How did the world’s fifth largest diamond come to India?

The royal legends around Jacob Diamond


March 26, 2019

/ By / New Delhi

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The Jacob Diamond at display at the National Museum recently

An interesting account of how the world’s fifth largest diamond came to India and was used as a mere paperweight by the Nizam of Hyderabad. 

Now weighing 184.50, the sparkling and rare piece of gem- the Jacob Diamond was 457.5 carats in its uncut form when it was found in the Kimberley mines of South Africa in the late nineteenth century.

Also known as the Imperial, Great White, and Victoria, the Jacob Diamond was smuggled to London from Kimberly to avoid heavy duties that were then levied on raw diamonds. From London it was taken to the Dutch firm of Jacques Metz in Amsterdam in 1887, where it was polished and cut into the 58 faceted charm it is today. The diamond, after being crafted into its new shape, was taken back to England, from where it made its way to the east.

Jacob’s journey to India

In 1890, Alexander Malcolm Jacob, a Jewish merchant with a small shop in Shimla learnt about Hyderabad’s royal ruler- Nizam VI Mahaboob Ali Pasha and his obsession with all things fancy. Looking at a good trade, he came down to the south of the country, showed the Nizam a model of the diamond and tagged INR 10.2 million as its price. The price was slashed down to INR 4.6 million.

Jacob took an advance from the Nizam to bring the jewel from England. At this point in time, the diamond was in possession of Pittar Leverson & Co. Jacob told the Nizam that the diamond could only be brought to him on the release of half of the total agreed amount to their agents Kilburn & Co. in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and that this money would be held in trust until the Nizam approved of it. The diamond arrived on the Indian shores on June 26, 1891.

Jacob made his way to Hyderabad but to his surprise the Nizam did not like the diamond and demanded back the deposit. One of the main reasons for the Nizam’s disapproval of the gem was that a British resident, who was close associate of the Nizam, was against the purchase. He felt that the state would have to incur a debt in order to pay for it.

Jacob was unable to repay the deposit and the Nizam filed a case against him in the High Court of Calcutta. Finally, in 1892, an out of court settlement resulted in the Nizam acquiring the diamond. The diamond is known as Jacob diamond for its association with Malcom Jacob.

As per legend, after Mahboob Ali Pasha acquired it, he lost interest in the Jacob Diamond. It is said that he wrapped it in an old rag and tossed it aside. The seventh Nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan discovered it stashed in an old slipper that once belonged to his father. He had it mounted on a gold base and used it as paperweight!

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