The massive rough diamond of South African origin, weighing 457.5 carats was unnamed at the time it was smuggled into Britain in 1884, but later after it's purchase by a syndicate of Hatton Garden diamond dealers, came to be known as the Victoria diamond or the Imperial diamond or the Great White diamond. The names Victoria and Imperial seem to be inspired by the reigning monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Empress of India, at that time, Queen Alexandrina Victoria, who ruled for 64 years, between 1837 and 1901. The derivation of the name Great White is obvious, as it refers to two special characters of the stone, viz. its massive size, and white color (colorless) of the stone. The other common name for the stone Jacob diamond was derived from the name of the famous antiquities and precious stones dealer at the time in India, Alexander Malcolm Jacob, who was based in Simla, and acted as the middleman between the Syndicate of Hatton Garden diamond dealers and the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahboob Ali Pasha (1869-1911) who eventually purchased the diamond.
The Victoria-Jacob diamond is a rectangular cushion-cut, colorless diamond with a weight of 184.5 carats. The color and clarity grades of the diamond are not known, but going by the descriptions of the diamond it appears that the stone shows a bluish tinge caused by fluorescence. The dimensions of the stone are 39.5 mm x 29.25 mm x 22.5 mm, and the stone has a total of 58 facets, which is the standard number of facets for a cushion-cut diamond. The fact that the 457.5-carat massive rough diamond was eventually transformed to a finished stone of only 184.5 carats, resulting in a loss of 273 carats, equivalent to almost 60 %, may provide an indicator as to the final clarity of the diamond, which must be exceptional, as, such great losses of weight are always associated with attempts to get the best quality diamond, by eliminating all flaws and inclusions.
Without knowing the exact color grade of the colorless stone, it is not possible to assign the diamond to a particular class of diamonds, but it could possibly belong to one of two classes Type IIa or Type Ia. If the diamond is absolutely colorless, (D, E, & F grades) without the slightest tinge of yellow color, it must be a Type IIa diamond, which are said to be the "purest of the pure" of all diamonds, as they are free of all impurities such as nitrogen, boron and hydrogen, which can cause color in diamonds. Moreover, these diamonds also have perfectly formed crystals, without any plastic deformations that can change the absorption spectrum of the diamond, imparting rare fancy colors to diamonds. Absolutely colorless, Type IIa diamonds are therefore said to be chemically pure and structurally perfect diamonds.
If the diamond has even a very slight hint of yellow color, making it a near colorless diamond (G, H & I grades), it must be a Type Ia diamond, which contain detectable quantities of nitrogen impurities, and in which nitrogen atoms are found as groups of 2, 3, or 4 atoms, among which the groups of 3 atoms, known as N3 centers impart the faint yellow color.
Both Type Ia and Type IIa diamonds can show fluorescence in bright daylight rich in ultra-violet wave lengths, producing a bluish tinge that can sometimes mask any slight yellow body color. Thus the two types are best differentiated using infra-red spectroscopy and other means.
The Victoria-Jacob diamond is perhaps the 8th largest D-color diamond and overall the 16th largest faceted diamond in the world. See table below and rank order of famous diamonds on a different web page.
Name Carat Weight
1 Cullinan I 530.20 pear 2 CullinanII 317.40 cushion 3 Centenary 273.85 modified heart 4 Jubilee 245.35 cushion 5 Millennium Star 203.04 pear 6 La Luna 200.07 heart 7 Orlov 189.62 rose 8 Jacob-Victoria 184.50 rectangular cushion 9 Regent 140.64 cushion 10 Paragon 137.82 7-sided 11 Premier Rose 137.02 pear 12 Queen of Holland 135.92 cushion 13 Zale Light of Peace 130.27 Pear 14 Niarchos 128.25 Pear 15 Portuguese 127.02 asscher 16 Jonker 125.35 emerald 17 Al-Nader 115.83 pear 18 Taj-i-Mah 115.06 moghul 19 Edna Star 115.00 emerald 20 Koh-i-Nur 108.93 oval 21 Mouawad Magic 108.81 emerald 22 Cartier 107.07 pear 23 Star of Egypt 105.51 emerald 24 Mouawad Splendor 101.84 pear 25 Star of America 100.57 asscher 26 Star of Happiness 100.36 radiant 27 Star of the Season 100.10 pea
The rough diamond weighed an enormous 457.5 carats and was one of the largest ever naturally formed octahedral diamond crystals to be discovered. In the year 1884, the Victoria diamond was the second largest gem quality rough stone to be discovered in the world, after the 787-carat Great Mogul diamond discovered in 1650, but today it has become the 14th largest gem-quality rough diamond to be discovered in the world. See table below.
Year of discovery Carat Weight
Cullinan 1905 3,106 1 Excelsior 1893 995 2 Incomparable 1980s 890 3 Great Mogul 1650 787 4 Millennium Star 1990 777 5 Golden Jubilee 1985 755 6 President Vargas 1938 726.6 7 Jonker 1934 726 8 Jubilee 1895 650.80 9 Kimberley Octahedral 616 10 Lesotho Promise 2006 603 11 Centenary 1986 599 12 De Grisogono 587 13 Jacob-Victoria 1884 457.5 14 De Beers 1888 428.50 15 Niarchos 1954 426.50 16
The diamond without any doubt is of South African origin, but other aspects of the early history of the diamond such as the mine of origin, the circumstances of the discovery, and the events associated with the departure of the stone to Britain, is very controversial. The main reason for all this confusion was, that the discovery of the diamond had to be kept a secret either because it was illegally procured from a mine, or having legally procured it, the owner had some other good reason to keep it a secret, such as evading the tax authorities.
According to one version of the diamond's discovery, the rough stone was discovered in the Jagersfontein mine of Orange Free State, and subsequently smuggled out of the mine by the person or persons involved in the illegal act. The smugglers of the diamond eventually sold the diamond secretly to an anonymous buyer for £ 15,000. The stone was finally shipped for sale in the London diamond market by Mr. Allenberg of Port Elizabeth. The white color of the diamond with the characteristic bluish tinge known in the trade as "Jagers" is the only supporting evidence for its possible origin from the Jagersfontein mine. On the contrary, the Octahedral natural shape of the diamond points to its possible origin from the De Beers, Kimberley, or Dutoitspan mines, which are noted for producing octahedral rough diamonds. Diamonds produced in the Jagersfontein mine were nearly always cleavages.
According to a second version of the discovery of the diamond, a Dutchman in the Orange Free State discovered the diamond in his farm, but deliberately kept it a secret for almost one year, fearing an invasion of his farm by diamond prospectors, and possible ejection from his residence. Finally the man had confided about the existence of the stone to a close confidante who also happened to be an old friend of Mr. Allenberg, and who encouraged the owner to forward the diamond for sale, but still keep the circumstances of its discovery a mystery.
According to a third version, as outlined in an article entitled "Four large South African diamonds" by the renowned gemologist George F. Kunz that appeared in the journal "Science" dated August 5th 1887, the stone was discovered by a surveillance officer of the Central Mining Company, in the Kimberly mines, either in the month of June or July 1884. The surveillance officer whose duty was to search others for possible smuggled diamonds, had the privilege of not being searched himself, and the diamond was smuggled out of the mines unnoticed. The officer then sold the diamond to four illicit diamond buyers for £ 3,000, who smuggled the stone out of Griqualand West, that operated stringent diamond laws at the time, to the relative safety of Cape Colony, where the laws were more liberal, and sold the diamond to a dealer for Â£ I9, 000. The diamond was then smuggled by one of the passengers of a mail steamer that was bound for London. When the massive diamond arrived in London, it caused a sensation among the diamond dealers of Hatton Garden who were amazed by the size and quality of the diamond. Only after the safe arrival of the diamond in London, did the mining companies of South Africa come to know of its existence. A syndicate of eight dealers then purchased the diamond for £ 45,000 in cash.
The Syndicate of diamond dealers then studied the diamond with a view of deciding whether to go in for a single large diamond or several easily marketable smaller diamonds. Finally they decided to go in for a single large diamond, and selected the renowned diamond cutting firm of Jacques Metz of Amsterdam, to process the diamond. Master cutter Mr. M. B. Barends was in charge of the cutting, and he set up a special workshop for the purpose. Initially a small portion of the diamond was cleaved off which was eventually transformed into a 19-carat brilliant, that was purchased by the King of Portugal.
Then on April 9th, 1887, the cutting of the largest piece of the Victoria commenced. The occasion was graced by Her Majesty Queen Emma, the consort of King William III of Holland. The faceting and polishing of the diamond took almost an year, and the final product was a rectangular cushion-cut, with 58 facets, weighing 184.5 carats. The color and clarity of the stone was exceptional, and the stone had a bluish tinge caused by fluorescence.
The syndicate of diamond dealers then began looking for a prospective buyer for their renowned diamond, possibly a royal customer who would be prepared to buy the diamond at the quoted price of £ 300,000. The search did not last long, for information was received from the famous jewelry and antique dealer from India, Mr. Alexander Malcolm Jacob, based in Simla, that the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahboob Ali Pasha, was prepared to buy the diamond for the said price. Having negotiated the final price for the diamond with His Royal Highness, the Nizam of Hyderabad, Mr. A. M. Jacob received a sum of £ 150,000 from the Nizam, as an advance payment for the priceless commodity. Subsequently, Mr. Jacob delivered the diamond personally to the Nizam, and was promised full payment for the diamond in due course. But, in the meantime the British Resident of Hyderabad came to know of the transaction and moved immediately to freeze the transaction, in order to save the Nizam's government from bankruptcy. Thus the Nizam was prevented from fulfilling his promise to make full payment for the diamond, and yet he decided to keep the diamond. Mr. Jacob was forced to sue the Nizam at a court in Calcutta in order to recover the money due to him on the transacion. At great legal expense he finally won the case, but had to face serious financial difficulties, from which he was never able to extricate himself, and eventually died in a state of penury. An alternative version of this transaction says that the Nizam demanded the return of the advance paid for the diamond as he was not interested in the transaction anymore, which Mr. Jacob was not able to do. According to this version it was the Nizam who sued Mr. Jacob at a court in Calcutta, to recover his deposit of £150,000. However both parties eventually agreed to an out of court settlement, in which Mr. Jacob was absolved of any wrong doing, and the Nizam acquired the diamond for only half of the original quoted price. Since the acquisition of the diamond by the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad the Victoria diamond came to be known as the Jacob diamond.
Mir Mahboob Ali Khan, was installed as the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad at the age of three years, with the sudden death of his father Afzal-ud-Daula at the young age of 43 years, on February 26, 1869. The young prince who was born on August 18, 1866, was the only son of the fifth Nizam of Hyderabad, Afzal-ud-Daula. He was installed on the throne by the British Resident of Hyderabad and Sir Salar Jung the Prime Minister, who also acted as the regent. Sir Salar Jung was an efficient Prime Minister who conducted the affairs of the state with great wisdom, and introduced several reforms that enhanced the finances of the dominion. The royal household laid special emphasis on the education of Mahboob Ali Khan, and the British Resident appointed Captain John Clerk as his private tutor. With the death of Salar Jung in 1883, a provisional council of five members was appointed with Mahboob Ali Khan as president and Mir Laiq Ali Khan as secretary.
The personality of the great statesman Sir Salar Jung had a profound impact on the life of Mahboob Ali Khan. Having grown up under the guidance of this great statesman, Mahboob Ali Khan eventually grew up to be one of the greatest rulers of his time. He was a respected and dignified personality and was popularly known as Mahboob Ali Pasha. He died on August 31, 1911 at the age of 45 years.
After the purchase of the diamond by Mahboob Ali Khan an offer was made for the diamond by the Agha Khan III, the Imam or spiritual leader of the Nizari Ismaili sect of Shi'ite Muslims, who succeeded his father, Agha Khan II, in 1885. Agha Khan III was a champion of Muslim minority rights in India, and was the first president of the All-India Muslim League. He is also renowned as a successful owner and breeder of thoroughbred horses. In spite of the keen interest of the Agha Khan to the add the Jacob diamond to his own collection of diamonds, the Nizam of Hyderabad declined to sell it, believing that the diamond brings good luck to its owner, besides other metaphysical benefits. Perhaps this may be the reason why the Nizam chose to lodge the diamond in the soul of his shoe or slipper, which was subsequently discovered by his son and successor the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Usman Ali Khan, who used the priceless diamond as a paper weight.
Mir Usman Ali Khan was the seventh and the last Nizam of Hyderabad who ascended the throne on August 31, 1911. Mir Usman Ali Khan who was born on April 6, 1886, was the second son of Mir Mahboob Ali Khan by his first wife, and became heir apparent of Hyderabad after the death of his brother in 1887. The young Usman Ali Khan was given a sound education that combined both Western and Islamic values. A team of private tutors who were eminent scholars in their chosen fields were engaged to teach him English language and literature, Urdu, Persian, Islamic studies, history and literature. The solid educational foundation that was laid, eventually made him the most enlightened of all rulers of Hyderabad, who also turned out to be a great scholar and poet, in Urdu and Persian.
The princely state of Hyderabad, with an area of 86,000 sq. miles (223,000 sq. km.), was the largest princely state in India, equivalent in size to present day France. In the colonial days he was the highest ranking prince in India, and was conferred several honorary titles by the British such as the Knight Grand Commander of the Star of India, Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire, Honorable Lieutenant General in the Army, Faithful Ally of the British Government, Honorary Colonel of the 20 Deccan Horse. In 1918, Mir Usman Ali Khan was conferred the title "Faithful Ally of the British Government," by King George V, who also elevated him from "His Highness" to "His Exalted Highness," in recognition of his enormous financial contribution to the British Empire's war efforts in world war I.
Mir Usman Ali Khan, the VII th Nizam of Hyderabad was the richest man in the world in the first half of the 20th century, yet he led a very simple and unostentatious life style, that was sometimes misconstrued as miserliness. He shunned extravagance and pomposity that was so characteristic of the Great Mogul Emperors, and displayed true virtues of a cultured and educated ruler. All legends about his supposedly miserly behavior do not hold ground in the face of his philanthropy and generosity towards worthy causes in India as well as abroad, irrespective of caste and religion, that are so many and difficult to be listed. His benefactors were people and institutions belonging to different faiths, such as the Benares Hindu University, the Golden temple in Amritsar, Rabindranath Tagore's Shanthiniketan, the Jamiah Nizamiyyah, Darul Uloom Deoband, etc. Besides institutions such as schools, hospitals, orphanages and other voluntary organizations had also benefited by his generosity.
The period of his rule was also a period of great economic and cultural development in Hyderabad, and his state was the most prosperous of all Indian states. He was a benevolent ruler who patronized education, science and development. He inaugurated power generation projects that supplied electricity to his capital Hyderabad. He built a railway system in the state that was known as the Nizam's Government State Railways. He also built a network of roads and developed the airways. He built two major irrigation projects in Hyderabad, that involved the construction of two huge reservoirs, the Nizamsagar and the Tungabhadra. He also started work on the preliminary stages of another major irrigation project the Nagarjunasagar.
In the field of education, he spent up to 11 % of his budget on education. Primary education was made compulsory and given free for the poor. He founded the Osmania University, which ranks as one of the best universities in India today, and built schools and colleges all over the state. The Nizam was also a great builder. Almost all the public buildings currently used by the State Government of Andhra Pradesh was built by the Nizam during his period of rule. These include, the Andhra Pradesh High Court, the Osmania General hospital, the Asafiya Library now known as the Central State Library, Town Hall now known as the Assembly hall, Jubilee Hall, Hyderabad Museum, now known as the State Museum, the Osmania Arts College, the Osmania Medical College, and other buildings in the Public Garden. The Nizam was also a patron of the Arts and Literature. But perhaps the greatest achievement of Mir Usman Ali Khan, the last Nizam of Hyderabad, a Muslim ruler whose dominion was predominantly Hindu, was the creation of a perfectly harmonious society in which all ethnic and religious groups could live happily together in a spirit of give and take, giving due respect to one another's religious beliefs.
In 1947 after the partitioning of the Indian sub-continent into India, and Pakistan and the subsequent granting of independence to both countries by the British, the princely states were given the option of joining any one of the newly independent countries. Mir Usman Ali Khan, the head of the Princely State of Hyderabad, the most prosperous state in India at that time, with a cosmopolitan population of 16 million people, and a homogeneous territory of over 80,000 sq. miles, was of the firm conviction that his state has proved its viability as an independent state for the last 224 years, since the founding of the Asif Jah dynasty in 1724, and as such could go it alone as an independent state, within the British Commonwealth of Nations. As such he refused to join either India or Pakistan, which were divided on communal and religious lines. He entertained the hope of continuing the status quo and consolidating the achievements of the last 200 years and preserving the religious and ethnic harmony of his multi-religious and multi-ethnic state. But, his dreams never materialized. In 1948 the Indian Army invaded Hyderabad and annexed it to the Union, forcing the abdication of the Nizam. In 1950 the Nizam was offered the ceremonial post of Rajpramukh, but resigned from this office in 1956 during the re-organization of the Indian States, when Hyderabad was divided along ethnic lines between Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka. The State that was once noted for its religious and ethnic tolerance and ruled by the Nizams of Hyderabad for 224 years was now no more. The Nizam retired to Bombay, where he lived on a pension granted by the Government of India.
Mir Usman Ali Khan the last Nizam of Hyderabad died on Friday, February 24, 1967, marking the end of a princely era. His funeral procession was one of the largest in the history of India, an ample testimony for his popularity. He was buried in the Judi Mosque facing his former palace the King Kothi Palace, according to his wishes.
The 7th Nizam of Hyderabad had a fabulous collection of jewels and jewelry, estimated to be worth around Â£ 15,000,000, at the time of his forceful abdication. Most of these jewels were inherited by him from six of his great predecessors, who ruled Hyderabad since the formation of the Asaf Jah dynasty in 1724. Some of the jewels may have belonged to rulers of the Qutub Shahi dynasty who ruled Hyderabad and Golconda between 1518 and 1687, until it was annexed to the Mogul Empire in 1687 by Emperor Aurangzeb. If at all there were any pieces acquired by Mir Usman Ali Khan himself, it would not be significant. One of the notable pieces acquired by him was the Jacob diamond aka Victoria diamond, but even this piece was treated by him with scant respect and used as a paper weight and not as an ornament.
After his forceful abdication in 1948, his entire collection of jewelry were inventoried and moved out of his palace. The Nizam divided the jewelry into two lots and created two separate trusts, and stipulated that the jewels should not be sold during the lifetime of his eldest son Azam Jah. He also insisted that the jewelry be kept in the vaults of the Flora Fountain Branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation in Mumbai.
After the death of Azam Jah in 1970, the trustees decided to sell part of the jewels by public auction, to meet the families staggering tax liabilities. Buyers from all over the world flocked to India to attend the auction. The auctioneers laid down certain conditions for the participants at the auction. The first condition was the payment of a non-refundable fee of £ 100 for the inspection of any single item put up for sale. The second condition was the payment of a refundable deposit of £ 2,000 as security, to enable someone to bid at the auction, which would be refunded after all transactions had been completed. The third and final condition was that after successful bidding for any one item, the buyer had to make immediate cash payment of one-tenth of the price of the item, and the balance to be settled within 10 days of the offer's acceptance. But, just as the auction was about to take place, the Head of the National Gallery of Arts of India, Dr. Laxmi Prasad Sihare, arrived with a stay order from the Supreme Court of India, and the auction was suspended. The jewels were returned to the bank vaults. The reasons adduced by Dr. Laxmi Prasad, and the Minister of Education Dr. Karan Singh, in their application to the Supreme Court seeking the stay order, was that the jewelry collection was part of the national heritage of India, and hence could not be allowed to be auctioned to foreigners. They further stated that like the British Crown Jewels, and the Smithsonian National Gem and Mineral Collection in Washington, the jewelry collection of the late Nizam of Hyderabad, should be regarded as part of the country's national heritage, and as such should be preserved in India.
The trustees filed action in the Supreme court in 1979 on the initiative of the late Nizam's dependants, seeking the courts permission to dispose of the jewels, that had remained in the bank vaults of HSBC since 1948. The long drawn out litigation lasted for almost 16 years, and in 1993 the Indian Government finally decided to buy the entire collection from the family and dependants of the late Nizam. The two sides held a series of negotiations after which agreement was reached on a final price for the collection that would be acceptable to both contending parties. The Government of India agreed to pay Rs. 218 crores equivalent to about $ 70 million, for the entire collection, and it was reported that the Jacob diamond alone fetched $ 13 million. However the Government of India said that payment would be made only in six installments. The trustees rejected this arrangement and insisted that payment should be made in full. The Supreme Court of India, sided with the trustees and directed that the Government pay up in full.
Matters reached a loggerhead again, and the trustees requested court permission to invite foreign buyers to sell the collection, if the Government was not prepared to go ahead with the deal. The court allowed this request, and the Government was forced to look for the money to conclude the deal. The Government requested more time to effect the full payment and the court allowed the request, giving it time up to January 16th 1995, to conclude the deal. Failure to meet this deadline would have resulted in the expiry of the deal. The Government sought the approval of the Lokh Sabah, the Lower house of Parliament for funds to effect the transaction, which was granted, but was unable to get the ratification of the Upper House, the Rajya Sabah during the session. However, the Government went ahead with the release of the funds to effect the transaction, and the deal was finally concluded on January 12th, 1995.
The Indian Government paid $ 71 million for the collection of jewels, but two internationally renowned auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's had placed a much higher value for the collection. Sotheby's priced the collection at $ 162 million and Christie's at $ 135 million. After the purchase the collection of jewelry was moved from the HSBC bank to the Reserve Bank of India.
The fabled treasure of the last Nizam of Hyderabad, consist of 173 pieces, that include turban ornaments, necklaces, earrings, armbands, bracelets, belts, buttons, cuff links, anklets, watch chains and rings. The collection also includes rubies and spinels from Burma, emeralds from Brazil and Colombia, and pearls from Basra. Other items include a seven-strand pearl necklace, made up of 150 large and 250 small pearls, with a two-diamond pendant, and a pair of bracelets studded with 270 diamonds. There are also gold ingots, diamond studded images of camels and studded swords. Out of the unset gems, the most prominent is the 184.75-carat Jacob or Victoria diamond, and the 22 unset emeralds, weighing 414.25 carats. Among the rings the most priced is a ring, set with an Alexandrite from Russia, which was a gift from Emperor Aurangzeb, to his able commander-in-chief in the Deccan, Mir Qamaruddin, who was later given the titles Fateh Jung and Asif Jah, and became the first Nizam of Hyderabad with the name Nizam-ul-Mulk (1724-1748). The Alexandrite is a superior quality specimen, with its unique color change effect from emerald green in natural light to a brownish red in artificial light. Another important piece in the collection is the 640 carat diamond encrusted belt made in France by Oscar Massi Pieres. The turban crests or sarpechs in the collection are also striking. During the time of Queen Victoria a royal injunction was issued to all the Indian Princes, banning them from wearing anything resembling a crown. The sarpech or the turban crest was designed to compensate for this ban. The portrait of His Exalted Highness , the Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Usman Ali Khan appearing in the front cover of the Time Magazine of February 22, 1937, shows him adorning a turban crest.
The fabulous collection of jewels had gone on display for the first time in India, in the National Museum at New Delhi, and later at the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, the state of origin of the renowned collection. If ever the Government of India decides on a permanent venue to exhibit the renowned jewels, Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, India, will no doubt take precedence, as the state of origin of the renowned collection, and as such being an integral part of its heritage and history. It appears that the Central Government of India had taken a decision in principle to bring back the Nizam's jewelry to Hyderabad on a permanent basis. The Government is planning to build a new facility in the sprawling Public Gardens in the heart of the city to accommodate the jewelry collection. According to current estimates the rare collection is deemed to be worth 10,000 crores of Indian rupees, which is approximately equivalent to $ 2 billion. The Jacob diamond alone is said to be worth 400 crores, which is equivalent to about $ 70 million.
Dr Shihaan Larif
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