Thanks to the research by William Dalrymple and Anita Anand, the dastardly Hope Diamond is being given a run for its money by none other than the Koh-i-Noor, currently in possession of the British Royal Family.
The Koh-i-Noor is the sparkling egg-sized diamond set in the crown of the late Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Legend has it that the Koh-i-Noor is safe for women to wear, but brings misfortune to men. Hence, Queen Elizabeth, consort to George VI, could wear it safely.
“The first reference we found of it is when the Persians pinched it from the Mughals in 1739,” says Dalrymple, who researched the diamond with Anand for their book, Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond. From there, the lust for this diamond would become the obsession of many for the next several centuries.
Move Over, Hope Diamond
India was rich with precious gems and metals, but according to research into Hindu scriptures, they regarded diamonds as bearers of doom. The beauty and luxury of Indian court life was instead swathed in gold and colored gems like emeralds and rubies.
Then the Mughals came along and conquered northern India, where they established their dynasty for the next two centuries. According to Dalrymple, the diamond was stolen from the Mughals by the Persians and named Koh-i-Noor, or “mountain of light”. From then on, the diamond was on the move, smuggled or forcibly retrieved from its owner by way of torture.
Only men were involved in the movement of this diamond, so the legend that it brings bloody misfortune to males and not females is understandable.
So how did the Koh-i-Noor arrive at the door of the Windsors?
The British Empire, which had spread across multiple continents, had absorbed India. By 1846, the boy maharaja was forced to sign the Treaty of Lahore which brought India under British control. The British East India Company persuaded the young ruler to give the diamond to Queen Victoria.
A young jewelry company in the Netherlands was employed to improve the cut of the diamond. Two diamond cutters from Coster Diamonds were sent to England to give some sparkle to the Koh-i-Noor. Once the cutting was complete, the gem truly lived up to its name.
Queen Victoria passed the diamond down and it was eventually mounted in the crown for the late Queen Elizabeth, mother of the current queen. Elizabeth’s crown was made specifically for her in 1937 for the coronation. Previously, the diamond had been mounted in the crowns of Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary.
India called for the return of the Koh-i-Noor, but in 2016, India’s solicitor-general told a judge that, in the opinion of India’s culture ministry, the diamond had not been “forcibly taken”, so did not have to be returned since it was seen as a gift to Britain’s queen.
What is your favorite piece of royal jewelry? Which holds the most exciting story? Let me know in the comments below!
In 2016, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands grants Coster Diamonds the Honorary title “Royal”. Coster Diamonds officially becomes Royal Coster Diamonds. This is similar to the British Royal Family granting warrants to companies that have proven excellence and serve the royal household directly.