Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Legendary History of the Koh-i-Nur (Koh-i-Noor) Diamond

Koh-i-Noor Diamond
Mounted in Upper Maltese Cross (tip top)
Queen Mother's Crown
Photo Credit: Royal Exhibitions

In the Tower of London, nestled in the Maltese cross at the apex of the elegant and beautiful Queen Mother's Crown, the Koh-i-Nur diamond shines regally. After a long and tumultuous history, the large and somewhat unattractive diamond deserves this quiet repose.

The Koh-i-Nur boasts the longest documented history of all the famous diamonds. Its past is marked by brutal battles, intense bloodshed, and monumental struggles for power, likely resulting in the superstitious curse it carries.

It is said that any man who wears the diamond will lose his kingdom or suffer bad luck for all his life. On the other hand, this same diamond is said to hold a blessing of fortune for the woman who wears it.

Since being handed over to the British Empire by the East India Company in 1846, the legendary diamond has served as a crown jewel for only the women of the wise empire of Great Britain. Queens Victoria, Mary, and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) have all worn it in their coronation crowns during its 166-year respite in the United Kingdom. For fear of the curse, no male British monarch has ever worn the jewel.

I'm not prepared to admit that the Koh-i-Nur diamond brought any of the English queens good fortune. Yes, the crown remained secure in the hands of the monarchy throughout these past generations. And yes, Queen Victoria lived a very long life, which was considered fortunate for those born in the 19th century.

However, it certainly didn't bring her happiness. Queen Victoria's entire adult life was pocked with loss and grief, both before and after she inherited the fabled diamond. Perhaps certain talismans lose their power when pitted against other forces of ill.

The large and rather dull diamond was purported to have been found in the mines of Golkonda (Golconda) in southern India, specifically in the Kollur mine of the Gunter District. While I have not found definitive evidence to prove its origins, that would put to rest any notion that the Koh-i-Nur and the Syamantaka mani are the same gemstone, since the Kollur mine was not opened until the 12th century.

However, one source reports that the Koh-i-Nur was stored in a vault with the Hope diamond and other famous stones of Indian antiquity. This does leave room for the possibility that the Koh-i-Nur was discovered far earlier, possibly in the Godavari River area as far back as 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, as some historians believe. This would allow the possibility for the Koh-i-Nur to be one and the same as the Syamantaka.

Like with many very old jewels, conflicting information about the origins and early history of the Koh-i-Nur diamond abounds. It seems that it drifted in and out of the records of antiquity in a misty fog.

Despite its sometimes veiled history, in my next post I've pieced together a rough timeline of the Koh-i-Nur diamond’s early years. I do hope you will find it illuminating!


1. Mughal History. "First Battle of Panipat from Baburnama." Accessed July 23, 2012.
2. Tripod. "Kohinoor Heera." Accessed July 23, 2012.
3. Chaurasia, R. S. History of Medieval India From 1000 A.D. to 1707 A.D. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2002.
4. Sikh Institute. Maharaja Duleep Singh: The King in Exile. Appendix: Koh-I-Noor Diamond--Its History. Accessed July 23, 2012.
5. Kaur, Harpreet. "Koh-i-noor, a Mountain of Light." Dance with Shadows. Accessed July 23, 2012.
6. Tripod. "The Koh-I-Noor." Accessed July 23, 2012.
7. Tweedie, Neil. "The Koh-i-Noor: diamond robbery?" The Telegraph Online. July 29, 2010. Accessed July 23, 2012.
8. Royal Exhibitions. "Crowns." Accessed July 23, 2012.
9. Kent, J. J. "The Crown Jewels of England: The Koh-i-noor." Accessed July 23, 2012.
10. Forevermark. "A Notorious Diamond." Accessed July 23, 2012.
11. Rushby, Kevin. “Chasing the Mountain of Light: Across India on the Trail of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond.” Great Britain: Constable and Company Limited, 1999.
12. Harlow, George E., editor. “The Nature of Diamonds.” Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
13. ReoCities. "The Memoirs of Babur." Accessed July 23, 2012.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy


  1. ......a slight correction to your fascinating article. Elizabeth the Queen Mother was Queen Elizabeth but not Elizabeth I, as she was not Queen in her own right only Queen Consort (the wife of the King). Elizabeth I was the daughter of Henry VIII (ruled 1558-1603).

    1. Thank you so much for reading, commenting, and alerting me to my mistake. I have corrected it. I'm just so sorry I have been away so long and wasn't able to respond immediately to your comment.