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Enigma of Koh-I-Noor Diamond

Category: Articles | Posted by: April 1, 2015

Koh-I-Noor Diamond Illustration

The Legend | Medieval History | The Voyage of Tavernier | My Assumptions | Later History | Conclusion

The history knows many famous gems, however, there ought to exist some certain “gem of the gems,” known to the humanity, and fortunately, it exists. It is known under the name “Koh-I-Noor,” it is a gemstone of Oriental origin and it is estimated as the world’s famous, largest, and most expensive diamond, known to the humanity. This precious stone possesses a great history and it has been surrounded by the diversity of the legends and rumors, for the centuries.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce, the Koh-I-Noor Diamond, known also as “The Diamond of the Great Mogul” or a “Mountain of Light.”

The Legend

Koh-I-Noor in Indian Folklore

To describe such distinguished precious stone as Koh-I-Noor, we have to look back to the centuries and stop our glance at the ancient India.

India is an enigmatic country with a rich history, that possesses the biggest collection of ancient treatises, superstitions and legends.

Koh-I-Noor, being such distinguished treasure and splendid jewel, was first described in Indian (Hindu) folklore. Thus, according to the Mahabharata (ancient Indian epos), the Koh-I-Noor has been discovered by a Zeminard, in the vicinity of Masulipatam in the bed of the Godaveri, approximately 5200 years ago, during the period, known as the “time of Krishna.” This precious stone has adorned the crown of the King of Anga. However, the modern scientists determine this period as the time of rajah of Usejei (Ujjain), who reigned in Malwa and lived approx. in 57 B.C. and who known under the name Vikramadytia.

Medieval History

Koh-I-Noor in the possession of the Sultan Babur

Later, the story says, that the Koh-I-Noor has been passed to the possession of Ala-Ed-Din, who won it from Usejein, approx. in 1304. Subsequently, after the battle of Paniput, Koh-I-Noor passed into the possession of his son, known as Humayun.

The next owner of Koh-I-Noor became the Sultan Babur, who was a successor of the Mogul dynasty. The Diamond passed into his possession in 1526, after the conquest of Delhi.

By the way, in those days, Koh-i-Noor was estimated in 8 mishkalas in weight, however nobody knows, what did it mean. The historians refer us to the sultan Baber, who explained, that 8 mishkales were equal to 319,5 ratis (a Persian measure of weight), where 40 ratis were equal to 1 mishkal.

Later, in 1851, Koh-I-Noor Diamond was estimated at 186.0625 carats. However, many historians, scientists and jewelers of XIX century, tried to determine its actual weight, referring to the ancient sources. This diamond was estimated, according to the different data, at 187.5 carats, 186 grains (Greek grains), 173, 174, 175 grains, etc.

Koh-I-Noor in the possession of Shah Jahan

Nonetheless, there is an information that this gemstone has been only a part of a much bigger piece of diamond, which has been found in 1550 in the mine of Gani of Couleur, near Golconda and which weight was estimated at 907 ratis (rates) or 787.5 carats, which later passed into the possession of the Great Mogul.

This precious stone has been presented by Miriloma (the commander of the forces of the king of Golconda) to the Shah Jehann. However, Miriloma, in turn, was indeed the Emir Jemla, according to the sources of XIX century.

The Voyage of Tavernier

Jean Baptiste Tavernier - the traveller and diamond merchant

French traveller and diamond merchant Jean Baptiste Tavernier paid a visit to Delhi in 1675. It was a time of the reign of the King Aurungzebe. However, it is known, that Aurungzebe was a son of the Shah Jehann. Moreover, Shah Jehann was a state prisoner of his son, who had been kept in close durance for 7 years. Shah Jehann kept all his treasure, including the Koh-I-Noor, in that prison.

Before his father’s death, Aurungzebe sent a demand to Shah Jehann to return him all the retained treasures. Jehann answered, that he better completely smash all the treasures, using mortars (prepared for this purpose), than give the Koh-I-Noor diamond and other treasures to his son. However, Tavernier stated, that he’d seen personal treasures of Shah Jehann, but not the crown jewel. Thus, if Tavernier has seen this huge diamond, where was another one?

That’s why, many historians doubted, that Tavernier could observe the indeed Koh-I-Noor diamond, due to the fact, that Shah Jehann kept the diamond with him, in a prison.

After the death of Shah Jehann, all the treasures, belong rightfully to him, passed into the possession of his son Aurungzebe. Shah Jehann died in 1666.

Koh-I-Noor in the possession of the King Aurangzeb

There is an opinion, that Aurungzebe invited Tavernier to become an authorized person, to estimate the treasures of his father. Hence, Taverner, in fact, seen Koh-I-Noor and other treasures of Shah Jehann in 1665, not in 1675, 1 year before Shah’s death, thus he was indeed a first European, who’ve seen Koh-I-Nor in the possession of his actual owner. Tavernier described, thus, the diamond, cut in “round rose,” and 319.5 carats in weight, which was exactly similar to the diamond, which was in the possession of the Sultan Baber.

However, there is another opinion, that Tavernier has seen actually the Galconda Diamond which indeed was in the private possession of Shah Jehann, obtained him as a present from the king of Golconda, though it was another diamond, not Koh-I-Noor. In turn, the diamond, belonging to crown jewel, which he described in 1675 was indeed Koh-I-Noor diamond, which passed into the possession of Aurungzebe after his father’s die.

My assumptions

Les Six Voysges de Jean-Baptiste Tavernier

By studying many sources, concerning this question, I (an author of Gems Manual, :-) ) couldn’t determine why the historians and writers haven’t been acquainted with the original source of this story. Of course, I’ve described all the version, concerning the Tavernier’s travel.

However… if any curious reader will study “Les Six Voysges de Jean-Baptiste Tavernier” even in English, not in French, he will find, for sure, these strings, verbatim (I don’t want to attract Google Panda, that’s why “verbatim”):

“I met the King in 1665, he couldn’t leave me, before I’ll see his jewel. Nabob Jafer Khan escorted me to the storage. It was a small room, where the King was seated on his throne. Akel Khan represented me the treasures on two large trays, that were covered by the red and green velvet cloth, respectively. There were also three scribes, who made an inventory.”


“The first specimen, which Akel Khan has placed in my hands, was the splendid rose-cut diamond of 319.5 ratis (280 carats, whereas rati was equal to 7/8 of a carat) in weight, with a flaw in the form of crack on the lower edge.”

Later, Tavernier has mentioned, that “Mirgimola presented to Shah Jehan a rough diamond, weighed 900 ratis (equal to 787.5 carats), that contained several lacks.”

Further, on the page 277, Tavernier mentions the diamond mine, called “Gani,” where, according to his words, the Great Mogul diamond was found. On this page, Tavernier has described a diamond of 900 carats in weight, obviously before cutting, which was presented by Mirgimola to Aurungzebe.

However, later, at the page 305, he described a diamond which “was in the possession of the Great Mogul, who let him to study it.” According to Tavernier, this diamond was of 319.5 carats in weight (that was equal to 279 9/16 of “our carats”), that weighted 907 ratis (or 793 5/8 carats) being uncut, in addition, this precious stone has represented a shape of an egg.

Tavernier also mentioned, that he has never seen a diamond of such weight and size.

Thus, there were 2 diamonds. One of them was a legendary Great Mogul Diamond, described in the Mahabharata, which weighted 787 carats, and obtained a weight of 280 carats after cutting, and another one, know to us as Koh-I-Noor, which was in the possession of Baber and weighted about 187 carats. The last one, known to us, was estimated 186 carats in weight. Nowadays it is known to us as the Koh-I-Noor diamond, weighing 105.602 carats, which is described in Wikipedia.

Later History

Koh-I-Noor Diamond in its original Setting

Subsequently, a Venetian jeweler Hortensio Borgis cut Koh-I-Noor. Tavernier has called him “not a very skillful diamond cutter,” by the way.

After the occupation of Delhi in 1739, Koh-I-Noor diamond passes into the possession of Nadir Shah. Nadir Shah demanded from Mohammed Shah (the successor of Aurungzebe) to give up on all the treasures, that he possessed.

Koh-I-Noor Diamond in the possession of Nadir Shah

After the death of Nadir Shah, the Koh-I-Noor diamond was inherited by Ahmed Shah. Perhaps, the Diamond has been taken by him from the younger son of Nadir Shah, called Shahrikh. But, soon, the diamond passed into the hands of Shujah Shah, the successor of Ahmed Shah.

After the exile of Ahmed Shah out of Kabul, he became a prisoner of Ranjit Singh. Ranjit Singh didn’t care the destiny of Koh-I-Noor diamond, until 1813, when he forced Ahmed Shah to give him this precious stone for the symbolic reward of 25000 rupees. Later, the Diamond was worn by his successors Rhurreuk Singh and Shu Singh. Subsequently, the Koh-I-Noor diamond was in the possession of Dhulip Singh, until the annexation of the Punjaub by the British Empire in 1849.

Koh-I-Noor diamond became a property of the Queen of England after the East India Company in 1850, and, subsequently it was exhibited in 1851 for the general public, and has been estimated in the value equal approximate to $700000.

At that time, the Koh-I-Nor represented a diamond weighing 186 carats. Later, the diamond was cut by the Duke of Wellington in 1852, who reduced its weight till 122 3/4 carats.


I sincerely sorry, for possible inaccuracies in such subject, as a history of such a famous precious stone, however, the sources, that I’ve used to prepare this article are full of inaccuracies.

Just for instance, I can illustrate the inaccuracy, that I found in Wikipedia, where “the authors” stated, that Koh-I-Noor was cut in 1852 to its current size in 105.602 carats, however, such source as “Diamond and Precious Stones,” written by Louis Dieulafait in 1874 ensures me, that its size was 122 3/4 carats. I’d rather to believe Louis Dieulafait in that case.

However, there are a lot of interpretations of this story. And, believe me, my story is too short. I’ve tried to reduce this story as much as I could, ha-ha… otherwise it could grow in very huge article, that is unreal to read :-)

Thus, I’ve tried to illustrate the history of the “Greatest of the Diamonds” in this article. Actually, I don’t know, I succeeded or not. But I’ve tried :-)

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