The Koh-I-Noor (Mountain of Light) currently weighs 105 carats, though it was once known to be the largest diamond in the world, weighing in at 793 carats! It is considered to be of the finest white color, clarity and transparency.
The diamond accentuates the crown of worn by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. When the Queen Mother died in 2002, the crown was removed from the Tower of London and paraded through London streets. As with many legendary diamonds and gems, there are contrasting stories and rumors regarding the origin of the Koh-I-Noor.
Of Indian origin, with a long and turbulent history and it has a good deal of legend surrounding it. Some believe it was a gift to the earth from Surya (the god of the sun), and that evidence of its existence can be found in ancient Sanskrit writings, dating back over 5,000 years. Some Hindus believe it was stolen from the great god Krishna as he lay asleep, whilst others say the Koh-I-Noor was, in fact, the Syamantaka Jewel, another famous precious stone from Indian mythology, believed to have been blessed with great magical powers. The Koh-I-Noor is still believed to carry a curse that has its origins in an old Hindu text:
“He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity.”
The interesting thing about the curse is that history has held it up so far. For centuries, the Koh-i-Noor was passed around as a spoil of war, won and lost in bloody battles between countries and dynasties and even within families. The owners knew great power and great defeat frequently with a violent end.
In 1852, Albert, the Prince Consort ordered it cut down from 186 carats to increase its brilliance, and soon after it was set in a royal Crown. The crown has a platinum frame set with 2,800 diamonds, mainly cushion-shaped but with some rose-cut and some brilliant-cut. The band, comprising alternating clusters formed as crosses and rectangles, is bordered with single rows of brilliant-cut diamonds and set at the front with a large diamond, which was given to Queen Victoria in 1856 by the Sultan of Turkey. Above the band are four fleurs-de-lis and four crosses-pattée. The front cross holds the Koh-i-Noor diamond in a detachable platinum mount.
Queen Mary and the Koh-i-Noor, left to right: in her crown, wearing the crown for the coronation, wearing the crown without its arches, wearing the brooch setting on her neckline (in the center).
Left to right: Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother’s crown with the Koh-i-Noor in the front center arch, the crown on Queen Elizabeth at her husband’s 1937 coronation (with Princess Elizabeth), and the crown without arches worn for her daughter’s 1953 coronation (with Prince Charles)
Despite the curse and gruesome history, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran claim to have lost the diamond illegally and continue to fight for its return.