This narrative history about Alexander Jacob has been well researched, and paints a realistic picture of the times in India. It is set in the late 1800s and is intense in the detailing of the people, places, politics and the British authority. Central to the story is the amazing achievements of Mr Jacob, who arrived as a penniless child in Bombay. The story would be intriguing enough, but add to it the largest diamond in the world, and a transaction that went horribly wrong, and our curiosity is aroused.
As Alexander grew, he knew he had to embrace every opportunity that came before him. He dabbled in magic and mysticism and eventually became a gem trader. It was here that he began to make serious profits, selling gems to the British and also the Indian Nizam. Mr Jacob became a confidante of Viceroy’s and Maharajas, and was eagerly sought after by the elite society of the time. Those people who knew him, all thought of him as mysterious, charismatic and enigmatic.
In the summer months when life was challenging on the plains, the gem trader followed the wealthy and the British to Simla. This cool village in the mountains was the perfect spot for Mr Jacob to set up in the bazaar, as well as visit the British aristocracy and the wealthy Indian rulers, showing his wares. He became familiar with both groups, and often had information for the British about the movements and directions of Indian troops, as well as becoming a trusted gem dealer.
When the largest diamond in the world came into Alexander’s possession, the fabulously wealthy Nizam of Hyderabad wanted to buy it. But the transaction went horribly wrong. The Nizam accused him of fraud, which created a very public trial in the Calcutta High Court, and made headlines around the world.
When he died the Times of London wrote that the “Wonderfully diversified stage of India has seen no more romantic and arresting figure in our time than that of Mr A.A.Jacob. …he had unrivaled knowledge of precious stones, a wide knowledge of Eastern life, language, art, literature, philosophy and occultism.”
The detailed notes and bibliography at the end of the book confirm the large number of sources the author consulted to make this an in depth, and accurate look at a truly remarkable man.