(Last Updated on : 02/12/2010)
The maharajas of India were the unimaginable riches, full of legendary splendor led privileged lives draped in brocade and silk, they wore ropes of pearls, ate off monogrammed gold and slept on perfumed silk sheets. They were spending their days in preparing for the amazing parties that they hosted and their marbled palaces used to shimmer in the brightness of Tiffany lamps each night and they offered huge silver trays of food to their bejeweled guests. But this life of luxury and privilege was precisely balanced with insatiable gossip, ominous plots and political intrigue.
The Maharaja of Indore, Tukoji Rao III, lived just such a luxurious, double-layered life. The story of the two pear-shaped Golconda gems, the Indore Pears, which weighed 46.95 and 46.70 carats, and which he owned, is an appearance of the colorful nature of his personal life.
On January 1925 in one cool evening, a car was making its way along the ridge of Malabar Hill, which is one of the most expensive residential areas of Bombay, towards the leafy Hanging Gardens. The occupiers of the car were an official of the Bombay Corporation, a friend of his, and a woman. Suddenly, another car appeared carrying attacker who attacked them out of nowhere, killed the official and injured the others. Speculations about the possible murderers and their motives swept through the city; the Bombay police announced a reward of Rs 10,000 for any information about the crime.
It was revealed that the woman had been a dancing girl in the court of the Maharaja of Indore, when the case was put before the Bombay High Court. Her name was Mumtaz Begum and she had also been the maharaja`s courtesan. He was madly in love with her but she did not respond to his feelings and one day she managed to escape from the maharaja`s entourage, hopping off his private train as it halted for a stop. After she went to Bombay via Amritsar, she became the ward of a wealthy mercantile.
Mumtaz Begum identified the attackers as the maharaja`s men and members of the Indore police and infantry. The maharaja was given the option of appearing at an official enquiry or surrender in favour of his seventeen-year-old son, Yashwant Rao, though his name was never disclosed. He chose to relinquish and stormed off to Europe in a royal wheeze. He met Nancy Anne Miller, a rich young American from Seattle, while in Switzerland. She became his third wife when they were married in 1928. Nancy Anne Miller converted to Hinduism and changed her name to Shamishtha Devi Holkar in expectation of wedded bliss. The captivated bridegroom showered his wife with lots of expensive gifts, including that of the Indore Pears.
The honeymoon did not last long as the maharaja and his wife soon got divorced. After they get parted, the Indore Pears were sold to Harry Winston. He had them recut to 46.39 and 44.14 carats. The both diamonds were being displayed in his exhibition, `The Court of Jewels`.
The diamonds were in due course auctioned by Christie`s, Geneva, in 1980, and again in 1987. The Indore Pearls are now in the ownership of Robert Mouawad.