Diamonds, jewels re-tell Hyderabad Nizams' grandeur at exhibition

Diamonds, jewels re-tell Hyderabad Nizams' grandeur at exhibition
Jewellery on display during 'Jewels of India: The Nizam's Jewellery Collection', a temporary exhibition at the National Museum in New Delhi. (Photo Courtesy: National Museum/IANS)
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New Delhi: Priceless royal jewels which once adorned some of the most powerful Hyderabad Nizams, bear testimony to the sheer grandeur of the Asaf Jahi dynasty rulers. Open in Delhi third time now, a public exhibition has displayed 173 dazzling pieces of jewellery, including one of the world's biggest diamonds – the Jacob Diamond.

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'Jewels of India: The Nizam's Jewellery Collection', a temporary exhibition at the National Museum, has the Jacob (or Imperial) Diamond as its centerpiece, amid panels of richly-studded crown jewels, 'sarpechs' headbands, waistbands, necklaces, rings, earrings and other jewellery.

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The collection of jewels has come to the museum after 2001 and 2007. They were purchased in 1995 by the Indian government for Rs 218 crore from the last Nizam's trusts, the National Museum said.

The Jacob Diamond is deemed as the seventh largest in the world, it said. Mined from South Africa in the late 1800s, the oval diamond was cut and polished to its present weight of 184.5 carats.

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As the legend goes, jeweler Alexander Malcolm Jacob, after whom the invaluable stone is named, sold it to the sixth Nizam, Mahboob Ali Khan – a deal which ended up in a criminal lawsuit. Having brought much conflict to the Nizam, the diamond was tossed in an old rag.

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It was found stashed in an old slipper and used as a paperweight by the last Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, who continued to rule Hyderabad till he signed the Instrument of Accession in 1948. The state merged with the Union of India after over 200 years of rule by a single dynasty.

Such was the splendour of the Nizams that jewellery worn by royal men and women now represent some of the finest jewels and cultural heritage globally.

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Now temporarily housed in a highly-protected chamber of the Museum, the studded rubies, emeralds, diamonds and pearls dating back to 18th-20th centuries, glitter in dim light.

As one walks through the chamber wowed, the fine 'navratna' bracelets or exceptionally large turban ornaments only add to the surprise.

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"These are not just examples of opulence, but of the fine artistry and rich craftsmanship we've had since the very beginning. It's a matter of pride that India's rich heritage is being displayed," a US-based IT professional Sridhara Sen, who was visiting with her mother, told IANS.

A work to particularly look for is the 'Padak Almas Kanval', a 95-gram gold and silver pendant set with diamonds and rubies. Styled as a large diamond surrounded by smaller ones, the pendant has two parrot-like bird motifs with ruby-diamond beaks perched atop.

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A mesmerising 'Kanthi' necklace, comprising three rows of around 57 pearls and as many diamonds is also on display.

What also interests visitors is early photographs of the royal Nizam families, posing with their fine jewellery and costumes, that we see replicated in films, television and theatre.

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The people are long gone after the last Nizam died in 1967, but have left a rich legacy for the country. On view till May 5 here, the precious exhibits tell tales about rich Indian artistry and a lifestyle unmatched.

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