A kilometre off the MG Road, at a vague address like ‘Dhan Mill Compound’, is located a veritable treasure trove – the Ancestry antiques gallery, within the precincts of fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani’s Couture Studio.
Class And Glass
Crowded in one space are the priceless glass chandeliers of all the top glass houses, F&C Osler from England, Baccarat in France, Murano in Italy; candle sticks, onyx tables, elegant cabinets and assorted objects of desire, all very old, and all in pristine condition. This is no dusty antique shop filled with crumbling junk of questionable lineage. Handpicked from ‘pedigree’ owners, carefully restored from original sources, the Osler Twins Dinsha and Munchi Shroff are clearly passionate about what they do. Some of the exotica has been acquired directly from old Royalty, who were once-upon-a-time the key consumers, and now upon different times.
There are no price tags on display. I fell in love with the star display – a large Osler chandelier. Since I did not have a room with a 25ft high ceiling, buying this piece of poetry was not an option, and so no need to talk about its cost (Rs40L). Despite the ‘priceless’ status of these fabulous antiques, the demand is clearly large enough for Dinsha and Munchi Shroff to have set up a gallery in Delhi.
The Mumbai branch of Ancestry antiques store was launched in 1995. The huge response to their antique displays held in Dubai in 2008 and 2009 lead to their setting up a store in 2012, the Royal Treasure Gallery, in Diyafah Street. Dinsha Shroff did find the conservative attitude of the denizens of Dubai a bit daunting, wherein they viewed ‘antiques’ as second-hand goods probably sold under stressful conditions. But a bit of education and information about what good investments antiques make helped. And many of them did own fancy huge villas with very high ceilings, most suitable for tall chandeliers.
The Osler Twins
The love of antiques was inculcated in the twin brothers Dinsha and Munchi, by their father Pallon Shroff, himself a collector, and clearly a man of good taste. Their education came in handy when they bought their first Osler chandelier and resold it for a 100% profit – and thereafter, themselves turned into collectors of Osler chandeliers and other antiques. They scoured the world, literally, and claim to have nearly two dozen odd Osler chandeliers in their collection at all times. They have the finest collection of exquisite Oriental wooden furniture, European and Chinese crystal artefacts and antiques, amazing chandeliers from Baccarat, Murano, their collection of the world’s finest F&C Osler chandeliers, and even ornate oud bottles for perfumes.
F & C Osler was one of the best known glass makers in the world in his time. Founded in 1807 by Thomas Osler and his sons Follet and Clartson, they eventually set up their premises in Broad Street in Birmingham. At their peak in the mid 19th century, F&C Osler opened their own glasshouse in Freeth Street in 1849.
The brand was founded by Thomas Osler and his sons Follet and Clartson, whose initials are in the name F & C Osler. Starting out as a glass toy and cutting shop, they progressed to making chandeliers. The firm received accolades and world-wide acclaim for their pristine quality of crystal work, becoming leaders in their field. Distinctly recognizable as F & C Osler, their exceptionally innovative style and unparalleled glass cutting and blowing earned them the moniker ‘King of Glass’.The expert craftsmen of F & C Osler were were the first to develop new methods of manipulating cut crystal around a metal core and often paired with contrasting metal framework. Osler crystal has a geometric quality which was skillfully incorporated in their technique of ‘brilliant cut glass’, which involved simple motifs, such as stars and fan scallops, represented through intersecting cuts and fragmentary shapes. These motifs were then repeated in various degrees of complexity to create ornate patterns that produced dazzling surfaces.
Their fine workmanship and novel approach to crystal furniture appealed to the wealthy Indian elite, making India, Osler’s choice for their market outside the United Kingdom. Hence, Osler began supplying their tailor-made creations to a wealthy customer base of Maharajahs and opened a showroom in Calcutta in 1843. The Crystal Gallery, housed in FatehPrakash Palace, Udaipur features India’s largest range of exquisite crystal furniture and chandeliers ordered from F&C Osler, London in 1877. Many Indian palaces carried Osler chandeliers and furniture, often infused with colour and upholstered in vibrant velvets to suit the eastern aesthetic and appreciation of colour. F&C Osler were forced to retire in 1920 and their stunning masterpieces that are no longer in production, have since become the most sought after crystal in the world.