Taj Mahal Dagger Fetches 1.7 Million Pounds at Bonhams, London

By Scott Reyburn

Last Updated: April 10, 2008 08:42 EDT

April 10 (Bloomberg) -- An Indian dagger made for the emperor who built the Taj Mahal sold today in London for 1.7 million pounds ($3.4 million), with fees, at Bonhams.

The ceremonial dagger or ``khanjar'' was acquired by an anonymous buyer on the telephone, who beat a 1.3 million-pound bid from representatives in the room of billionaire Vijay Mallya, chairman of United Breweries Holdings Ltd. of India. The presale estimate was between 300,000 pounds and 500,000 pounds.

Bonhams's sale, the last of three in London this week after auctions by Sotheby's and Christie's International, tested demand for Islamic and Indian art as credit losses mount. The sale raised a total of 2.8 million pounds with fees, and 78.5 percent of the 305 lots sold.

Bonhams said the khanjar was produced in 1629-30 for Shah Jahan, the Muhal leader from 1628-1657, and was one of two known personal daggers he owned. It has a sardonyx hilt and a curved steel blade with a gold inscription describing him as ``conqueror of the world.''

The dagger was the outstanding piece in a sale of Islamic, Indian and Himalayan art from the collection of Jacques Desanfans, a Belgian textile manufacturer, who died in 1999.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Scott Reyburn in London at sreyburn@hotmail.com
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