The Kohinoor Diamond
Koh-I-Noor Diamond: Basic Facts
These are just a few basic facts about the famous Koh-I-Noor diamond. For more on its value plus the intriguing tale of the Koh-I-Noor curse, read on.
The Koh-I-Noor Legend
Some say the legendary Koh-I-Noor diamond was a gift to earth from Surya, the sun god, and that evidence of its existence can be seen in ancient Sanskrit writings that date back to more than 5000 years ago. Some Hindus say that the diamond was stolen from the god Krishna as he lay sleeping, while others believe that it is the Syamantaka Jewel of Indian mythology. These people believe that the Koh-I-Noor diamond possesses great magical powers.
It has been said that whoever owned the Koh-I-Noor diamond ruled the world, and indeed, this diamond has passed through the hands of some famous heads of states. The first mention of the Koh-I-Noor is found in the memoirs of Mogul Empire founder and leader Barbur. He recorded the gem among the treasures of Aladdin, saying it was won during a 1304 battle in Malawah.
In 1526, the diamond resurfaced, having been obtained by the Moguls. At the time, it was supposedly at its original weight of 793 carats – the biggest diamond in the world. Unfortunately, it was poorly cut by the Emperor’s jeweler, Borgio, who was punished after reducing its size to 186 carats.
The Koh-I-noor passed through several different owners as the result of bloody battles, and was finally obtained by Ahmed Shah, who was the King of Afghanistan. He claimed that the diamond was a symbol of his power and authority, and managed to hold onto it for years.
In 1830, after being deposed, Shah went to Lahore to beg the Indian maharaja to help him win back his throne. The maharaja wanted the Koh-I-Noor as part of the deal. Shuja Shah refused, and the maharaja hit him with his shoe, then threatened to kill him. Shah finally gave the diamond up, and the maharaja gave the aid that was requested.
A long-standing controversy has some in India claiming that the Koh-i-Noor diamond was stolen by Britain. For decades, there has been a call for the famous gem to be returned to India as partial reparation for Britain’s past colonial history there. One Indian official said that such claims should be forgotten, since the Koh-i-Noor diamond was a voluntary gift to the British crown. Stated India’s solicitor general Ranjit Kumar, “It was neither stolen nor forcibly taken away.”
The Indian government stated in April, 2016, that the solicitor general’s view does not represent its own. The Ministry of Culture states that the Koh-i-Noor diamond is a “valued piece of art with strong roots in our nation’s history,” and that Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is determined to have it returned in an amicable manner. The case has yet to be resolved.
The Koh-I-Noor Curse
Koh-I-Noor Diamond In the British Crown Jewels
Maharaja Ranjit Sigh died in 1839, leaving the Sikh kingdom lacking in leadership. The British raised their flag in Lahore in 1849, proclaiming the Punjab region as part of the British Empire in England. This paved the way for the colonial governor of India to have the new maharaja, 13-year-old Duleep Singh, make an impressive yet controversial gift to Britain’s Queen Victoria. He presented her with the Koh-I-Noor diamond and the Timur ruby in 1850, after which it was taken to England, where it took center stage at London’s Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. The stone was displayed in full public view.
In 1852, Prince Albert decided that it was time to give the Koh-I-Noor an updated look. Although it was substantially reduced in size, it gained brilliance. The stone was set in a brooch, which Queen Victoria wore frequently. At the time, it was kept at Windsor Castle, rather than at the Tower of London.