Continuing round the courtyard you come to one of the oldest remaining parts of the palace, a suite of rooms including a bathhouse used by Sultan Mehmed II where Sultan Selim II later slipped and died. It has now been converted to house the imperial Treasury, surely one of the most eye-poppingly stunning collections of jewels ever assembled in the world. Here are emeralds the size of eggs, rubies the size of cherry tomatoes, and diamonds the size of ice cubes sitting alongside gorgeous jewel-encrusted golden thrones.
• A mid-i6th-century ebony throne inlaid on the back and sides with ivory and mother-of-pearl, a magnificent example of classic Turkish craftmans-hip. It was used by Sultan Murad IV during the Baghdad campaign of 1638.
• Sultan Ahmed I’s walnut throne inlaid with mother-of-pearl and precious stones, designed by Sedefkar Mehmed Aga, the man responsible for the Sulta-nahmet (Blue) Mosque.
• The gold-plated wooden throne encrusted with turquoise, emeralds, rubies, and pearls brought back from India as a trophy by Nadir Shah, one of the 18th-century rulers of Iran, and presented to Sultan Mahmud I as a token of friendship. At first glance it resembles a large oval couch. Some historians believe that the throne might originally have belonged to Timurlane.
• The mid-i8th-century gold-plated Bayram Throne last placed in front of the Gate of Felicity to host Sultan Mehmed V Resad in 1918. Instructions for how to celebrate the bayrams (holidays) at the palace had been codified in the time of Sultan Mehmed II. On the first day of the bayram the throne was taken from the treasury and set up on a platform covered by a silk carpet in front of the Bab-us Saade.
The Bayram Throne (IMAGE)
A richly carved, feminine-looking ivory mirror that actually belonged to Sultan Suley-man the Magnificent. For the Ottomans mirrors carried particular religious and moral implications.
Two candlesticks, each of them made from 48 kilos of solid gold, that were sent as a gift to the Kaaba. They are encrusted with 6,666 diamonds that represent the number of verses in the Koran. During the British occupation of the city during the First World War they were brought to Istanbul.
Sultan Abdulmecid seated on the Nadir Shah Throne by Konstantin Kapidagli (IMAGE)
• The absurdly over-the-top 18th-century Topkapi dagger intended as a gift from Mahmud I to Nadir Shah of Persia who died before it could be delivered. Its handle is adorned with three priceless emeralds ringed with diamonds. It shot to fame in 1964 on the back of the movie “Topkapi”.
• The 86-carat, pear-shaped Spoonmaker’s Diamond. As romance would have it it was retrieved from a rubbish dump at Egrikapi and sold for the cost of three spoons. More prosaically a French officer named Pigot may have in India and taken it to
bought it France where it was bought at auction by Tepedelenli Ali Pasa and finally ended up in the treasury of Sultan Mahmud II. It’s one of the largest diamonds in the world.
• A gold-plated 18 th century cradle which would have been brought to the palace in a grand ceremony called the Cradle Proces sion following a new baby’s birth. According to Ottoman tradition the Valide Sultan (Queen Mother) was responsible for preparing the cradle and quilt of the sultan’s new-born children.
• A sword of Osman (possibly Caliph Osman but more probably Osman Gazi) that was used in the ceremonial following the accession of a new sultan.
Topkapi Dagger (IMAGE)
Spoonmaker’s Diamond (IMAGE)