top of page
  • Monica

Koh-i-Noor Diamond - A dispute last over two centuries

Koh-i-Noor drawings dating back to circa 1860

As I am new to this … I thought there is no better start than writing about a matter very close to all British hearts …. the “Koh-i-Noor” ownership dispute that has been going on for several decades between England and India.

The Koh-i-Noor Diamond, which in its original rough form weighted a staggering 793 carats, was discovered in the 13th century in the famous “Golconda” mines in India. Actually, we are uncertain when the first diamonds were unearthed however, we do know that from ancient times till the 17th century all the world’s diamonds came from India.

The name Koh-i-Noor means “mountain of light” in Urdu ... And, what an impressive light we are talking about!

The diamond has a very long history even though its true origins remain a mystery. This diamond had been an heirloom of the Persian Royal Family and then of the Afghan Monarchy before it was brought to Britain in the mid 1800.

In 1849 the Koh-i-Noor, cut into the shape of a ‘rose cut’ weighting 186 carats, was handed over to the British under the treaty following the Anglo-Sikh war. It was given voluntarily by Ranjit Singh to Britain as compensation for the support given during the war.

Queen Victoria and her husband were so unimpressed with its dull and irregular look therefore, they commissioned the stone to be re-cut into an oval brilliant cut of 105.802 carats of the finest white colour. In the process the stone lost circa 40% of its weight. It was then mounted into Victoria’s crown among another 2,000 diamonds.

The diamond is known to bring bad luck to any man who wears it hence, since it arrived in England, it has been worn only by female members of the Royal Family.

The Koh-i-Noor is set in the front of the Queen Mother’s Crown and it is part of the Crown Jewels, safely kept at the Tower of London. It is the third largest diamond in the Crown Collection, after the “Cullinan 1 & Cullinan 2."

India started demanding the return of the diamonds soon after independence was granted to them in 1947. A court battle has been going on since …

In 2010 during his visit to India as Prime Minister, David Cameron comments were: “If you say yes to one you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty. I am afraid to say, it is going to have to stay put.”

Last April 2016, the New Delhi’s Solicitor General said that: “The priceless diamond should stay with the former colonial ruler. His country should forgo its claims to the jewel because it was given to Britain as a gift by an Indian King rather than stolen as many Indians today believe.”

So, to conclude with the story … the Koh-i-Noor Diamond will remain in Britain safely guarded at the Tower of London, where everyone is going to have the privilege of admiring such a magnificent gem for years to come.

NB: All images are borrowed from different media and internet sites.

bottom of page