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Kohinoor- The Peerless Diamond

Updated on February 14, 2020
SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

I am a lover of art. The ancient art inspires me the most, as it has come down to us after the hard work of centuries.

Glass replica of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond
Glass replica of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond | Source

Origin of Diamonds

Scientifically the natural diamond is formed under specific conditions i.e., exposure of carbon to high pressure and low temperature between 900–1300 °C. On earth, these conditions are naturally met at two places, the first is in the lithosphere mantle below the stable continental plates, and the second is at the sites where the meteorites strike.

Several centuries ago, within or under the Deccan plateau in India, perhaps a meteorite strike or some volcanic activity occurred. This may have produced the naturally occurring stones near the banks of Krishna or Godavari or somewhere near Golconda or Kollur in Guntur at a digging depth.
Being a diamond market, many diamonds found elsewhere in India, also reached Golconda.So the mine from which Kohinoor came, can not be fixed.

Before the development of South African diamond mines, India was the only place where the diamonds could be found. Almost all the big diamonds came out from one or the other mines in India.the Indian diamonds are mainly found around Golconda. These diamonds went through the hands of various Indian rulers and are now with the western or Russian owners.

Here is the tale of a peerless diamond Kohinoor, which caused joy and grief to many of its owners, and began its journey as a chunky, lusterless lump, which got itself cut down many times by naïve experts, and has been reduced to less than half of its original size.

Kohinoor embedded in Imperial State Crown
Kohinoor embedded in Imperial State Crown | Source

Price of Kohinoor

The exact price of Kohinoor has not been evaluated. But in the early sixteenth century, its value was considered to be about the one-half of the total production of the world in one day. Being a unique diamond its price could not be evaluated. Since it was never sold, but always stolen, gifted, bartered or looted, so its price could not be reckoned.

One of the consorts of Nadir Shah ( once the owner of Kohinoor ), rightly evaluated its price, when she said, "Give five stones to a strong man, and ask him to throw one each in four directions and the fifth one straight up into the air, and fill the space in between with gold and gems, and this would be equivalent to the value of Kohinoor".

At present, the Kohinoor is not the biggest diamond in the world, but its historical associations have made it priceless.

The record of most expensive documented sale of "Graff pink" for $46 million, was made about 65 years ago in Hon Kong. The weight of Graff pink was 24.78 karats, while Kohinoor now weighs 106 karats and earlier it was 186.62 karats.

Kohinoor is a part of the Crown Jewels. The whole value of the Crown Jewels is about $12 billion and the Kohinoor is one of the most expensive diamonds among the entire collection.

Some facts about Kohinoor

Weight (earlier)
186.62 Karats (37.21 g)
Present weight
108.93 Karats
Fine white
Country of origin
Present location
Tower of London
Present owner
The British Crown
Mine of origin
Kollur Mine, Guntur District, Andhra Pradesh

The Repeated Re-cutting of the Kohinoor

In the earliest records, the Kohinoor actually weighed 280 karats. Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor, wanted this large and rough stone to be cut. So he hired the Italian gem cutter, Hortensio Borgio, an expert on precious stones and the art of cutting. But he earned the wrath and heavy penalty of the king because he deformed the Kohinoor by cutting away nearly a half of it.It was by now 186.62 karats and shaped like the half of an egg. Borgio had spent three and a half years for this job. Due to such carelessness, the emperor confiscated all his assets and did not give him anything for his labor.

A few centuries later in 1852, the Kohinoor faced yet another cut in the hands of Prince Albert. He ordered the re-cutting of the diamond because the viewers had expressed disappointment at Kohinoor’s lack of radiance and glitter. It is reported that he had spent about £8,000 on the cutting operation, which reduced the weight by a good 42%, and the gem got its present size from 186.62 karats to 108.93 karats now. Thus Kohinoor gained its brilliance at the cost of its size but got a new look and a new abode.

Tower of London: The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers,Mess and Museum
Tower of London: The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers,Mess and Museum | Source

History of Kohinoor

1200 -1300 A.D. Several dynasties, which ended in war and violence and ruled for brief periods in the turbulent history of India had owned the Kohinoor at one time or the other. These were the Slave dynasty (1206-90), the Khilji dynasty (1290-1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320-1413), the Sayyid dynasty (1414-51), and the Lodi dynasty (1451-1526).

1306 A.D. The King of Malwa was forced to surrender Kohinoor to the rulers of the Kakatiya Empire.

1320 A.D. The Tughlaq dynasty replaced the Khilji dynasty. In 323, Ulugh Khan (the commander of Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq), was sent to defeat the Kakatiya king Prataprudra. This attack of Ulugh Khan was repulsed, but he returned within a month, with a large army. The Kakatiya army was caught unprepared and was hence defeated. The Kohinoor was seized by Ulugh Khan. Thus the Kakatiya Empire fell apart after a reign stretching from 1083 to 1323.

1323-1526 A.D. The Kohinoor remained in the possession of the Delhi Sultanate which consisted of several Muslim dynasties that ruled India up to 1526. During this period several Muslim armies consisting of Mongols, Persians, and Afghans etc invaded India.

1526 A.D. The Kohinoor passed into the hands of Mughal Empire when Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi who was the last Delhi Sultan. Babur mentioned in his memoir (Baburnama), that Kohinoor belonged to an unknown King of Malwa.

For the next 200 years, the Mughal Empire extended to most of the Indian subcontinent, and the Kohinoor passed from one Mughal Emperor to the other. The violence and bloodshed marked these years due to the fight for supremacy among the sons of the Mughal emperors who even rebelled against their fathers and toppled them.

1592-1666 A.D. The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, famous for building the Taj Mahal, got the Kohinoor affixed and embedded into the "peacock throne".

1639 A.D. The Kohinoor had changed hands several times before the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan took to the throne. At the end of his reign, a struggle for throne ensued between his four sons viz. Aurangzeb, Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja and Murad Bakhsh. Shah Shuja executed Dara Shikoh and in 1658 Aurangzeb defeated, tortured and killed Shuja and his entire family.

1665 A.D. The French traveler and pioneer of jewelry and diamond business with India, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier ( 1605 – 1689 ), recorded the description of a diamond (Kohinoor), alluded to be the biggest in the world. He named it the "Great Mogul".

1739 A.D. The Persian King Nadir Shah invaded and defeated the Mughal Emperor and took away Kohinoor. The present name, Kohinoor has been given to the diamond by Nadir Shah. He took the Kohinoor to Persia.

1747A.D. The empire of Nadir Shah soon disintegrated after his assassination, the Curse of Kohinoor had struck again. Thereafter the diamond passed into the hands of his successors. Each successor was dethroned and blinded, because the blinding was used to make an enemy powerless.

1800 A.D. Maharajah Ranjit Singh became the king and got the possession of the Kohinoor. He died in 1839 and his successors lacked his acumen. The British conquered India and made it a part of the British Empire. The British ruled India from 1858 to 1947.

Now Lord Dalhousie, the British Governor-General of India, acquired the possession of the famous diamond Kohinoor.

1851 A.D. Lord Dalhousie made arrangements that the Kohinoor should be presented to Queen Victoria, by Ranjit Singh's successor, Duleep Singh.

1851 A.D. The Great Exhibition was staged at the Hyde Park in London, and the Kohinoor was put to view.

1852 A.D. Prince Albert arranged that the Kohinoor be re-cut from 186 carats to 108 carats thereby increasing its glitter and brilliance.with more than two thousand other diamonds. Along with more than two thousand other diamonds, the Kohinoor was mounted in a tiara.

The Kohinoor has since then been used as the central piece in the crowns of the Queen consorts of the British Kings. Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary also wore the crowns in which the Kohinoor was embedded.

1936 A.D. The Kohinoor was set into the crown of Queen Elizabeth, later known as the Queen Mother and the wife of King George VI.

The British Royal family is aware of the curse of this diamond, that whoever owns Kohinoor, will become the owner of the world, but will also face all the misfortunes. So only God or woman, can wear it without any misfortune.

That is why, the Kohinoor diamond has always remained with the wife of the male heir to the British throne, right from the reign of Queen Victoria.

© 2013 Sanjay Sharma


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    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile imageAUTHOR

      Sanjay Sharma 

      6 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

      Thanks suzettenaples for the visit and the comment.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      7 years ago from Taos, NM

      What a history this diamond has had! I have never heard of it before reading your article, although I have seen the Royal Jewels in the Tower of London. I didn't even know what I was looking at. lol It is sad that this stone has been cut down and diminished over the years. I am amazed at what others will do for precious stones such as this. Your country has a great history in and of itself and it is a shame the diamond is not in your country, if I understand this correctly. The British should return it to India - but that is just my opinion for what it is worth. You write some interesting articles, Sanjay. I am voting this up and sharing.


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