“The Sun never sets on the British empire”, used to be heard during an era when the vastness of that enterprise spanned such a variety of territories across so many time zones that it was day somewhere or the other when it was nighttime somewhere else within the empire. Thus the grandiloquent coinage of the saying.
For an island-nation quite the size of Uttar Pradesh, the weather of which, in all its griseous glory, rarely sees the sun grant audience to any part of the country, it’s big talk to claim persistent daylight as an entitlement, especially when it involves regions rightfully belonging to others.
Yet, we harbour romantic notions of the British-Raj when considering heirloom gold jewellery and preserve our ‘guineas’ (sovereigns, actually) with an equal zeal to that of any numismatist, though for reasons far from scholarly. Our intention is usually decorative but, latently, of heritage as well –– Calcutta having been for the greatest time the premier city of the Empire in the East.
Guineas – from the ‘young’ Victoria onwards – abound in well-heeled Bengali families, and even today are circulated as gifts, especially, when a child is born, as a mukh-dekha'r present from one generation to another.
The coins are valuable now –– the real ones. Stunningly, for the last seven-odd years, the modern sovereigns (with Elizabeth II on them) are again being minted in India.
Anyway, the ‘antique’ones are rarer today than ever before (from the time when they used to be commonly melted down to make jewellery with) and it’s advised to hold on to them, if not for anything else, for their historical relevance as coinage that was reliable currency –– remember, they’re still legal tender in Great Britain –– in gold.
The best way to ensure their well-being, and protection from rapacious relatives who might eye the loose coins but wouldn't dare to claim goyna worn on person, is by framing them in jewellery. The coins must never be soldered; just as this one, supplied by the customer, in the ring isn’t. Notice the flat bezel and you’ll know how the ‘guinea’ sits and is secured in place by push-rings at the back : a mechanism supremely efficient across all kinds of ‘guinea-fitted’ ornaments such as necklaces, earrings (using half-sovereigns), bracelets, et al.
The halo surrounding the coin is in the form of a carefully calibrated sunburst. It doesn’t deify Victoria but comes from assembling repeated motifs of the wearer’s first-name initial (‘V’) as a frame for the ‘guinea’. The contrast of the twisted wire to the polished triangles is dramatic and the concentric pak-tar borders ensure continuity and containment, both. This is not the un-setting sun of a grand aphorism but the undiminishing aura surrounding you. While the sun did die out on the British Empire, your aura, symbolic of your passionate spirit, will never be extinguished, cast as it is in sinless guinea gold and crafted with caring hands to a precious sublimity.
As for the dear Queen — well, let’s just say that, in perspective, we women of independent will will do whatever it takes to ensure gynarchy prevails over patriarchy, always and forever.