Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Koh-I-Noor

Nature’s one of the most scintillating creations is Diamonds. They are truly a symbol of breath taking beauty, rarity, durability and of never ending love.
These sparkling beauties have traveled a long way in the history. When a diamond is set into an ornament it is believed to be at least billions of years old. Diamonds endure enormous pressure when they are being formed under the structural layers of the Earth under precise conditions. If we look at the chemical composition of diamonds they exist in the simplest forms of carbon but they make the world’s biggest treasures.
THE KOH-I-NOOR


In this post we explore the journey of the world’s greatest diamond
 KOH -I- NOOR.
  • Weight: 105.6 carats (21.6 grams approximately)
  • Cut: Oval brilliant
  • Color: Colourless
  • Current location: Tower of London
Koh-I-Noor literally means the “mountain of light” in Persian. The first account of this beauty is believed to be in the early Sanskrit script which goes back to almost 5000 years. It is speculated that it was mentioned as the syamantaka in the texts. Hindus believe that this diamond was obtained by lord Krishna from Jambvanth whose daughter he had married.

It was discovered in the Golconda mines of Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, India. The next reference dates back to 1304 where it was in the ownership of Mahlak Deo, the Raja of Malwa. Mahlak Deo then lost it the Kakatiya dynasty and then it further went on to the Lodhi dynasty.
According to the memoirs of Mughal Emperor Babur, Babur Nama in 1526 when he invaded the fort of Agra he acquired the diamond which then weighed around 186 carats. It was presumably presented to him as peshkash or tribute by Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi. Thereafter the gem was known as Babur’s Diamond.

There exists an alternative theory regarding how the Kohinoor came to the Mughal dynasty. It is believed that Mir Jumla a reputed diamond merchant from Persia, who was employed by the ruler of Golconda, got into an alliance with the ruler’s mother. To prevent a scandal he was sent to the mines where his fortune took a turn and he acquired the prized diamond. Around 1656 he then presented it to the then Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan who got it set in his famous Peacock Throne.

Babur’s Diamond for two centuries went into the hands of many rulers and subsequently was inherited by Mohammed Shah, the corrupt Mughal Emperor. At this time the strength of the great Mughal Dynasty was decreasing and in the skies of Persia a new star was rising, Nadir Shah. By 1739 he had conquered Delhi and made Mohammed Shah his prisoner and seized the crown jewels. But to his dismay he could not find the diamond anywhere. On one fine day a lady informed him that Mohammed Shah wore the magnificent diamond in the pleats of his turban. So Nadir Shah invited him for a royal feat and in the course of his meals he proposed an exchange of their turbans in the spirit of brotherhood. Seeing the gem Shah exclaimed ‘Koh-I-Noor’ and that is how the famous diamond acquired its name.

In 1747 Nadir Shah was murdered in his sleep and then the diamond was inherited by his grandson Shah Rukh Mirza. He then awarded it to Ahmad Abdali, his loyal supporter. Abdali then went on to become the ruler of Afghanistan. After several years his brother Shah Shuja escaped to Lahore due to war for his brother’s throne. He took refuge with the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh who was known as the ‘Lion of Punjab’. Ranjit Singh in 1813 managed to take away the diamond from him as a payment for the protection he was providing Shah Shuja and his family.
 
ARMLET OF RANJIT SINGH
After Ranjit Singh’s reign weak rulers reigned over Punjab. In 1843 Duleep Singh became the new Maharaja, who was still a minor. In 1849 the British annexed Punjab and included it in their empire. He then signed the Treaty of Lahore which was brought to him by Lord Dalhousie, the British Governor General. The treaty had a clause which stated that the Koh-I-Noor must be handed over to the queen of England. In 1850, the East India Company presented Queen Victoria with the celebrated diamond. 
 
QUEEN VICTORIA
But when the diamond was presented to the queen she and her reigning monarch, Prince Albert was disappointed with the lack of brilliance of Koh-I-Noor. They ordered the diamond to be re-cut. This difficult task was given Voorzanger- the foremost cutter of the reputed Dutch firm Coster. Unfortunately the re-cutting did not increase the brilliance greatly. However, Queen wore the diamond for 5 years. In 1902 it was set in the Imperial Crown for her daughter in law Queen Alexandra and again in Queen Mary’s crown in 1911.
 
IMPERIAL CROWN
(QUEEN ALEXANDRA)

QUEEN MARY'S CROWN
(QUEEN MARY)

Koh-I-Noor is said to be unlucky for male Emperors and in England has been worn only by Queens. Its current weight is now estimated to be 105.602 carats.
Ownership of Koh-I-Noor is a controversial issue due to its unclear history. India after attaining independence tried to claim the diamond, but in vain.
Britain claims to be the owner of the celebrated Diamond and it is kept open for public display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London as a symbol of British National Heritage.

Koh-I-Noor’s journey is a reflection of its awe-inspiring beauty. It has seen the peaks and valleys; betrayal, romance, loyalty & royalty. Although Koh-I-Noor accounts to half of the entire World’s daily expenses and the fact that it was used by some of the World’s most imposing historical figures makes it priceless.





*The Author is a Colored Stone Graduate from Gemological Institute of America, Mumbai and a Diamond Graduate from Solitaire Diamond Institute, Bangalore. She also holds a Diploma in Jewelry Designing & Manufacturing from Jewelry Product Development Centre, Jaipur. She also blogs at 'The Jewel Affair'

*Picture Courtesy: Google Images