Princess Niloufer's fascinating brooch
Deccan Chronicle| Arvind Acharya
How a jeweller, in disguise, copied a stunning design from the French.
Princess Niloufer was married to Moazzam Jah, second son of the last Nizam of Hyderabad.
Today is Princess Niloufer’s 101st birthday. When she was in Hyderabad, married to Prince Moazzam Jah, she dressed immaculately but wearing very few jewels. Her favourites were her pearl earrings, and the seven-strand pearl necklace. Only very rarely did she sport a brooch.
If jewels could speak, this brooch would tell a long tale because it has an interesting and unique provenance.
In 1869, the Emperor of France, Napoleon III and his wife, Empress Eugenie visited Istanbul in Turkey. At that time, Sultan Abdul Aziz, ruled the Ottoman Empire. On social occasions during the visit, Empress Eugenie sported a diamond belt buckle on her dress. The jewel sparkled and glittered in the dazzling light of the chandeliers in the palace. Many of the Turkish ladies, watching the Empress from behind latticed screens, were impressed by the sparkle in the buckle. When word went back to the Sultan about the buckle, he resolved to get it copied.
But how do you get an Empress to show her belt buckle? In the end, it was very simple. A jeweller was invited to an event where the Empress was to be present. Assuming that the Empress would be standing for some time, the jeweler dressed as a woman and stood behind the latticed screens.
Unfortunately for him, the Empress was carried away by the music from the Turkish band and danced the entire evening. The jeweller did the best he could to observe and copy the pattern of the buckle. You can see the Empress’s buckle and what the jeweller created.
Although not exactly the same, the result was still quite an astounding masterpiece. Having designed it, the jeweller then set about fixing the diamonds. To maximise the reflection, he cut each diamond in the shape of a rose. It took 40 diamonds to complete the brooch. When he showed it to the ladies at the palace, they were suitably impressed.
This buckle passed from Sultan Abdul Aziz to Sultan Murad V. In turn, Murad V gave it to his granddaughter, Princess Adile Sultana. When Adile’s daughter Niloufer married Moazzam Jah in 1931, this buckle was part of her wedding trousseau. As soon as she reached Hyderabad, Princess Niloufer realised it would be of no use in a land of sarees. She had a pin installed on the back of the buckle, and used it as a brooch. After her divorce in 1952, Princess Niloufer went to Paris. Much later, when she married Edward Pope, she had changed to wearing clothes in the European style. The brooch was not used much, and it lay consigned to a box. After her death, Edward Pope moved back to USA. When he married Evelyn Maddox, he gave her the brooch.
Upon Edward’s death, Evelyn distributed many of the Niloufer papers and paraphernalia to institutions. Due to my interest in Hyderabad’s history, Evelyn gave me the papers and photos of Princess Niloufer, along with the rights to their use.
However, Evelyn Pope did not give me the brooch. It is only after her death in 2014, that her son got in touch with me. He had known that I was his mother’s friend and offered me the brooch for a price, but I turned it down.
However, a few weeks later, when the brooch was listed for auction, I feared it might disappear, and felt the extreme urge to own it. It now sits in a safe box in a bank in the United States.
Arvind Acharya is a management consultant in New York. He can be reached at email@example.com