Famous Gems: Koh-i-Noor Diamond and Great Mogul Diamond

Koh-i-Noor Diamond - Great Mogul Diamond - Koh-i-Nur

Koh-i-Noor (Koh-i-Nur) Diamond

(Persian for ‘Mountain of Light’ Diamond).
One of the world’s most famous (although not the largest or finest) diamonds, weighing 186 carats until recut in 1852 to its present weight of 108.93 carats. According to Indian legend, its origin dates back some 5,000 years to ancient India and its early history, prior to recent research, was the subject of conflicting writings.

Formerly it was generally accepted that it was the same diamond that had been in the possession of Sultan Baber (1480-1530), founder of the Mughal Empire in India (having been taken in 1304 from Al-in-Din, Rajah of Malwi, 1288-1321), and then known as ‘Baber’s Diamond’, and that was inherited by his son, Humayun and later given, c. 1544, to Shah Jehan, Mughal Emperor of India, 1627-58.

However, recent opinion distinguishes Baber’s Diamond (reported to have weighed 186 carats) from the Koh-i-Noor and contends that the latter (formerly called the ‘Great Mogul Diamond‘ and weighing originally 787.5 carats) was discovered c. 1655 in the Kollur Mine in Golconda, southern India, belonging to Mir Jumla, of Golconda, and that he presented it, c. 1655-7, to Shah Jehan, from whom it was inherited by his son, Aurangzeb, Emperor of Hindustan, 1658-1707.

In 1655 a diamond (now thought to have been the ‘Great Mogul Diamond’ and identified with the Koh-i-Noor) was shown by Aurangzeb to Jean-Baptisi Tavernier, the French traveller and diamond merchant, who weighed measured, and sketched it. In 1739, when Nadir Shah (1688-1747), the Persian ruler, invaded India and, after sacking Delhi, carried off the original Peacock Throne, he also took the diamond (allegedly havingo tained it by trickery from the Mughal Emperor) to Isfahan, Iran, when it was given its Persian name, Koh-i-Nur.

In 1747 it was inherited by Nadir’s grandson, Shah Rukh Mirza, who in 1749 gave it, in gratitude for military support, to Ahmad Shah (1723-73), of the Dirrani tribe and ruler of Afghanistan; it was taken to Kabul and kept there until his brother and heir, Shah Shuja, surrendered it in 1813 to Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), ‘Lion of the Punjab’, the Sikh ruler of the Punjab, in return for military aid.

It was taken by the latter to his capital, Lahore, and remained there until claimed from his son by the British when they annexed the Punjab after the Second Sikh War, 1848-9.

It was then taken by the East India Company to England where in 1852, to celebrate the Company’s 250th anniversary, it was presented to Queen Victoria. The diamond had at one time been cut by an Indian lapidary from its reputed 787.5 carats to an oval stone in its natural domed shape, but with facets, weighing about 1861 carats.

In 1852 Prince Albert ordered the stone to be recut in London by the Amsterdam cutter Voorsanger, of the Coster firm, and it was reduced to 108.93 carats, so that it is now a shallow rose cut stone, poorly proportioned and with little fire. It was worn by Queen Victoria in a brooch and a bracelet, and in 1858 it was reset for her in a circlet.

It has never been worn by a British king, perhaps owing to the legend that it had often brought disaster to male owners; but it is more likely owing to the fact that when it was given to Queen Victoria it was as a personal gift, not as a Crown Jewel, and the belief grew that if it were ever worn by a male sovereign the British Empire would lose India, and hence Victoria bequeathed it not to Edward VII but as a royal heirloom to his wife, Queen Alexandra, in female entail for successive Queens Consort.

It was later set in the coronation crowns made for Queen Alexandra in 1902 and for Queen Mary in 1911, and is now set (below the Black Prince’s Ruby) in the cross formee of the crown made for Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) and worn at her coronation in 1937.

In recent years there has been some discussion, as a consequence of the independence of India, as to whether the diamond should be returned to India as a national heritage.

Great Mogul Diamond

A famous diamond that is said to have been in the Kollur Mine near Golconda, southern India, in 1650 or earlier, and presented to Shah Jehan, the Great Mogul, Emperor of India.

It was shown by his son, Shah Aurangzeb (1618-1705), to the French traveller and jewelry merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier (1605-89), who weighed, measured, and sketched it, showing it in conoidal shape with eight rows of facets and stated its weight as 280 carats.

The stone had previously been inefficiently cut from rough 787.5 carats by the Venetian cutter, Ortensio Borgio. In 1739 the stone was taken to Isfahan by Nadir Shah (1688-1747), the Persian ruler, after he invaded India and sacked Delhi.

Although early writers have questioned its identity, it has been recently said to be the stone from which the Koh-i-Noor was cut. Attempts to identify it with the Darya-I-Nur diamond have been discredited, as well as the opinion that it was the same stone as the Orlov diamond, both having been rose cut and having a bluish tinge.