Hyderabad – El Dorado of the Nizams

The ruler whose wealth at the time, was equivalent to almost 2 % of the US economy

The Duchess of Cambridge was photographed wearing an exquisite diamond necklace for her very first engagement of the year 2014- a dinner for London’s National portrait Gallery. Not an unusual fact in itself, except that she was wearing the magnificent Nizam of Hyderabad Diamond necklace, believed to have been gifted to Queen Elizabeth II in 1947 on the occasion of her wedding to the Duke of Edinburgh. The dazzling piece was apparently crafted in the 1930s by Cartier and from all accounts, the Duchess stood out, a vision of regal elegance even among a galaxy of celebrities attending the event. The celebrated piece of jewellery had been loaned to her by the Queen.

The Nizam of Hyderabad, Sir Osman Ali Khan was the seventh ruler of the Princely state of Hyderabad in south India. He is believed to have amassed wealth which was at the time, equivalent to almost 2 % of the US economy. He was also featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1937 as the richest man in the world. Stories abound the extravagant lifestyle of Nizams and their fabled wealth. The fortune of the Nizams was built by successive generations through a significant share of the world diamond trade in the nineteenth century. The Golconda mines of the Hyderabad region were rich in natural resources and gems. The Nizams Osman Ali is supposed to have used as a paper weight a large diamond the size of a golf ball (184.5 carats), estimated (in 2008) at 100 million pounds and designated the fifth largest diamond in the world!

By the early twentieth century, the Nizam’s overflowing coffers are believed to have had 100 million pounds in gold and silver bullion and jewels worth approximately 400 million pounds. He also had his own mint which printed Hyderabad notes. The Nizam, like the others before him was a connoisseur of fine things and his palace is believed to have been strewn with jewels. Hyderabad was truly an El Dorado during the regime of the Nizams.