A jewel that is the pride of the British Crown
The Koh-I-Noor whose name means mountain of light in Persian is the oldest of the famous diamonds. It weighs 108.93 carats. It is currently mounted on the Crown of the British Royal family. The diamond has had a troubled history. One legend suggests that it brings bad luck to the men but not the women who wear it.
The most probable origin of the diamond dates back about seven centuries, where the legend suggests that the stone was discovered by new-born prince Karna, son of Sourja (Sun God) and a Princess, on the banks of the river Godavari. It is said that he wore it on his brow until the day he lost his life in battle. The diamond disappeared until a woman found it and offered it to Shiva.
However, the first historical mention of the diamond dates back to the fourteenth century when it was reported as belonging to the Raja of Malwa in India. Following the invasion of the Delhi sultanates, it then passed into the hands of various Mogul emperors between 1525 and 1739. Then, the empire, weakened under the reign of Mahamad Farouk, was conquered by general Nadir who took the title of Shah. During a banquet, the latter offered to change turbans with the emperor as a gesture of reconciliation. The Emperor, not daring to refuse, agreed. Nadir retired after this exchange and was surprised to discover the Koh-i-Noor when he unrolled the turban. He was assassinated by his officers some time after.
The diamond fell into the hands of many rulers until the maharajah of Lahore Ranjeet Singh acquired it. In 1849, the East India Company confiscated it from Dhulip Singh, his son then aged eleven, after the war against the Sikhs.
The diamond was then offered to Queen Victoria who had become Empress of India in 1837, and was exhibited at St. James’s Palace on the 250th anniversary of the East India Company. In 1852, under the supervision of the prince consort Albert, it was oval cut to improve brilliance by Voorzanger, dropping from 186 carats to its current weight of 108 carats. It was then mounted on a tiara with more than two thousand other diamonds.
In 1937, the stone was set in the crown of the new queen Elizabeth II. Successive Indian governments periodically request the return of the stone, claiming it as their legitimate property.