Once the source of Golconda diamonds and the present-day centre of India’s pearl trade, Hyderabad is the historic heart of the country’s entire jewellery industry. Its nizams – as the state’s monarch was known – ruled from the 18th to 20th centuries, amassing fabled collections of 25,000 diamonds, 2,000 emeralds and, so the story goes, enough prime pearls to cover London’s Piccadilly Circus. This contributed to the last ruling nizam, Mir Osman Ali Khan, who ruled as Asaf Jah VII, being recognised as the world’s richest man and appearing on the cover of Time magazine in 1937. Though his jewels now lie hidden away in a Delhi bank vault, visitors can still get a taste of the nizam lifestyle. “The city of Hyderabad has always been associated with the riches of the nizam – pearls, the Golconda mine’s diamonds and legendary jewellery-making traditions that have continued since the 18th century,” says Priya Paul, chair of Park Hotels (owners of a design hotel in the Telangana state capital’s new town). Pick of the Hyderabad palaces: Falaknuma The nizams had 30 city palaces, but a late 19th century favourite was Falaknuma (“Mirror of the Skies”) perched 600 metres above the city where the nizam lived an indulgent lifestyle, hosting notable guests such as the tsar of Russia and the king of England. An ambitious, decade-long restoration project was completed in 2010, restoring Falaknuma to its former glory and transforming it into the opulent Taj Falaknuma Palace Hotel. Inside The Peninsula London, opening next to Buckingham Palace The building blends Italian, Tudor and Mughal architectural styles. Guests arrive at its white marble Palladian-style facade in horse-drawn carriages and are showered with rose petals and garlanded with jasmine as they step into the reception hall. There they are greeted by the sight of an Italian marble fountain, painted ceilings and stained glass windows depicting medieval and Tudor kings. Set in more than 14 hectares of formal, peacock-strutted, fountain-splashed gardens, the rooms of the old harem quarters are now swathed in curtains, brocade-draped four-poster beds and silk cushion-piled sink-in sofas. Dressing rooms lead to art deco bathrooms where light from the chandeliers – set over big Edwardian tubs – splinters diamond-like off mirrored walls. The public rooms have been reappointed to be just as they were in the nizam’s day. Each evening resident historian Asif Hussain Arastu, a former nizam’s retainer, guides guests around their glories, from the grand Durbar Hall to the Billiards Room with its racks of ivory-tipped cues and the Hookah Room with its embossed leather walls. Asif cites the atmospheric Palace Library and the Jade Room as his particular favourites. “I give book lovers a special viewing of the first edition books I discovered in the cabinets. We are still finding and displaying more,” he says. The library, modelled on that at Windsor Castle , has 5,900 books displayed under an ornate coffered teak and rosewood inlaid ceiling. “The most unique interior designs are found in the Jade Room with its Belgian chandeliers and display cabinets, one containing a masterpiece of art: a Chinese ivory puzzle ball,” Asif says. Peek inside the luxurious cruise ship that allows residents to live at sea The Dining Room contains the world’s longest dining table, seating 101, which takes three hours to set. Painted friezes on the surrounding walls depict dishes that the nizam could point to by way of ordering his meals. Today the Adaa restaurant serves updated royal recipes such as lemongrass-marinated scampi, while executive chef Sajesh Nair captures the nizams’ love of cashews by adding cashew powder to the classic Hyderabadi dish, dahi kabab . Jewels of the old city Down in the city, Hyderabad is split into distinctly ancient and modern zones. The clamour of the old is best viewed from the balconies of the 1591 Charminar, a square four-minaret mosque that arches above the traffic that swarms about it to spin off into narrow alleyway bazaar filled with bangle and brocade sellers. Mangat Rai is a noted pearl store and Pathergatti the best pearl bazaar for the Hyderabad speciality: the tiny crescent-shaped rice pearl. “Pearl trading and artisanship were encouraged by the nizams who adored pearls. Pearls have put Hyderabad on the global map,” explains Paul. The city of Hyderabad has always been associated with the riches of the nizam – pearls, the Golconda mine’s diamonds and legendary jewellery-making traditions Priya Paul, chair, Park Hotels For a sense of the nizams’ jewellery, try RBH and Sons Jewellers on Nizam Shah Road. “My family acted as the nizam’s jewellers for 150 years working in gold, diamonds, rubies, emeralds and pearls,” says owner Akshay Shah. “We made a necklace of 465 graded Basra pearls, a belt with 245 white and golden diamonds, as well as turban ornaments and armbands. I have pictures and replicas of all these extraordinary pieces which our firm can still make to order,” he continues. Is the Middle East the world’s next big wellness destination? It’s said that the nizam only wore his clothes once, preening in the mirrors of the world’s longest wardrobe – a colossal 73 metres in all, filling one entire wing of the Purani Haveli palace and still viewable today. Another must-see is Chowmahalla, a four-palace complex and the nizam’s official residence. Here the nizam ruled from a throne in the Durbar Hall, a room so opulent that 38 men were employed just to dust the 19 crystal chandeliers. The museum here showcases collections of 60 vintage cars, clothes and personal items. Though predating the nizams’ rule, the Golconda Fort ruins underline how fantastic wealth derived from gems bought the city a lot of defensive infrastructure. Its high granite walls are studded with 87 towers and elephant-proof gates, shielding palaces, mosques, harems and the all-important vaults of diamonds. All the same, the fort was successfully stormed by a clearly determined Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1682. Modern Hyderabad Beyond the minarets and palace domes, across Hussain Sagar lake, is a modern Hyderabad of glass high-rise offices for IT company HQs, plus the world’s largest film studio complex, covering over 800 hectares with 500 sets. It is in this part of the city where Paul’s Park Hotel lies, lending it some much-needed style and flamboyance. “Our hotel’s unique design is a perforated metal screen, which wraps around the entire building inspired by the nizams’ jewellery. It serves both as an ornamental facade and a shading device minimising the impact of tropical temperatures on the building,” she says. 5 new luxury hotels in Asia to look out for in 2023, from Bhutan to Tokyo Within the hotel, the Asura Spa picks up on the city’s bejewelled theme, decorated in Golconda diamond white with silver embossed doors and curved walls hung with pearl-white fabric. Here the Great Mogul treatment is a multi-sensual experience of music, perfumed candles, chilled Dom Perignon, aphrodisiac hors d’oeuvres and body polish made with fruit extracts and diamond powder. It’s fittingly heady and over-the-top – exactly what any latter-day nizam would surely request. Want more stories like this? Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .