Maharajahii Indiei / The Maharajahs of India (VI).

Maharajahii Indiei / The Maharajahs of India (VI).

(Ann Morrow, „Highness. The Maharajahs of India”, Cap. 4 „As Plentiful as Blackberries”)

A jeweller called in to advice the Nizam of Hyderabad felt giddy when he first saw the cascading glitter of unset jewels spilling from trunks which had been undisturbed in the palace vaults for decades. The Jacob diamond, which weighs 162 carats, forty more than the Koh-i-Noor, was found in the toe of an old slipper belonging to the sixth Nizam. His son just mounted it on a gold filigree base and used it as a paperweight.

The Nizam decided one day that it was high time his pearls were sorted out. ‘I want them all graded,’ he instructed the horrified courtiers in charge of the treasury. For hours they ‘pulled out buckets and buckets and buckets of pearls of all shapes and sizes’. The pearls were washed in boric acid and graded. When they were laid out to dry on the palace roof there was not an inch between them. For a few hours the palace had a minaret to minaret pearl carpet.

Next to Hyderabad, the Baroda jewellery was the most impressive. Sayaji Rao III, a discerning ruler whose passion was jewellery, commissioned Jacques Cartier to reset his collection in platinum, in the early days when its chic was overtaking gold.

When the 262-carats Star of the South diamond was brought to Laxmi Vilas it was honoured by being placed on a saddled, caparisoned giraffe. It was the largest diamond found by a woman, an African slave in the Brazilian mines in 1867. It had a delicate pink glow and was to sit on the young throats of Baroda princesses in a necklace of pear-and tear-drop diamonds. The slave was given her freedom and a pension.

The Punjab Princes, Kapurthala and Patiala, handsome, upright Sikhs, were exotic with their black beards tucked under turbans held with ruby, diamond and sapphire turahs. Jagatjit Singh Kapurthala’ s favourite was a clip of three thousand diamonds and pearls winking in his tea-rose-pink turban, while an his belt he wore a huge deep-golden topaz, one of the biggest in the world. He was a besotted Francophile and at the Paris Opera Ball of 1922, Princess Karam of Kapurthala wore a tiara with Persian harem pants and was escorted by a troop of Persian slaves.

-to be continued-

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