Jewels of the Nizams
The Jewels of the Nizams of Hyderabad State are among the largest and most expensive collection of jewels in present-day India. The jewels belonged to the Nizams. After merger of their kingdom into the Union of India, the Nizam and his heirs were barred by the Indian government from removing the collection, claiming that it was a national treasure. The heirs eventually were forced to sell it at a much reduced price.
Once the Nizams' state regalia, the ornaments date from the early 18th century to the early 20th century. Crafted in gold and silver and embellished with enameling, the jewels are set with Colombian emeralds, 99 % diamonds from the kollur diamond mine in guntur district and parital diamond mine in krishna district ( Andhra Rayalaseema Diamond mines group ], Burmese rubies and spinels, and pearls from Basra and the Gulf of Mannar.
There are 173 jewels, which includes emeralds weighing nearly 2,000 carats (0.40 kg), and pearls exceeding 40 thousand chows. The collection includes gemstones, turban ornaments, necklaces and pendants, belts and buckles, earrings, armbands, bangles and bracelets, anklets, cufflinks and buttons, watch chains, and rings, toe rings, and nose rings. Among them is the seven-stringed Basrah pearl necklace, known as Satlada, which has 465 pearls embedded in it. One of the prized possessions in the collection is the Jacob Diamond, the fifth largest diamond in the world weighing 184.75 carats, which was found by the last Nizam, Osman Ali Khan, in the toe of his father’s shoe at Chowmahalla Palace and he himself used it as a paper weight for a long time.
History of the Jewels
In 1995, the Indian government bought the jewels for ₹218 crore (about US$70 million), many years after the death of Mir Osman Ali Khan in 1967. In reality, the Nizam's trustees agreed to sell the famous collection to India in lieu of tax. The government had tried to buy the collection for less than $25 million. Fifteen years later India's Supreme Court finally fixed a price of about $65 million, much less than the $350 million the family (and the auction house Sotheby's) estimated the jewels were worth. Sole legitimate heir Mukarram Jah's share of the sale was $20 million, but lawsuits from the Nizam's illegitimate descendants have ensured that he has never seen the money, as "the case disappeared down the black hole of India's imponderable legal system."
The collection is with the Union Government and had been deposited in the vaults of the Reserve Bank of India in its headquarters at Mumbai. It has been showcased a few times in exhibitions; in 2001 and 2006 at the National Museum, New Delhi and the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad.
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- National Museum, NewDelhi. "Exhibitions at National Museum of India,New Delhi (India) - Nizams' Jewellery". nationalmuseumindia.gov.in. Archived from the original on 2 April 2009. Retrieved 15 December 2013.