Sir John Chardin was born on 6th of November 1643 under the old pre-Gregorian reckoning, the son of a Huguenot Paris Jeweller. He started travelling in 1664, and in 1666 was in Isfahan at the death of Shah Abbas II following which he observed the coronation of his successor Shah Safi who became Soleiman III. In 1670 he returned to Paris with letters from the Shah instructing him to buy jewels and fashion them into ornaments, which, according to Chardin, had been designed by the Shah himself, and in 1671 he published his account of the Coronation. He returned to Isfahan with the jewels in 1673, and after some difficulty succeeded in getting a reasonable price for them.

His account of this period is fascinating for its insight into the mentality of the courtiers he met and for the vast amount of knowledge he acquired about the country, its food, architecture, minerals and customs. He returned home to Paris four years later, but had to leave owing to the severity of the Protestant persecutions of the time.

He chose England as his home where he was well received by Charles II who knighted him in 1681 and appointed him as court jeweller. He also found a wife in England, Esther, another Huguenot refugee. In 1682 he was elected a member of the Royal Society on the strength of his travels, and he published an account of his second journey in London in 1686, which included an account of the first and which was translated into English. He completed a further three volumes in1711 shortly before his death. He died in 1713 and is buried in the south aisle of Westminster Abbey. His epitaph reads simply "nomen sibi fecit eundo".

There is a small park on the north bank of the Zayandeh on the East of the Pol-e-Felezi which used to be named in his honour.


Last Updated: 6 April, 1999