"The Splendour of the Nizam's Jewels" will be unveiled in an audio-visual presentation by Usha Bala Krishnan on November 9 .
`The wealth of Ormus and of Ind
Or when the gorgeous East with riches hand
Showers on her king pearl and gold... '
`Sarpeches' luminescent with king-sized emeralds, cobachon rubies and flawless diamonds. A priceless `Chintak Zamarrud', its rows of giant emeralds flashing cold fire in a necklace fit for a Nizam. The ineffably delicate lacework of 226 diamonds weaving together a dazzling `Kanthi Almas Kanwal.' The poetry of a `Baglus Navratan Wa Kanwal Almas' buckle studded with enormous `navratanas' and a `paizeb' dripping diamonds! `Nageema -I-Zamarrud Kanwal Wa Khurd': a collection of 22 rectangular and octagonal Columbian emeralds. And ruby, jasper, sapphire, topaz, jade and gold, exalting exquisitely crafted `hanslis,' armbands, rings, bracelets, brooches and buckles all once worn by the fabled Asaf Jahi Nizams' wives, children and grandchildren!
The Nizams' jewellery collection begged for superlatives, its mystique grew with its rarely seen mystery and in the 300 odd years of its history it became a synonym for incredible wealth, flamboyance and breathtaking beauty, perhaps the rarest gem and jewellery collection in India. In its time, court poets wrote odes on the fabulous jewellery, and foreign travellers gasped at their magnificence. Noted 20th Century jeweller Dinshah Gazdar called them `unique specimens of a lost art' and the `finest collection of Eastern jewellery in the world.' And to world-renowned gem trader Herbert Rosenthal of Paris, the Asaf Jahi stones `were quite simply, out of this world.'
The Nizams' fabled jewellery collection was in part the personal acquisition of the Nizams, acquired as `nazrana' from courtiers, emissaries and visitors and partly gifted by the Golconda mines from the best and rarest stones mined there. Crafted by Persian and local Hyderabadi master craftsmen in classic Moghul and Persian styles, the jewels also imbibed the best of Deccani Hindu craftsmanship and jewellery ethos as well as European styles of the 18th and 19th Centuries.
And around the growing magnificence of the collection grew beautiful legends and lore, woven around jewellery which itself was the stuff of dreams and fantasies! Tipu's jewellery, it was said, formed part of the Nizam's jewels, also choice items from the Russian Czars' jewellery collection not to mention necklaces worn by Napoleon's beautiful Josephine. To this day, I can recall my own adolescent fantasies woven around stories of the Imperial Jacob diamond narrated to me by my father, the late M. V. Rangachari, Finance Secretary to the Government of India, who was for a few years ex-officio member of the Nizams' Jewels Trust. His recounting of gem-like vignettes of old Hyderabadi life, would often add lustre to family dining room conversations; of tea drunk with Nizam Osman Ai Khan in enamelled gold cups, of the story of the pure white 182-and-a-half-per cent carat Jacob diamond bought by the sixth Nizam Mahbood Ali Pasha, who later shoved it into a drawer as he considered it to be a harbinger of bad luck. Finally, the Jacob diamond was discovered by the last reigning Nizam, stuffed in the toe of a slipper lying in Chowmahalla Palace!
In the 1950s Nizam Osman Ai Khan formed two trusts out of the fabulous cache of Asaf Jahi jewels. The unique `HEH' The Nizam's Jewellery Trust' followed by the `Nizam's Supplementary Jewellery Trust' comprised a total of 173 items. Following an abortive sale of the Nizam's jewels by the trust in the 70s, which attracted the greatest jewellery houses of the world such as Bulgari, Rosenthal and Winston, as also shipping magnate Starvos Niarchos, the Government of India finally bought the Nizam's jewels themselves. For a sum of Rs. 2.18 billion, given in two bank drafts drawn on the Reserve Bank of India! If the Asaf Jahi family got a raw deal monetarily, to quote historian Omar Khalidi, "it must be weighed against the immense advantage accrued to the people of India, a significant part of whose national heritage was saved from the fate of the Koh-i-noor, the Darya-yi-Noor, the Hope, and other diamonds... "
The people of India can now see the wonder that is the Nizam's jewels in a moving exhibition, which took Delhi by storm recently. For Hyderabad, which will play host to the jewels in an exhibition scheduled to open on November 24, it will be a moment of pride and nostalgia, a reliving of an era when royalty and its gorgeous trappings reigned supreme.
For Chennaiites, Crafts Council of India brings noted jewellery scholar and historian Dr.Usha Bala Krishnan's audio visual presentation of "The Splendour of the Nizam's Jewels."
Dr. Bala Krishnan was invited by the Government of India to study, document and publish the entire collection of the Nizam's jewels and is the author of "The Nizam's Jewels' slated to be released later this month. She will draw upon her immense knowledge and intimate involvement with the collection to present a grand audio-visual pageant of the Asaf Jahi jewels: their origin, history, craftsmanship, romance and the heady legends and high drama which surround them still. And while one may not quite "touch, handle, feel and actually weigh the breathtaking jewels in the vaults of the Reserve Bank of India" as Dr. Bala Krishnan did, one can for a brief while become part of their shining luminescence and beauty and travel along with them on their extraordinary journey through the `velvet paths of history.'
Dr. Usha Bala Krishnan's presentation of "The Splendour of the Nizam's Jewels,' organised by the Crafts Council of India, will be held on November 9 from 10.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. at the Convention Centre, GRT Grand Days, T. Nagar. For more information contact the Crafts Council of India, Temple Trees, 20, Venkata Narayana Road, T. Nagar.
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