We have always known some women can go a bit too far with their embellishments. They can have their arms adorned in shiny bracelets, legs with anklets, noses with nose rings that are attached to the earrings not to forget the beautiful henna drawings on their hands and legs. However, that does not come as close to hearing that one of their traditional rulers had shoes that are worth $160,000. We expect royalty to have expensive taste, but can you imagine owning a pair of shoes that can pay for your child’s tuition for several years? Let’s delve deeper into the Nizam Sikandar Jah’s shoes and see why they are worth this much.
History of the shoes
Children are born innocent until they learn the ways of the world, which can either corrupt them or inspire them to make a change. Nizam Ali Khan, also known as Asaf Jah II, and his wife Tahniyatunnisa Begum were blessed with a second son on 11 November 1768; they named the boy Nizam Sikandar Jah, also known as Asaf Jah III. The birth took place in Chowmahalla Place in Hyderabad, in the Khilwath. Unfortunately, Nizam Ali Khan passed away at the age of 72 in August 1803, leaving his son, Sikandar Jah, as his successor.
Nizam Sikandar Jah had two wives, the first one being Jahan Parwar Begum Sahiba whom he married in May 1800. He took a second wife later on; her name was Fazilath Unisa Begum. The reign became more of anarchy, and he gave his family positions of authority. For instance, his son, Samsamadaula, became the Defence Adviser to Nasir ud Daula and Afzal ud Daula, his brother and nephew, respectively.
The man must have loved the fine things in life because apart from marrying two wives, he indulged himself in commissioning the making of a pair of slippers. Were they ordinary slippers then they would not be worth mentioning but these slippers, which resemble those we watch Aladdin wear, were adorned with rubies and diamonds. Besides the precious stones, the work that went into the completion of the shoes was enormous; they had a delicate design that was almost impossible to make, and instead of the common thread, the makers used gold thread for stitching. Rare gemstones like emeralds then completed the look with beautiful adornment.
With such expensive tastes it is no surprise that during Nizam Sikandar Jah’s reign, the kingdom was in financial ruin due to massive spending and borrowing, as Hyderabad story reported. When he died, the shoes became part of the symbol of the 18th-century royalty and were included in the handing down of the throne such that as each ruler was named, he not only got to sit on the throne but received the shoes as well.
Shoes get to the Bata Shoe Museum, stolen then recovered
As the shoes were handed down from one ruler to the next, they found their way to Toronto and became the property of Bata Shoe Museum, where they are insured for $160,000. According to Times of India, the museum acquired the slippers in 1999 from a British dealer and displayed them for the first time on September 22, 1999, in an exhibition dubbed Paduka: Feet and Footwear in Indian Tradition. As the museum prepared to use it as a centerpiece during an exhibition dubbed the Chronicles of Riches that was supposed to start on September 27, 2006, someone else had a plan of their own, so they stole the shoes on January 22, 2006.
Of course, with the hype that the shoes get it made sense for someone to think of how much the rubies, diamonds, and gold used in the shoes could be worth. So thorough was the thief that the investigations concluded it was premeditated theft seeing that he used the right tools to fool the museum’s security system and not trigger the alarm connected to the glass case on which the slippers were held. It would have been easy to conclude that it was an insider responsible, but then all who work at the museum know that the shoes are not worth a penny on the market despite the valuable materials used in its making; instead, its value lies only in the historical significance it carries.
Sonja Bata, the founder of Bata Museum, was desperate to have the shoes returned and she offered a $25,000 to anyone leading to their recovery. Luckily the police captured the thief with the help of three other citizens who split the reward money. The shoes, however, had been handled roughly leading to a few gold threads being torn but they were restored to their original glory and became part of the exhibition.
Is it the most expensive shoe?
With a price tag of $160,000, you would be forgiven for thinking that the Nizam Sikandar Jah’s shoes are the most expensive shoes, but others will make you wonder what it is they have to warrant such ridiculous prices. Take for instance the Stuart Weitzman Ruby slippers that have an asking price of $1.6 million or the Stuart Weitzman Tanzanite heels that go for $2 million. You can already begin imagining what you can do with the amount besides spending it on a pair of heels or slippers. Still, these do not come close to the Ruby Slippers from the House of Harry Winston with a price tag of $3 million. However, the Nizam Sikandar Jah’s shoes and these other slippers and heels have some things in common; the exquisite design, the diamonds, and other gemstones that are used in making them.
Owning a collection of shoes is part of “living the dream” for most people but if we all were given a chance, having a pair of slippers that carry so much historical value would be worth so much more than all the pairs of the shoes in the world. Nizam Sikandar Jah may have run the state down to its financial mess, but one thing we cannot forget is that the minute he commissioned the making of these slippers, he gave way to the creation of something that will forever be appreciated not just by the Indians, but by the world at large.