Sunday, November 26, 2006

Diamonds are forever

Went to the Salar Jung Museum for fifth time yesterday and visited the Nizam's jewelry exhibition for the first time. It was stunning. There’s really no point in writing what the jewelry was like: most of it was, well… ugly.

Surprised? Let me explain. Imagine a glittering diamond the size of a green pea. Now imagine fifty of them set on a single ornament. Now imagine as many sparkling rubies or emeralds of similar size set on the same ornament. Finally, imagine a few more precious things… say fifty pearls larger than green peas set on it. Any guesses for what this thing was used for? It is an anklet, which means it would have been worn in such a way that probably it wouldn’t even be seen.

Coming back to the looks, it looks cluttered all right, maybe even ugly. But ‘awe’ is the only word that describes my emotion on seeing them. I mean just imagine! A single toe ring costs more than what I can ever dream to earn in my whole life. And I’m sure they look bad only because our tastes are developed by European teaching. Europeans never knew such wealth (the British stole the Koh-i-noor from India, remember?), so they developed notions like a single diamond looks good on a pendant. It’s a case of the sour grapes probably.

But apart from these ornaments, I saw something else at this exhibition that took my breath away. It is a diamond. The Jacob Diamond, the 20th largest diamond in the world. It was mined in South Africa and cut in Europe. It is much larger than the famous Koh-i-noor which, incidentally, was mined near Hyderabad. Here’s an extract of what Wikipedia has to say about it:

“The Jacob Diamond is a large diamond, believed to be the same stone as the Victoria Diamond, formerly owned by the Nizam of Hyderabad and currently owned by the government of India. It has a rectangular cushion-cut diamond with 58 facets, measures 39.5 mm long, 29.25 mm wide and 22.5 mm deep. The diamond weighs 184.5 carats (36.90 g). The 6th Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahbub Ali Khan, bought the Jacob diamond around 1887. The Government of India purchased the diamond, along with other treasures of the Nizam, in 1995. Current market value of the diamond is about 400 crores (4 billion) Rupees which is roughly equivalent to 80+ million USD.”

You can read more about this diamond here.

It was kept in a black velvet showcase all by itself, mounted on a little rotating stand and illuminated by white light. The slowly rotating stone broke up the light into small coloured spots that danced around it. I was mesmerized. I was frightened. The diamond was almost beckoning me to break the glass and steal it. Although the armed guards prevented me from doing any such thing, yesterday I realized why there are so many murders in the history of such diamonds. It is nothing strange that men would kill to possess a stone like this. Also, it is quite expected that myths will surround such stones, myths that state that the gem is unlucky for the owner. Indeed, how can such a thing be lucky for the owner if he is likely to be murdered or get bankrupted for it?

What is odd, however, is the fact that the man who owned this particular diamond used it as a paperweight. Truth really is often stranger than fiction.


  1. tomar chokh diye onek hire dekhlaam.....bhalo theko

  2. I had once seen the jewelry collection of a famous ancient church in Germany and it was how you describe, ugly, big multi coloured stones ineptly set in big gold clunks. And that was supposed to be awe inspiring. The Nizam's collection through the link in your post looks beautifully done in design and workmanship. And the sentiments about the diamond, very nicely put.

  3. @pisimoni: E jinis nijer chokhe na dekhle kichhui dekha hoyna. Ekhane ese dekhe jao.

    @shreemoyee: The Nizam's jewelry is not ugly in that sense. It has beautifully crafted pieces. However, since we are not used to seeing so many gems set in a single ornament, they look very cluttered. There are necklaces, for instance, that are several strands thick and hang up to the waist. The whole of it is covered with large diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and pearls, all set in ornately crafted gold. That doesn't meet our definition of 'beautiful', though it has been carefully made and costs a fortune.

    About the diamond, I myself was surprised at the longing I felt inside for that stone. That thing seemed to have a magical power.

  4. Kash aapne pas hoti. Fir mein paperweight bech ke pure zindagi bhi bhar Pizza khata. ;)

  5. @prometheus_unbound: 400 crore ka paperweight bechne ke baad tumhara poora khandaan aur unke pidhi dar pidhi pizza kha rahe hote.

  6. good that u r moving to new place. as u said u dont like getting used of anything. so it is good that u shld not love ur apt too. :)

    abt airtel, i guess u can talk to some one higher in the hiearchy.

    wish u luck with new apt..
    keep in touch.. there are no mails or any new updates from you. not even pics.


  7. After reading your post I was really astonished that you thought the jewelry to be ‘ugly’. Of course you gave some explanation like ‘only because our tastes are developed by European teaching.’ But to me the more plausible reason was that you saw the jewelry as exhibits. If you could have seen the jewelry worn by stunning princesses with gorgeous costumes and princes with other official regalia then you would have thought differently – you would have said W-a-o-o!! Nothing/nobody should be judged when taken out of the context of time and space.

  8. @anonymous: Could be possible, though the few photographs that were there of those royal people wearing those jewelry didn't actually look very beautiful to me either.

  9. Will you find it very difficult to have a second thought about whether your reaction was too strong to the tune of thinking those jewelries to be ‘ugly’? Those were just pictures – definitely not real people in real time with real attitude. You wrote ‘@pisimoni: E jinis nijer chokhe na dekhle kichhui dekha hoyna. Ekhane ese dekhe jao.’ Why can’t you use your own logic of being ‘there’ to appreciate? By ‘being there’ I don’t mean physical presence but imaginary presence. I think you weren’t possibly able to transform yourself to that era in your imagination - your eyes and minds were of this century with this century’s ‘definitions’ – you were not in the same space and time zone that I talked about .With your imaginative mind you could have used your ‘ekhane ese dekhe jao’ yardstick to at least feel that the jewelries were not ‘ugly’.
    I think that is a too strong a statement.

  10. @anonymous: Ok. Let me clarify things a bit. This is my blog, and not a newspaper report or Wikipedia entry about those jewels. Whatever I have written is MY OPINION. I never claim they are the absolute truth. As far as facts go, you can argue with me. Were they costly? Definitely. Were they awe-inspiring?You bet! But were they beautiful? I choose to say 'no', by my standards. I would prefer to see much lighter jewelry on my near and dear ones (even if somebody other than me was paying the bills).
    To explain it further, you must have seen photos of some tribal girls wearing coils of metal wire on their necks to elongate it, or putting larger and larger discs through their lips until their lips are as big as dinner plates. How do you find them? Beautiful or ugly? Or just ordinary? I find them ugly, though the men of that tribal society would disagree with me. There they have a different definition of beauty, that's all. I'm not saying which is right and which is wrong. I'm just saying this opinion is mine. Take it or leave it.

  11. Yes, I am fully aware that it is your space - your blog, not a newspaper or Wikipedia. So you can very well say ‘take it or leave it’. I also appreciate that everybody has his/her right to have an opinion, likings or disliking just like I enjoy mine and you enjoy yours. I might not like the tribal jewelry that you described but I honestly wouldn’t call them ugly – I can’t prove that to you – you can only believe or mistrust me on that. You wrote ‘I choose to say 'no', by my standards’. That is fine. What I specifically objected was your usage of the word ‘ugly’ to describe the jewelry by my comment of ‘it is a too strong a statement’. If you said that you didn’t like the jewels – you thought that they were way over the top I wouldn’t have objected. You know what is ‘ugly’? - Ugly is murder, rape, pedophilia, rage, obstinacy, incomprehension, greed, possessiveness, intolerance of all sorts – ugly isn’t an adjective for material things. Thank you for giving the option of ‘take it or leave it’ - I am opting for the second one.

  12. @anonymous: Let's agree to disagree on this issue then. By the way, I'd like to know your take on some of the other posts that I have written. Do comment if you find time. Thanks for visiting. :-)

  13. I have no problem in agreeing to disagree. But that is ok if I know about the reason for disagreement which in this case I am not aware of.
    I sure can find time as I wanted to read your other posts. But that is not the way things are going to work out – I guess. It seems you have forgotten what option you have given me in your last but one comment – it was ‘take it or leave it’. I wrote that I have taken the second option so there is no scope for me expressing my opinion on any of your posts as I left already. I also don’t like to be reminded that it is your post, your space etc when my opinion does not tally with yours. I know that – did I refute that at any point?

  14. @anonymous: Ok, I'm sorry if my reply offended you, but when I said "take it or leave it", I meant my opinion on this particular issue only. So there is really no reason why you shouldn't put forth your views in other posts. It is quite possible that I may change my opinion somewhere if your arguments are convincing enough. Only here it so happened that your argument was based on my usage of the particular word "ugly" which, according to you is too strong a word. There's no logical end to this argument. Surely we have better reasons to argue!
    Whether to come here again or not, or comment here or not is, of course, your decision.