The Jacob Diamond

One summer afternoon in 1891, Alexander Jacob, a gem dealer from Baghdad, entered the palace of the Nizam of Hyderabad, Prince Ali Pasha.

He carried with him a 182 carat cushion-cut diamond, at that time called the Victoria Diamond. How it got into Jacob’s possession is not too clear a story.

The Nizam was one of the wealthiest men in the world, and one of the few buyers for such a precious gemstone.

When Jacob unwrapped the diamond and placed it on a small table in front of the Nizam, the prince barely reacted. He picked up the diamond, trying it for size. He placed in on his hand, to see how it would look mounted as a ring; it was much too big. Likewise as a button. A 182 carat stone is about the size of an egg, an impractical to wear other than as a necklace; not something the prince envisaged.

The prince put the stone down on the table, deep in thought. His manservant whispered something in his ear; the prince picked up a letter, and placed it under the diamond. He smiled approvingly; the diamond would work perfectly as a paperweight!

All did not end well, however. Later, a dispute arose as to the price agreed; in fact, price had not been mentioned, the prince had left it to his manservant to sort out the details. Jacob was not satisfied; he appealed to the British Viceroy, technically the highest power in the land. (At that time, India was ruled by England. The prince ruled by permission of Queen Victoria).

The Viceroy asked that the prince appear at the Viceroy’s Residence to give his account of the tale; this was a great insult. It was a very diplomatic way of forcing the prince to appear. The prince was disgusted, and considered that the stone had brought him bad luck.

The prince returned to the palace, took the diamond and put it into the toe of a pair of slippers, where it was to remain for a generation, until his son discovered it one day, many years later.

Jacob won the case, but his reputation was ruined, and nobody in India would deal with him again.

The diamond is currently the property of the Government of India.