|The Legend of the Koh-I-Noor
India has long been revered by gem enthusiasts for its history of ancient and world famous gems. Kings and chieftains of India have often been measured by their collection of jewelry and precious stones, passed down by ancestors, gifted between leaders, and more often than not, won and lost in bloody battles.
Perhaps most famous of all the precious stones that have made their way into Indian and world folklore is the Koh-I-Noor diamond. It was once believed that whoever owned this infamous gem ruled the world. It is most likely that the Koh-I-Noor started life in the Golkonda Kingdom, in the Southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The Golkonda Kingdom was one of the world's earliest diamond producing regions, and one of the only regions known to mine diamonds until 1725, when they were first discovered in parts of Brazil.
The Koh-I-Noor currently weighs 105 carats (21.0g), though it was once known to be the largest diamond in the world, at a whopping 793 carats! It is considered to be of the finest white color, clarity and transparency. Not all diamonds are actually white; impurities can cause a diamond to display shades of red, orange, blue, yellow, green and black. Whilst a small amount of brilliant blue, pink and green mined diamonds are considered to be among the rarest precious stones, a vast amount of diamonds are mined and discovered every year. Less than 20% of them are considered to be worthy of jewelry, so the remaining 80% tend to be put to industrial use.
The Legend of the Koh-I-Noor
The first real evidence of the Koh-I-Noor can be found in the memoirs of Barbur, the founder and first leader of the Mogul Empire. Barbur recorded the diamond amongst the treasures of Ala-ud-deen (better known to some as Aladdin), and it was said to have been won in battle in Malwah, in 1304 AD.
In 1526, it was obtained by the Moguls. Then it was said to have been at its original weight of 793 carats but after some awful cutting and polishing by the Emperor's jeweller, Borgio, the stone was reduced to just 186 carats, and Borgio was said to have been severely punished!
The Mountain of Light
Through Blood and Battle
In 1830, the diamond made its way back to India, carried by Shuja Shah, the then recently deposed Afghan ruler. He arrived in Lahore and begged the Maharaja to help him win back his throne in Afganistan. It is said that to the astonishment of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Shuja refused to offer the Koh-I-Noor as part of the deal, and then Ranjit Singh hit Shuja several times with his shoe and threatened to kill him before the diamond was finally handed over and as a result, the Kingdom of Afghanistan was won back for the grateful Shuja Shah.
The Koh-I-Noor in Britain
In 1850 the British thought it fitting that the new Maharaja, Duleep Singh, should personally present the Koh-I-Noor diamond to Queen Victoria, after which it became the centre piece of 'the Great Exhibition' staged in Hyde Park, London, which displayed the large diamond in full public view.
In 1852, Prince Albert ordered for the diamond to be re-cut, reducing it to its current weight of 105 carats, and increasing its brilliance, soon after which it was set in a royal tiara with over 2000 other diamonds.
The Koh-I-Noor currently resides with the rest of the crown jewels, set in a crown created in 1937 for the coronation of the then Empress of India, Elizabeth, who would later be known as the Queen Mother.
The Continuing Battle of the Koh-I-Noor
Despite the curse and gruesome history, both Afghanistan and India claim to have lost the diamond illegally and continue to fight for its return. During Queen Elizabeth's state visit to India in 1997, marking 50 years of Indian independence, many people protested that the diamond should be returned, including some Indian MPs.
As recently as July 2010, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, was challenged during an interview on National Indian TV (NDTV) to return the Koh-I-Noor to India. David Cameron later replied that returning the diamond was not possible, for it would set a dangerous precedent, and to this day the Koh-I-Noor continues to be in the possession of the British Royal family. The future of this well-travelled gem is still very much unknown.
- First Published: March-17-2012
- Last Updated: August-20-2014
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