Originally Belonged To: The South Indian Kakatiya Dynasty
The Kohinoor Diamond is one of the most famous and precious diamonds the world over. Originating from India, it has now been among Queen of England’s crown jewels for many years.
The Kohinoor diamond, weighing in at an astonishing 105.6 carats, is variously described as colorless or finest white. The origins of the diamond are controversial. Some believed the diamond to have been mined either in India’s Kollur Mine or one of the mines of Golconda sometime during the 1300s.
This amazing diamond was an incredible 793 carats before its first cutting. While in the hands of the Kakatiya Dynasty, the diamond weighed in at 186 carats. Queen VIctoria’s husband, Prince Albert, had it cut down to its present size in order to increase its brilliance.
Here are some more basic characteristics of this legendary diamond:
Name: Kohinoor (Koh-I-Noor) Diamond
AKA: Mountain of Light, the Diamond of Babur
Price Estimation: Over $1 billion
Size: 21.1204 grams
Color: D (Finest White or colorless)
Carat Weight: 105.602
Country of Origin: India
Originally Belonged To: The South Indian Kakatiya Dynasty
These are just a few basic facts about the famous Kohinoor diamond. For more on its value plus the intriguing tale of the Kohinoor curse, read on.
There is powerful mythology surrounding the origins of The Kohinoor Diamond. Some say the legendary diamond was a gift to earth from Surya, the sun god, and that evidence of its existence can be seen in ancient Sanskrit writings that date back to more than 5,000 years ago.
There are some of the Hindu faith that say that the diamond was stolen from the god Krishna as he lay sleeping, while others believe that it is the Syamantaka Jewel of Indian mythology. They believe that the Kohinoor diamond possesses great magical powers.
It has been said that whoever owned the Kohinoor diamond rules the world, and indeed, this diamond has passed through the hands of some famous heads of state. Historians believe the first mention of the Kohinoor is found in the memoirs of Moghul Empire founder and leader Babur during the 16th century. He recorded a gem that sounds similar to the Kohinoor among the treasures of Aladdin, saying it was won during a 1304 battle in Malawah.
The actual origins of the stone are murky. Some speculate that the diamond was originally mined out of the Kollur Mine, which is a series of gravel and clay pits found on the south bank of the Krishna River in India. However, it is impossible to verify this theory, and there are many other competing theories as to the true origin of the diamond and its original owners.
The stone continued to be in the possession of the Mughal Empire during the 1500s and 1600s. At that time, it was supposedly at its original weight of 793 carats – the biggest diamond in the world. Unfortunately, it was poorly cut by the Emperor’s jeweler, Hortense Borgia, who was punished after reducing its size to 186 carats. However, some scholars and historians doubt the authenticity of this account of the reduction in the diamond’s size.
The Kohinoor passed through several different owners as the result of bloody battles and was finally obtained by Ahmed Shah, who was the King of Afghanistan, during the Shah’s 1793 invasion of Delhi. He claimed that the diamond was a symbol of his power and authority, and managed to hold onto it for years. When he took the diamond, Shah yelled out “Koh-i-Noor!” which is Persian and Hindi-Urdu for “Mountain of Light.” Apparently, his consorts were also quite impressed by the huge stone, commenting on its astonishing value.
The diamond passed through several generations of Ahmed Shah’s family and in 1830, after being deposed, a grandson of Shah, Shujah Shah Durrani, went to Lahore to beg the Indian Maharaja to help him win back his throne. The maharaja wanted the Kohinoor as part of the deal. One account is that Shuja Shah refused, and the maharaja hit him with his shoe, then threatened to kill him. Whether true or not, Shah finally gave the diamond up, and the maharaja gave the aid that was requested.
All was not lost for Shuja – once Singh authenticated the Kohinoor Diamond, Singh “donated” 125,000 rupees to Shuja (some would call this “buying). When Singh sought an estimation of the diamond’s value, it was said to be beyond any possible calculation – truly priceless. Not wanting his subjects to miss out on the fun, Singh installed the diamond on the front of his turban and paraded the stone around while riding an elephant. He enjoyed showing it off, especially to special guests from Britain.
Like a hobbit from The Lord of the Rings, Singh became worried that someone might steal his precious diamond. His paranoia was not exactly unfounded. Singh once got drunk and lost another valuable gemstone during his intoxication – don’t worry Ranjit, we’ve all been there. Most of the time Singh kept the diamond locked up in a fort. But when it needed to be transported, he would hide the diamond amongst a guarded convoy of 39 camels. In order to steal it, you’d have to guess the right camel, not an easy feat especially when the camels were guarded by sword people.
While Singh was on his deathbed, his family did what all good families do and fought over what should become of Singh’s wealth upon his imminent death. After much dispute amongst courtiers and such, Singh’s treasurer Beli Ram wound up hiding the jewel in a vault rather than donating it to a temple in Puri, which some believed was Singh’s true wish for the Kohinoor Diamond.
Maharaja Ranjit Sigh died in 1839, leaving the Sikh kingdom lacking in leadership. This led to a host of coups and assassinations and other questionable signs of imperial stability. Finally, as any ambitious colonial power would do, the British raised their flag in Lahore in 1849, proclaiming the Punjab region as part of the British Empire in England.
This paved the way for the colonial governor of India to have the new maharaja, 13-year-old Duleep Singh, make an impressive yet controversial “gift” – some would call it part of the spoils of war – to Britain’s Queen Victoria. He presented her with the Kohinoor diamond and the Timur ruby in 1850.
Meant for Queen Victoria, the Kohinoor now had to be transported to England. On April 6, 1850, the diamond began to sail on the HMS Medea under the watch of one Captain Lockyer. The journey did not go well. There was an outbreak of cholera on board the ship. The ship was also hit by a strong storm that lasted twelve hours. Seasickness was likely rampant. The stone finally arrived unscathed in Britain on June 29th and was officially given to Queen Victoria on July 3rd at Buckingham Palace and was displayed in full public view.
In 1852, Prince Albert decided that it was time to give the Kohinoor an updated look (because shiny vibes only). Although it was substantially reduced in size, it gained in brilliance a fair tradeoff, at least for Prince Albert. It took 38 days to cut the diamond and it cost the crown £8,000, a genuinely small sum compared to the priceless value of the stone. The total weight of the diamond went from 186 old carats (or 191 modern carats) down to 105.6 carats, its current weight.
The stone was set in a brooch, which Queen Victoria wore frequently, despite her discomfort with how the diamond was originally acquired from India. At the time, it was kept at Windsor Castle, rather than at the Tower of London. Kohinoor was set in two queen consorts’ crowns after Queen Victoria’s passing. In 1937, the stone was set in the Royal British Crown, along with 2,800 – is that all? – other diamonds. The Kohinoor currently resides in the Tower of London, where it is on public display along with other famous stones, including the Cullinan diamond, which tops the Sovereign’s Sceptre.
A long-standing controversy has some in India claiming that the Kohinoor diamond was stolen by Britain. For decades, there has been a call for the famous gem to be returned to India as partial reparation for Britain’s past colonial history there. One Indian official said that such claims should be forgotten since the Kohinoor diamond was a voluntary gift to the British crown. Stated India’s solicitor general Ranjit Kumar, “It was neither stolen nor forcibly taken away.”
The Indian government stated in April 2016, that the solicitor general’s view does not represent its own. The Ministry of Culture states that the Kohinoor diamond is a “valued piece of art with strong roots in our nation’s history,” and that Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is determined to have it returned in an amicable manner. Britain’s continued response has been pretty much “no.” The case has yet to be resolved.
Probably because of its connection with centuries of bloody battle and death, the Kohinoor is said to be a cursed diamond. The Kohinoor curse is somewhat contradictory: it is said that its owner is granted the power and right to rule the world – my kind of curse! -, but that he will meet with death and misfortune – not my kind of curse. At the same time, the curse of Kohinoor included protection for any female who wears it, which seems fair.
The Kohinoor diamond price is not exactly known, and because it is such a unique stone, it is difficult to name a monetary price. Because it has always been bartered, stolen, or gifted, rather than being sold, there has never been an actual Kohinoor diamond price.
Let’s compare it with another famous diamond, the Graff Pink, which was sold in Hong Kong in 2017 for a price of $71.2 million. The Graff Pink weighs just under 25 carats, making it about a quarter of the size of the Kohinoor. More than half a century ago the Kohinoor diamond price might have been about $200 million USD. The Royal British Crown itself is said to be worth somewhere between $10 and $12.7 billion, and the Kohinoor is one of the most incredible of the 2,800 diamonds it contains. While its exact value is unknown, it truly is priceless.
Like any object in a free market economy, the Kohinoor Diamond is ultimately worth what someone is willing to pay for it. And it would take a pretty penny to get the British Royals to let it go. And for that reason, the Kohinoor remains one of the most valuable, celebrated, and famous diamonds in the entire world. Learn more about the world’s most famous diamonds.
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