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Saturday, November 14, 1998 Published at 23:22 GMT

World: South Asia

Battle for jewels of Nizam

The Nizam ruled Hyderabad until 1948

By South Asia correspondent Mike Wooldridge

In India, a fresh legal tangle has begun over one of the world's most dazzling jewellery collections, estimated to be worth several hundred million pounds.

Once the property of the Nizam of Hyderabad - in his day reputed to be the richest man alive - the jewellery was acquired by the Indian government in 1995.

The legendary jewels

The fabled collection includes one of the biggest diamonds in the world - the 185-carot Jacob - which the seventh and last Nizam used as a paperweight.

The seventh Nizam, who ruled this princely state until it became part of the newly independent India in 1948, richly furnished Britain's World War coffers as well as maintaining the most opulent of lifestyles himself.

On his death, his heirs began their squabble over his legacy.

The jewellery almost went abroad but the government put a stop to it.

After lengthy legal action, the government eventually bought the collection itself for probably a tenth of the price it could have commanded on the international market.

But this still means there is a considerable sum at stake for the seventh Nizam's chosen beneficiaries and their rivals to fight over and they were doing so at this new hearing.

The Nizam's eldest grandson Prince Mukarram Jha is trying to fend off more than 300 other claimants and retain the biggest share of the jewellery proceeds.

The jewels themselves are in Delhi, out of public gaze.

But that's the source of another tussle. The authorities in Hyderabad want them on display in the city where they became a legend.

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