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Famous Diamonds

Articles from DIAMONDS BY CUT - BRILLIANT (ROUND) (286 Articles)

Koh-i-noor: World Famous Diamonds

It has been said that whoever owned the Koh-i-noor ruled the world. Indeed, it has been the centre of many bitter battles, particularly across India and Persia, and nations continue to lay claim to its ownership even today.

Fact Sheet

Koh-i-noor Diamond Scan
Koh-i-noor Diamond Scan

• Weight: was 189 carats, now 108.93
• Dimensions: 41.74mm x 33.89mm x 16.68mm
• Colour: colourless
• Rough weight: unknown
• Origin: Golconda, India
• Date found: unknown; possibly as early as the 1300s
• Current location: British crown jewels, Tower of London

History of the stone

Legend has suggested that the stone dates back to the time of Christ and that there is a theoretical possibility of its appearance in the early years of the 14th century; however, historical record can only prove its existence for the past two-and-a-half centuries.

The Koh-i-noor's origin is unclear; however, it is said to have originated in the Golconda kingdom, located in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh – one of the world’s earliest diamond-producing regions.

The earliest authentic reference to a diamond matching the Koh-i-noor's description was made in the Baburnama, the memoirs of Babur – the first Mogul ruler of India – in 1526.

In his writings, Babur alluded to the Sultan of Dehli Al-ed-Din Khalji (1295-1316), stating that he got his hands on the diamond at either Gujrat or from the Deccan (the south).

it is said to have originated in the Golconda kingdom, located in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh – one of the world’s earliest diamond-producing regions.

In this same year, Babur defeated and killed Prince Vikramaditya, the former Rajah of Gwailor. Before going into battle, Vikramaditya sent all his jewels to the fort of Agra for safekeeping. It was as one of these jewels that the notable diamond was recorded.

When Babur came to Agra on May 4, 1526, the great diamond was most likely given to him there as a spoil of war.

Babur passed the stone to his son Humayun, whose rule lasted 26 years. After his defeat by the Afgans, Humayun’s wanderings took him to Persia where he bestowed many riches upon the country’s ruler, Shah Tahmasp. One historian recorded that the gem known as “Babur’s diamond” was among the jewels that Shah Tahmasp received, so valuable that it was “worth the revenue of whole countries”.

Shah Tahmasp apparently didn’t think so highly of the diamond and sent it to India as a present for Burhan Nizam, the Shah of Ahmednagar.

After this point, the diamond’s history becomes one of speculation and conjecture and it is not until the arrival of the Koh-i-noor in England in 1850 – as a condition of the Treaty of Lahore – that there is solid documentation of its movements.

The Governor-General in charge for the ratification of this treaty was Lord Dalhousie. More than anyone, Dalhousie was responsible for the British acquiring the Koh-i-noor, in which he continued to show great interest for the rest of his life. Interestingly, and in contrast with his efforts, Dalhousie’s initial impression of the gem was less than glowing.

“The Koh-i-noor is badly cut,” he wrote. “It is rose-cut, not-brilliant, and of course won’t sparkle like the latter.”

From its very first moment in Britain, the Koh-i-noor sparked a debate as to whether it was, in fact, the Great Mogul’s diamond, Barbur’s diamond or both. One of the first to voice his views on the subject was the distinguished mineralogist James Tennant, who noted that the stone possessed flaws similar to those described by French gem merchant Jean Baptiste Tavernier as having been in the Great Mogul.

Just over a century later, details have emerged that have a direct bearing upon the identity of the Great Mogul and Babur’s diamond. Of the three diamonds popularly named the Orlov, the Darya-i-noor and the Koh-i-noor, the Darya-i-noor has been identified as the largest fragment of the Great Table diamond, a very strong case suggests the Orlov was cut from the 280-carat Great Mogul, and a valid case can be made for identifying the Koh-i-noor as the legendary Babur’s diamond.

Recent research (July 2008) has shown that the Koh-i-noor definitely could not have come from the Great Mogul.

The Koh-i-noor was delivered to the Queen on July 3, 1850. In addition to giving rise to both gemmological and historical arguments, the Koh-i-noor’s arrival in England was accompanied by unease on the part of some, who were aware of superstitions attached to the diamond. Such worries of bad luck ultimately led to Dalhousie writing his most extended and emphasised letter on the subject of the diamond.

“The Koh-i-noor has been of ill-fortune only to the few who have lost it,” he concluded. “To the long line of emperors, conquerors and potentates who through successive centuries have possessed it, it has been the symbol of victory and empire. And sure never more than to our Queen; however, if her Majesty thinks it brings bad luck, let her give it back to me. I will take it and its ill-luck as speculation.”

The cut

On April 19, 1851, the directors of the British Museum removed the stone from its setting in order to have a model made and found it to weigh 186 1/10 carats.

Motivated by disappointment at the stone's -appearance, the palace contacted Sir David Brewster, a scientist known for his investigation -into polarised light, to discuss how this might best be approached.

Koh-i-noor Diamond Scan 2
Koh-i-noor Diamond Scan 2

Brewster found several small caves (inclusions)  within the stone that, in his view, were the result of the expansive force of condensed gases. He ruled that a recutting would be very difficult without a serious reduction in weight. These findings were echoed by professor Tennant, King’s College, London, who produced a report expressing fears that any cutting could endanger the Koh-i-noor’s integrity.

It was decided to seek the advice of Messrs Coster of Amsterdam who, while noting the validity of the fears expressed in the Tennant report, nevertheless stated that the dangers were not so formidable as to prevent the intended recutting.

The recutting of the Koh-i-noor took 38 days and cost £8000. The final result was an oval brilliant weighing 108.93 carats, a massive 42 per cent reduction in weight!

Such a substantial loss came as a disappointment to many, not least to Prince Albert who voiced his views on the matter in no uncertain terms.

One authority wrote that, owing to the flattened oval shape of the stone, the brilliant pattern selected by the Queen’s advisors “entailed the greatest possible waste”, adding that Coster himself would have preferred the drop form; however, recent research shows that this cutting was dictated by the constraints of the stone. There were five flaws that had to be considered, plus the historic stone was of an unusual shape. Both factors dictated the limitations for the cutter, who, in fact, did a superlative job in cutting a stone as large as this.

In 1853, crown jeweller Garrards mounted the Koh-i-noor in a magnificent tiara for the Queen, which contained more than 2,000 diamonds. Five years later, Queen Victoria ordered a new regal circlet for the Koh-i-noor then, in 1911, Garrards made a new crown for Queen Mary’s coronation containing the diamond.

In 1937, the Koh-i-noor was transferred to a crown made for Queen Elizabeth. There it remains today, set into the Maltese Cross at the front.


Given the tumultuous history of the diamond,  it’s unsurprising that many have laid claim to its ownership.

In 1947, the Indian Government requested the return of the Koh-i-noor. At the same time, the Congress Ministry of Orissa claimed that the stone actually belonged to the god Jaganath, despite the opinion of Ranjit Singh’s treasurer that it was the property of the state.

Another request followed in 1953 – the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II – but the real fight erupted in 1976 when the prime minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, submitted a formal request for the return of the diamond to Pakistan. This was refused but was accompanied by an assurance that Britain would not have handed it over to any other country; the view of the British Government that Britain had a clear title because the diamond was formally presented conveniently ignores the fact that it was conditionally surrendered as a part of the Treaty of Lahore and is, thus, a spoil of war. Lahore really had no choice in the matter.

Koh-i-noor Diamond
Koh-i-noor Diamond

The debate in the British media provided evidence of the keen public interest in the topic, which motivated various letters. Lord Ballatrae, the great-grandson of Lord Dalhousie, submitted his own claim on the grounds that, for just over a year, his relative had been the stone's owner; a second person wrote that if the Koh-i-noor was to be handed back, then the marble statues must be restored to Greece or Lord Elgin, the Isle of Man to Lord Delby and the Channel Islands to France; a third writer suggested that the solution to the problem was to partition the gem qeually between all parties.

In a letter to The Times distinguished British administrator Sir Olaf Caroe, who had spent a lifetime's service in the east, pointed out that the Koh-i-noor had been in Mogul possession in Delhi for 213 years, in Afghan possession in Kandahar and Kabul for 66 years and (at the time of writing the letter) in British possession for 127 years.

Caroe remarked that it may have been at Lahore (now a part of Pakistan) when it was aquired by the British Government, but other and previous claimants also existed. The Moguls in Delhi were Turkish in origin and the rulers in Lahore, by the time the stone came into British hands, were Sikhs. Ultimately, Caroe said he felt that the word "return" was barely applicable.

Historically, it is difficult to pass judgement on the validity of these and various other claims. From a gemmological aspect, the Indian claim might be considered the most valid because it was in that country that the Koh-i-noor was mined and therefore to that country that it should return.

The modern Koh-i-noor is a brilliant-cut diamond possessing 33 crown facets including the table and 33 pavilion facets, eight more than the regular 25, bringing the total number of facets to 66.

In 1992, a new HM Stationary Office publication on the British Crown Jewels and regalia revised the Koh-i-noor’s weight to 105.602 metric carats at a measurement of 36.00 x 31.90 x 13.04mm. It was weighed in the presences of witnesses on a modern certified electronic balance.




Scott Sucher, master of famous diamond replicas
Scott Sucher, master of famous diamond replicas

When one thinks of diamonds, Tijeras, New Mexico is not the first place that springs to mind, but it's home to Scott Sucher, the Master behind the research and replicas that form the World Famous Diamonds.

Scott Sucher’s lifelong interest in geology commenced when a local museum hosted an exhibition of famous diamonds made of quartz when he was just a young boy. Whenever he could find time in his busy life, he published a collection of internet articles and lectures.

After retirement, Sucher returned to stone cutting with renewed vigour when a Discovery Channel producer requested help for a program on famous diamonds. The 14-month collaboration resulted in Unsolved History: the Hope Diamond, which first aired in February 2005.

The program gave Sucher the chance to handle the unset Hope diamond, the 31-carat Blue Heart diamond and Napoleon’s necklace – a 234-diamond necklace that Napoleon gave to his second wife Marie-Louise.

Sucher then worked with the Natural History Museum in London to recreate a replica of the historic Koh-i-noor. The entire process took 12 months – photo analysis took four months alone – and concluded in July 2007. The cutting alone took 46 hours, and Sucher likened it to “brain surgery, as one mistake can be non-recoverable.”

Sucher continues his work in partnership with many other experts and museums in the field. If anyone knows anything about the world's most famous diamonds, it's Scott Sucher.

To follow his ongoing works click here.

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