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Jewels of India- Nizam's Jewellery Collection

Early this month, the Tilfi team visited "Jewels of India – Nizam’s Jewellery Collection" hosted by the National Museum for the second time around, the first one being in 2001.

173 stunning pieces from turban ornaments, necklaces, earrings, armbands, belts, cufflinks, buttons, rings, arm and feet ornaments were on display, reflective of the colossal wealth and craftsmanship which existed as early as the 17th century. The collection is said to be a hybrid of Mughal, Deccani and European influences over the two hundred and twenty-four years rule of the Asaj Jahi dynasty over the Deccan.

While the exact value of the jewels is said to be beyond monetary evaluation, given its historical significance, the government of India famously acquired these pieces for over 200 crores from the Nizam family in 1995.

A considerable part of the legacy of the Nizam jewels is said to have come from the mines of Golconda scattered around a large area of Andhra Pradesh and not restricted to the Golconda fort, as is popularly believed.

Right – Sarpech Murassa – Wa-Almas. Enamelled turban ornament with diamonds and emeralds. Deccan. Mid 18th century
Left –Sarpech Bachkani Almas Kanval – Wa- Munni Zamarrud. 100 carat turban ornament set in Golconda diamonds, emerald beads and rubies. Hyderabad. 19th century

Turban ornaments,sarpech-kalgi,hold a distinctive place in the jewels of Nizam as a symbol of social, power and religious hierarchy. Apart from the kings themselves, only important officials wore turban ornaments, jeweled baglus (belt), arm ornaments on formal occasions.

Baglus Almas Parab Partalanuma
Shoulder belt and dagger sheath set with diamonds. Deccan. Early 19th century

Baglus Almas Kanval Patta Tilai. Belt set with diamonds. India. 19th century.
Right– Baglus Almas Zamarrud – Wa – Yakhoot. Buckle set with carved emerald, rubies and diamonds. India. 18th – 19th century
Left – Baglus Almas-Wa-Zamarrud. Buckle set with emerald and diamonds. Deccan. 19th century

Three armbands would adorn the upper arms of the royal members colloquially known as bhujbands, bazubands and navratna bazubands. Dastbands (bracelets) and rings were worn regularly.

Right– Bazuband Zamarrud Kalan. Armbands set in emeralds. Deccan. 19th century
Left Top – Diamond Pendant. Deccan/Lucknow. 18th century
Left Bottom – Bazuband Almas Parab. Diamonds set armband. Deccan/Murshidabad. Early 18th century

Right– Dastband Almas. Diamond bracelet. Deccan. 19th century; Enamelled armband set with nine gems. Deccan, 19th century
Left - Dastband Almas Neem Kanval. Diamonds set in gold bracelet. Western India. 19th century

European influences, essentially from Paris and London, were particularly strong in the early 20th century. One of the instances can be seen in the use of pocket watches which ultimately became a part of the ceremonial regalia of Indian royalty.

Right – Tora Ghariyal Almas Wa Marvareed. Watch chain set decorated with pearls and diamonds. Bombay/Calcutta. Late 19th century
Left – Ghariyal Jaravi Meenakari. Enamelled watch with diamonds. Calcutta. Late 19th century

With the migration of artisans during the downfall of the Mughal empire in the 18th century, distinctive skills of enameling on reverse spread across the length and breadth of the country. Additionally, jewels in combination of precious stones in shades of blue, red and green with diamonds was popularized during this era.  

Top Right – Kanthi Goshwara-i-Marvareed-Wa-Almas. Necklace set in diamonds, pearls and emerald drops. Deccan. 19th century; Bottom Right– Chintak Murassa. Enamelled necklace. Deccan. 19th century
Left – Kanthi Almas Kanval. Necklace set with diamonds. India. Late 19th -20th century

Right – Kanthi Marvareed Kanval Almas Mai Padak. Briolette diamond drops and pearls. India. Late 19th century

Left – Kanthi Marvareed–Wa–Almas-Wa-Goshwara-i-Zamarrud Mai Padak Yakhoot. Necklace set in diamonds, cabochon ruby, emerald drops and pearls. Western India. 19th century

Right – Kanthi Almas Kanval-Wa-Parab. Diamond necklace. Western India. 19th century
Left – Saath Larha Marvareed Kalan Almas Samosa Parab. Enamelled seven string peal necklace with diamonds. Deccan. 19th century

Right - Paizeb Yakhoot-Wa-Almas-Wa-Marvareed. Anklets set with rubies, diamonds and pearls. Deccan. Late 19th – early 20th century

Left - Paizeb Yakhoot-Wa-Almas-Wa-Marvareed. Enamelled diamond and pearl anklet. Deccan. 19th century

While all pieces hold a significant place in the history of Nizam dynasty, one of the famed pieces showcased at the collection was The Jacob Diamond, known by several names – Imperial, Great white, Victoria. It was first discovered in the Kimberly mines of South Africa and was assumed to be one of the biggest diamonds in the world at that time, weighing 457.5 carats in rough. In the 19th century, it was first smuggled from London to Amsterdam where it was cut into a slightly oval shaped, 58 faceted diamond, weighing 184.50 carats. Several negotiations and a court case later, the diamond was sold to Nizam VI by Malcolm Jacob from Simla in 1892.

All images and text excerpts from Jewels of India - Nizam's Jewellery collection, exhibition hosted by National Museum.

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