Monday, August 6, 2012

Koh-i-Nur (Koh-i-Noor) Diamond (Part 1): An Exchange is Made

Koh-i-Noor Armlet
Photo Credit: India Tribune
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Said to have once hung on the neck of the sun god himself, the large and mediocre Koh-i-Noor diamond was given as a gift to Queen Victoria in 1876 as a symbol of her sovereignty over India. Allegedly found in the Indian diamond mines of Golconda, the diamond has an obscure and largely undocumented history.

Having spent an unknown number of centuries in the hands of the Mughals, possibly even housed secretly in the great peacock throne, the diamond was seized in 1739 by Nadir Shah of Persia. It remained in Afghanistan, passing through the hands of several Persian rulers, until Shah Shuja was defeated by Mahmud.

From prison, Shah Shuja sent his family, along with the stone, to Punjab for sanctuary. Shah Shuja’s wife, Queen Wafa Begum, secured her husband’s release from prison by gifting the large jewel to Ranjit Singh, who hired a jeweler to facet and set into an armlet. He had hoped that the new cuts would release the radiance he believed existed within the stone. However, the diamond remained hopelessly devoid of brilliance. Greatly disappointed, Ranjit Singh beheaded the jeweler responsible for faceting and setting it.

After his death in 1843, Ranjit Singh left a vacuum of power in India. This of course resulted in fighting among his successors, one of whom was nine-year-old Duleep Singh. It also opened the door for the British to finally gain a foothold in the sought-after Indian territory

After a six-year attempt to dominate the region, the British defeated the Sikhs and Afghans, abdicated the Sikh treasury under the 1849 Treaty of Lahore, and carried the diamond and Duleep Singh back to England in victory.
1. Rappaport, Helen. Queen Victoria: A Biographical Companion. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2003.
2. All About Gemstones. "Diamond Mines of the World: India's Diamonds of Golconda." Accessed August 6, 2012.

*Clip-art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy


  1. Very intriguing! Waiting for the rest of the story....

    1. I'm so sorry to leave you hanging. I finished the series, but I never linked part two up with this one. I corrected the link and will send it to you in an email!

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