Back in the days of the Shah, every time went to Iran, I rushed over to the Melli Bank because I loved looking at the crown jewels on display there in a basement room. I would begin with the Throne of the Peacocks, which was not in fact the dismantled original, but instead a facsimile: a vast apparatus covered in jewels, alongside a one-and-a-half-meter tall globe completely incrusted in jewels, together with crowns, necklaces, weapons, ewers – all in gold, covered in rubies, emeralds, diamonds, and dripping with pearls. They were huge, round tray-like surfaces piled up with large emeralds.
Other trays contained gigantic neatly aligned cut diamonds. Streams of pearls flowed out of plate-gold chests. No treasure in the world could hope to match the richness, diversity, and splendour of the Bank Melli Museum, and this was still only a small portion of the treasure housed in the cellars of that bank.
Before the war, the Shah Reza had called upon the jeweller Chaumet to appraise this treasure. After having spent a week in the Melli Bank’s cellars, the jeweller went to find the Shah to declare that it was not worth trying to assess the treasure because if ever it were suddenly put up for sale the market value of jewels would bottom out.
Word had it that in the bank’s storage cellars, a lot of the jewels were simply stuffed into leather suitcases. As time went by, they pierced through the leather, allowing the emeralds or diamonds to flow out of the holes. Hopefully, the Islamic State has kept this treasure intact.
The fact is, the treasure was not Iranian originally. In the 18th century the extremely powerful Nadir Shah ruled Iran. He invaded neighbouring India; defeating its ruler the Great Mughal, and taking him prisoner. In Delhi, he discovered the Great Mughal’s fabulous treasure, the largest in the world and in all of history. With no hesitation: he claimed it. No fewer than 3,000 camels transported it in large chests bursting with jewels over to Iran.
Soon after this thievery, Nadir Shah was assassinated. A mere quarter of the treasure was delivered to Tehran: and is now stored at the Melli Bank. Another quarter of it was stolen randomly along the way: notably the most famous diamond in the world, the Koh-i-Noor, which now belongs to the Crown of England.
As for the remaining half… Nadir Shah buried it somewhere in his home province of Khorasan, and it is still there. Indeed, no one knows its whereabouts. No one has ever known: but the treasure is still out there somewhere in Khorasan.
I would venture to add that a lady for whom I have immense admiration and respect, the Empress Farah, has confirmed the veracity of this legend.