11 November 2017

The Nizam of Hyderabad Suite

The Nizam of Hyderabad Tiara and Necklace among Elizabeth's wedding gifts

This month, we're spending our Saturdays with some of the glittering wedding gifts presented to Princess Elizabeth of the United Kingdom when she married Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten. Today, we've got a sparkling suite of diamond jewels from Cartier, the princess's gift from the Nizam of Hyderabad.

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When Elizabeth received the suite in 1947, the diamond and platinum floral set consisted of a tiara (which included pieces that could be removed and worn as rose brooches) and a coordinating necklace. Above, Elizabeth wears the tiara during the Norwegian state visit in June 1951. On this occasion, she paired it with other wedding gifts, including the diamond fringe necklace from the City of London and Queen Mary's bangle bracelets.

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In 1947, Asaf Jah VII was the ruler (or Nizam) of Hyderabad, which is located in the south-central part of the subcontinent of India (which was then under British colonial rule). He was one of the richest men in the world, so he could afford to give the princess a truly spectacular wedding gift. He followed through by fulfilling most jewel-lovers' greatest dream: he left instructions with Cartier to let the princess pick anything from their existing stock for her present. Elizabeth chose the tiara and necklace, which date to 1935. She sometimes wore the tiara and necklace together, as she did above for the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium in 1951.

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Just as often, however, she wore the jewels separately. Above, during her 1951 tour of Canada, Elizabeth paired the tiara with the necklace we discussed last week, the Greville Ruby Necklace.

During the American leg of that 1951 tour, she wore the Nizam necklace with the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara for a visit with President Truman and his family.

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The necklace has an interesting backstory. Made by Cartier in 1935, it was sold to an unknown buyer in 1936; however, it was reacquired by Cartier from that buyer the following year. The necklace also originally included additional pendants, which were removed in 1946. The piece has remained a mainstay in the Queen's jewelry collection. In The Queen's Diamonds, Sir Hugh Roberts described it as "The pavĂ©-set centre with detachable double-drop pendant incorporating 13 emerald-cut diamonds and a pear-shaped drop; the chain of 38 brilliant-cut open-back collets with an elongated oval brilliant-set snap." Elizabeth has kept it in its 1947 form, except for one small change: as with most of her necklaces, she has had the chain shortened.

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More recently, the Nizam necklace is one of the pieces of jewelry that she has loaned to her granddaughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge. Kate wore the necklace for the first time in public at the National Portrait Gallery in 2014. The tiara was also featured in a special exhibition at Buckingham Palace to mark Elizabeth and Philip's 60th wedding anniversary in 2007, and we've got close-ups from that occasion over here.


The tiara, however, now exists only in photographs. In 1973, the Queen decided to dismantle the piece. We don't know precisely why, but it was taken apart at a time when HM was making subtle changes to her jewelry collection, remaking existing pieces and acquiring new ones. Unlike nearly every other tiara in her arsenal, the Nizam was not a family heirloom; it was a newer piece that she had selected herself, so perhaps she felt more comfortable altering it. Her collection lacked a ruby tiara at this point in time, because the Queen Mother had kept the Oriental Circlet in her own jewelry box after George VI's death. So Elizabeth decided to remove the diamonds from the Nizam tiara, combining them with a cache of Burmese rubies to create the Burmese Ruby Tiara. (You can read more about the Burmese Ruby over here!)

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Three parts of the tiara were preserved, however: the rose elements that could be removed and worn as brooches. The Queen still frequently wears the largest of these brooches today, and a recent engagement offered us an excellent close-up view of the piece.