part of the country was attacked by the Uzbeks and the western part by the Ottomans. However, mobilizing the army to defend the country required extensive financial resources which, as mentioned before, were not readily available since Shah Abbas had not inherited a rich treasury. Shortage of financial resources in the treasury of Shah Abbas was so critical that when he decided to invade the Uzbeks who had massacred and oppressed people in Khorasan and the Holy Shrine (The shrine of the Sixth Imam of the Shiites), he was compelled to give out orders to change the royal court dishes into coins. …

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