Monday, 30 January 2017

Koh-i-noor Diamond in the News

The Koh-i-Noor (Persian for Mountain of Light) is a large, colourless diamond that was found near Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, India in the 13th century. It weighed 793 carats uncut and was first owned by the Kakatiya dynasty. The stone changed hands several times between various feuding factions in South Asia over the next few hundred years, before ending up in the possession of Queen Victoria after the British conquest of the Punjab in 1849.

In 1852, Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria had it cut down from 186 carats to 105.6 carats. The diamond is set in the front of the Queen Mother's Crown, part of the Crown Jewels, and is seen by millions of visitors to the Tower of London each year.

Duleep Singh
India’s top court heard a petition filed by a rights group asking it to direct India’s government to seek the diamond’s return. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government told the Indian Supreme Court that it should forgo any claims to the jewel because it was given to the British as a gift by the Sikh ruler of Lahore, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, in 1851. “It was neither stolen nor forcibly taken away,” Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar said.

Those who want the diamond returned to India argued that Ranjit Singh’s young son, Duleep, was actually the ruler at the time the British acquired the diamond and that they tricked or coerced him – which would make their ownership of the diamond illegal.

The governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran have also previously made claims to the diamond over the years, which has passed over the centuries between Mughal princes, conquerors from Persia, Afghan rulers and Punjabi maharajas before it was given to the East India Company, which then offered it to Queen Victoria.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh
The diamond was worn by Queen Elizabeth's mother at the coronation of her husband George VI in 1937. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, will wear the crown on official occasions when she becomes queen consort.

Legend says that whoever owns the Koh-i-noor rules the world; another says it will bring bad luck to any man who wears it. Queen Victoria, taking this last legend more seriously, stipulated in her will that only female royals should wear the diamond.