It was a diamond, little known to people today, which was worth Rs 400 crore as of date, named after its dealer Alexander Jacob. ?The Jacob Diamond?, a gem with 58 facets, 39.5 mm long, 29.25 mm wide and 22.5 mm deep. It weighs 184.5 metric carats. It is a dramatic and spectacular treasure, a mind blowing object to ever look at.
The diamond was said to bring inestimable luck, but instead it was laid forgotten in the toe of one of the Nizam'sslippers, who had brought it in 1890, besides bringing financial ruin and disgrace to the man who sold it to him. It'sinteresting to learn, isn'tit? Yes, indeed, it is.
Alexander Jacob hailed from Shimla, and was an enigma in the then British India. Considered Persian by birth, he was a leading fine arts and antique dealer. His most important customers were the ?Maharajas?, ?Nizams?, ?Nawabs? and ?Diwans? the rulers of the then petty 563 princely states. He was a conjurer, astrologer and a black magician who travelled by chartered private train. In person he could speak fluently, Urdu, Persian, Arabic and English. Strange, but true, he worked as an intelligence agent for the British and Russians as well. So much was his reputation that he inspired at least three characters in fiction, namely: Marion Crawford's1893 novel Isaac, Colonel Newnham Davis's1898 fiction Jadoo and Rudyard Kipling's1901 classic Kim.
Alexander set off for Hyderabad in December 1890, capital of the Nizam'skingdom, then, determined to sell his fabulous acquisitions, now audaciously renamed ?The Jacob Diamond?, it'sinitial name was ?Victoria Diamond, to the sixth Nizam in power Mahbub Ali Khan Bahadur Fath Jang Asaf Jah VI. It'salso worth to note that just twenty kilometers from his magnificent palace was a place named Golconda, where garnets, amethysts, topaz, agate and diamonds had been traded since the sixteenth century?were quarried. It was the same place where Kohinoor was found, the place where best gems quarried had to be offered to the Nizam'streasury: thus make it the principal source of wealth for the royal family.
Jacob, at the negotiations table, started high. He proposed a price of Rs 1.2 crore ?specially reduced? for His Excellency to Rs 70 lakh, about 200 crore in today'smoney.
The Nizam was reluctant to pay that price too, eventually agreeing to pay Rs 46 lakh. An amount of 23 lakh, i.e. 50 per cent of the price was paid on deal, and the other 50 per cent was to be paid once the diamond was proved to be genuine by the experts.
Somehow, to the Jacob'smisfortune, rumors spread across the palace that Nizam'schamberlain had received 5 lakh bribe and the dealer himself had made for himself a neat profit of Rs 18 lakh?which might have worth 50 crore today. In a huff, Nizam declared the ?Jacob Diamond? fake and refused to pay rest 50 per cent to him, above which he even refused to give the diamond back. The diamond, it is said, was put by the ruler in the toe of one of his slippers?where it was to remain for the rest of his life.
Aroused Jacob decided to pressurise the Nizam for the money he was to be paid.
Otherwise, he feared, news that he was a soft touch could have spread to other princely rulers making his prospects in business miserable. As a counter attack to the claims of the merchant, Nizam got him arrested and charged him with criminal misappropriations, along with not to mention, breach of trust.
When a merchant challenges the mightiest and richest ruler of India, one can imagine how much publicity it might have attracted. To champion him he hired the top advocates of the English-speaking world, in the supreme judicial forum of the British Government in India, the Calcutta High Court. A special commission was set up by the court to take the testimony from His Highness.
Astonishingly, justice was done on December 22, 1891, after a ten-day hearing, Alexander Jacob won the case. But, as so often happens in personal litigations, the only winners were the lawyers, the cost of the case bankrupted India'sforemost antique dealer. And the vengeful princely mafia then put the boot in to show solidarity with their fellow-royal. Neither they nor their acquaintances ever did business with Jacob again. He closed his magical curio shop in Shimla and retired as a broken man, who died as a pauper in Bombay (now Mumbai), thus putting an end to the glory of ?The Jacob Diamond?. The diamond, however, today lies as a property of Government of India at the Salarjung Museum, Hyderabad.
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