Water Decanter and Basin

This water decanter and basin were used to wash the hands of the Shah and his guests prior to and after meals. According to accounts by 17th and 18th century French and English travellers, the water was usually warm and scented with rosewater. One servant would pour the water over the diner's hands by tilting the decanter, while another servant held the basin beneath his hands to catch the water. The custom was common throughout the country and among all classes, so a basin and water decanter could be found in practically every household. Of course, few would have been as ornate. This particular water decanter and basin were carried by the Shah's entourage, along with his slippers, his sword, mace and staff, his waterpipe and his tobacco humidifier.

The basin is 10.5 cm. (4.5 in.) high, 29.5 cm. (12 in.) in diameter, and weighs 1870 grams (4.5 lbs.) It is made of solid gold, decorated with enamel and emeralds. The top of the basin is made like a sieve, designed to prevent any water from splashing out. The largest emerald on the basin is 25 cts.

The decanter is 42.5 cm. (17 in.) high and weighs 4224 grams (9.5 lbs.) and is also made of solid gold. It is encrusted with emeralds, rubies, pearls, and spinels. The largest ruby (which is not visible in the picture) is 22 cts. and the largest emerald is 30 cts.


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