Kohinoor - Mountain of Light

Kohinoor — “"Mountain of Light”

It was once thought that he who owned the Kohinoor diamond owned the world. Authorities believe the gem was found more than 5,000 years ago. Indeed the Kohinoor has the longest recorded history and has been the cause of more bloodshed and intrigue than any other diamond, including the famous Hope diamond.

Its first recorded owner was the rajah of Malwa, who came into possession of it in 1304. The diamond was passed on to each succeeding Mogul rule until 1739, when the Persians under Nader Shah conquered India and seized all of the Mogul's jewels — all, that is, except the Kohinoor.

For two months the Persian conqueror ransacked Delhi in an almost desperate attempt to locate the diamond, but to no avail. Finally a harem girl revealed to him that the Mogul Muhammad Shah always carried it in his turban. By trickery the Nader Shah managed to obtain the turban, and clutching it to his breast, he rushed into his tent, where he feverishly undid the turban's silken reels. There was the diamond. He was taken aback by a brilliance much greater than he had expected and exclaimed, "Koh—i—noor!" meaning in Persian "a mountain of light." The diamond has retained this name ever since.

Not surprisingly, the new owner's almost immediate fate was assassination. The jewel was passed on to his son, who hid the diamond when he was about to be deposed. In an attempt to force him to reveal the diamond's location he was tortured horribly, but his secret died with him. Despite his resistance, the gem was eventually found and passed from ruler to ruler, several of whom met untimely ends because of the Kohinoor.

No less imaginative than the hiding places of the Mountain of Light were tortures applied to possessors to reveal its whereabouts. One diabolic sultan had a plaster container placed around the head of the owner and, as he filled it with boiling oil, entreated him to divulge its hiding place. He too had to wait until the uncooperative possessor died to conduct a successful search. Brother blinded brother, only to be blinded by a third brother. Then, in 1813, the Kohinoor reappeared in India as the property of Ranjit Singh, the ruler.

After his death the British annexed the Punjab region and confiscated everything of value, not the least of which was the Kohinoor. As British property it was presented to Queen Victoria. Disappointed by its crude cut and its lack of fire and brilliance, she had the stone recut. The recutting reduced the Kohinoor from 186 to 109 carats and, most unfortunately, also reduced the diamond's brilliance instead of enhancing it. Nevertheless, Queen Victoria wore it as a brooch until her death, whereupon it was transferred to the crown of Queen Mary. It was later set in the crown made for the coronation of Elizabeth II.

The trail of intrigue and slaughter caused by the desire to possess the Kohinoor is apparently over. The great gem now resides peacefully with other crown jewels in the Tower of London.

From the book: 
Our Fascinating Earth