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NIZAM'S JEWELLERY - A priceless collection 
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Nizam's jewellery

The Nizam's jewellery which is being exhibited in New Delhi's National Museum is one of the largest and richest collections of jewels that was purchased in 1995, by the Government of India at a cost of Rs 218 crore. Made up of 173 exquisite pieces, the collection boasts of the world's seventh largest uncut diamond, the 'Jacob diamond,' necklaces, belts, rings and armlets and swords, one of which is believed to be the fabled sword of Tipu Sultan. The collection also includes the Sarpech, the ornament that used to adorn the Nizam's turban, a ring given by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb and emeralds which rank among the world's finest.

The Jacob diamondWith a hybrid of Mughal, Deccani and European influences, the market value of the collection is estimated to be between Rs 1800 crore and Rs 2000 crore. The jewellery gives an insight into the vast wealth of the Nizams, once the rulers of the princely state of Hyderabad, which is now part of India. The 'Jacob diamond' which is the highlight of the collection is almost twice the size of the famous 'Kohinoor diamond' of London. The dazzling 184.75 carat Jacob Diamond was bought by the sixth Nizam Mahboob Ali Khan, from a Jewish trader called A M Jacob. The diamond is believed to have been mined in South Africa and is considered the third best in the world in terms of its brilliance and size. The last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan apparently found it by chance hidden in the toe of his late father's slipper, and from then on the diamond was used as a paperweight.

Nizam's jewelleryAfter a month's display at the National Museum, the collection will be displayed for the public at Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad. Initially the state government was thinking of holding the exhibition either at the Chowmohalla Palace or at the Necklace Road. But both these ideas were shelved for security reasons. Says Mohammed Safiullah, an advisor of the Nizam Trust, "the Chowmohalla is totally impractical both from a logistical and security point of view and building a new museum on the Necklace Road will take just too much time". According to him, the Salar Jung Museum is the only practical answer as it already has the infrastructure required to house such an exhibition.

Nizam's jewellery made of precious stonesThe state of Hyderabad under the Nizam's rule was considered as one of the largest and wealthiest states in India. From about 1900 to the mid 1960s the Nizam of Hyderabad was reported by many as being the richest man in the world. Despite this immense wealth, the Nizam did not flaunt his wealth and he wore inexpensive clothes. On the formation of the Indian Union the Nizam chose to remain independent. Eventually his state was invaded by Indian forces and the state of Hyderabad annexed to the Indian union in 1948.

A priceless collectionMost of the Nizam's jewellery was acquired in the 18th century by Nizam-ul-Mulk, the founder of the Asaf Jahi dynasty. The jewels were then handed down the generations. Over the years, the jewels were regularly auctioned by the Nizam Jewellery Trust formed by the last Nizam Mir Osman Ali Khan in the 1950s to pay off his debt.It was in the late 70s that the Government of India stepped in after reports that much of this treasure was going to foreign buyers. Finally in 1995 the jewels were acquired by the government after a long legal battle and was kept in the vaults of Reserve Bank of India in Mumbai. The Sultan of Brunei, and Greek shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos have been amongst a long list of people who have offered to pay fabulous fortunes for this valuable collection.

The jewellery exhibition will begin from November 24 at Salar Jung Museum. The entry fee will be around Rs 50.

Address: Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad. Phone: 457 6443. Fax: 457 2558. E-mail:


- MAR Fareed

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