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The Ko-Hi-Noor Diamond

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World's Largest Diamonds - Ko-Hi-Noor

About Us PageIt isn't the largest of its kind. It isn't the brightest of its kind. It isn't even the most beautiful. It's rarely seen at state occasions and it has certainly never brought anyone good fortune. But it's more than capable of inspiring furious debate, even demonstrations, and of arousing genuine worldwide interest when it appears in public. It is, of course, the Koh-i-Noor diamond.

This beautiful gem is one of the largest diamonds in the world. It weighed 186 carats when discovered around 1300. This oval shaped stone was initially set in the peacock throne of Shah Jahan, the famous Indian ruler known to have built Taj Mahal. It was reshaped during the reign of Queen Victoria, and now it weighs 108 carats and famous in British Crown Jewels. Its 750-year history is peppered with tales of murder and treachery. 

The Koh-i-Noor diamond from Kollur: Legend held that whoever owned it would rule the globe. It was valued it at half the daily expense of the world. Britain got the stone in 1849 when Lahore and Punjab became part of the British Empire. The 108-carat gem has been claimed by countries including India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

In 1939, Nadir Shah of Persia invaded India and all of the treasures of the Moguls fell into his hands except the great diamond. Nadir Shah was told by one of the emperor's harem women that the stone was hidden in the emperor's turban. The conqueror then invited the conquered to a feast and offered to exchange turbans as a gesture of friendship. The emperor had no choice but to agree. Later, in the privacy of his tent, Nadir Shah unrolled the turban, the gem fell out, and Nadir is supposed to have exclaimed "Koh-i-noor", mountain of light.

Priceless jewels, particularly diamonds, have often been associated with bad luck, death, and curses. The Koh-i-noor is just such a gem. Accurate historical data about all those who laid claim to the diamond remains blurred in history. However it is known that the Shah of Persia died in a palace revolt trying to defend his treasures, including the Koh-i-noor. Thereafter successive Indian empires suffered misfortune and misery, including Ranjit Singh, whose own kingdom was eventually controlled by the conquering British. None of his 8 descendants were able to produce heirs and his entire royal line eventually disappeared. Legend also said that whoever shall possess the Koh-i-noor will one day rule the world and that no man shall dare wear it. Thus far any man who's possessed the diamond has suffered ill luck, even death. Queens Victoria and Elizabeth are the only monarchs who have worn the Koh-i-noor and lived to tell about it. Is this an ancient Guru's curse come full circle? Or simply coincidence? As long as the Koh-i-noor diamond, or Mountain of Light, resides safe inside the guarded tower of London, no one can say for certain.

Legend had it that the Koh-i-noor diamond is actually one piece of another legendary and even older diamond called Great Mogul. The priceless and sought-after gem is said to have weighed 240 karats and it mysteriously disappeared in 1665, never to be seen again.

The first owner of the Koh-i-noor diamond was the Rajah of Malwa. Two hundred years later it was claimed by Sultan Babar, the first Mogul Emperor. He passed it on to successive generations of mogul rulers, including Shah Jehan, the builder of the Taj Mahal. When Nadir Shah of Persia overan Delhi in the early 1700's, one of the possessions he seized was the Koh-i-noor diamond. It's alleged that when he first saw the magnificent stone, he was overcome by its brilliance and cried out "Koh-i-noor!", meaning "mountain of light" in the Urdu language. The gemstone was passed on or seized by other successive rulers until the beginning of the 19th century. The British had established rule in India by now and just before Queen Victoria's Exhibition opened in London in 1851, her Chief Commissioner of the Punjab Province acquired the diamond. He immediately dispatched the Koh-i-noor to Queen Victoria who decided to display it at the Crystal Palace Exhibition. Her Majesty ordered the diamond re-cut after viewers were disappointed by the diamond's lack of brilliance. Today the 108.93 oval brilliant adorns Elizabeth's crown, along with 2800 smaller diamonds, and resides in the Tower of London with the rest of the Royal Family's crown jewels.

Another Legend

After defeating Ibrahim Lodi, Babar seized Delhi and sent Humayun with an advance army to march on Agra. In the mosque at Delhi, Babar proclaimed himself 'Padishah' of Hindustan (India). The people were very pleased with their new conqueror, for the former ruler had not been at all nice. At Agra, Humayun was greeted by the wives of the Raja of Gwalior, who had been killed in the Battle of Panipat. They brought their jewels to propitiate Humayun. Among them was India's most precious diamond, the rose-tinted Kohinoor. The value of the Kohinoor was such that it could provide two and a half days' food for the whole world. (The British Government later took this diamond away from India and it now forms part of the British crown jewels.)

When Babar arrived in Agra, Humayun showed the diamond to his father and said, "Father, this is for you."

But Babar replied, "No, my son, you deserve it. You have been given it and you should keep it. I am very proud of you. You have fought so bravely. You are a great warrior. That is why you have been given this diamond. Now you keep it. I will be so happy if you do."

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