History of the Koh i Noor – Ball, Bokhari, Baqir



This diamond, as related by Tavernier, was obtained in the mine of Kollar on the Kistna. The precise date of its discovery is mere matter of conjecture; but about the year 1656 or 1657 it was presented, while still uncut, to Shahjahan by Mir Jumla, who had previously farmed the mines at Kollur and elsewhere.

The stone then weighed 900 ratis or 787 carats (these if Florentine carats, were equal to about 756 English carats). In the year 1665 this diamond was seen by Tavernier in Aurengzeb’s treasury, and it then weighed, as ascertained by himself only 319J ratis, or 279 T % carats (which, if Florentine carats, equalled 268J§ English carats). It had been reduced to this size by the wasteful grinding treatment to which it had been subjected by a Venetian named Hortensio Borgio.

In the year 1739 it was taken from Aurangzeb’s feeble descendant, Muhammad Shah, by Nsdir Shah, when he sacked Delhi and carried away to Persia, it is said, £70,000,000 or £80,000.000 worth of treasure. On first beholding it he is reported to have conferred upon it the title Koh-i-Nur or Mountain of Light, a most suitable name for the stone described by Tavernier.

On the murder of Nadir Shah at KelSt, in 1747, it passed with the throne to his grandson Shah Rukh, who resided at Meshed, where he was made a prisoner and cruelly tortured by Agha Muhammad (Mir Alam Khan), who in vain sought to obtain the Koh-i-Nur from him. In the year 1751 Shah Rukh gave it, as a reward for his assistance, to Ahmad Shah, the founder of the DurrSnl dynasty at Kabul, by him it was bequeathed to his son Taimur, who went to reside at Kabul. From him, in 1793, it passed by descent to his eldest son Shlh Zaman, who
when deposed by his brother Muhammad, and deprived of his eyes, still contrived to keep possession of the diamond in his prison, and two years afterwards it passed into the hands of his third brother Sultan Shuja’.

According to Elphinstone, it was found secreted, together with some  other jewels, in the walls of the cell which Shah Zaman had occupied. After Shuja’s accession to the throne of Kabul, on the dethronement and imprisonment of Muhammad, he was visited at Peshawar by Elphinstone in 1809, who describes how he saw the diamond in a bracelet worn by Shuja’and he refers to it in a foot-note as the diamond figured by Tavernier. Shuja’ was subsequently dethroned by his eldest brother Muhammad, who had escaped from the prison where he bad been confined.

In 1812 the families of Zaman and Shuja* went to Lahore, and Ran jit Singh, the ruler of the Punjab, promised the wife of the latter that he would release her husband and confer upon him the kingdom of Kashmir, for which service he expected to receive the Koh-i-Noor.

When Shah Shuja’ reached Lahore, soon afterwards, he was detained there by Ranjlt, who wished to secure both his person and the diamond: but the Shah for a time evaded compliance with his demand for the stone, and refused offers of moderate sums of money for it. At length the Maharaja visitel the Shah in person, mutual friendship was declared, an exchange of turbans took place, the diamond was surrendered, and the Shah received the assignment of a Jaglr in the Punjab for his maintenance, and a promise of aid in recovering Kabul.

This was in 1813: the Shah then escaped from Lahore to Rajgurl, in the hills, and from thence to Ludhiana, after suffering great privations. Here he and his brother Shah Zamln were well received by the Honourable East India Company, and a liberal pension was assigned by the Government for their maintenance.

The above statements, except where  other authorities are quoted, are taken from General Shah ZamSn, the blind old king himself, who communicated it to General Smith, he being at the time in command of the troops at Ludhiana.

In the year 1839 Shah Shuja”, under Lord Auckland’s Government, was set up on the throne of Kabul by a British force, which two years later was annihilated during its retreat.  The testimony of all the writers up to this period, and, it is said, the opinions of the jewellers of Delhi and Kabul also, concur in the view that the diamond which Ranjlt thus acquired was the Moghul’s, i.e., the one described by Tavernier.

It seems probable that the mutilation and diminution in weight by about 83 carats, to which, as we have shown, it was subjected, took place while it was in the possession of Shah Rukh, Shah Zaman, or Shah Shuja’, whose necessities may have caused one of them to have pieces removed to furnish him with money.

Ranjlt during his lifetime often wore the diamond on state occasions, and it is referred to by many English visitors to Lahore, who saw it during this period. It is said to have then been dull and deficient in lustre.  In 1839 Ranjlt died, and on his deathbed expressed a wish that the diamond, then valued at one million sterling, should be sent to Jagannath, but this intention was not carried out, and the stone was placed in the jewel chamber till the infant Raja Dallp Singh was acknowledged as Ranjlt’s successor.

When the Punjab was annexed, in the year 1849, the diamond was formally handed to the new Board of Government at one of its earliest meetings—and it was then personally entrusted by his colleagues to the care of John Lawrence, afterwards Lord Lawrence, who, on receiving it, placed the small tin box containing it in his waistcoat pocket, and then forgot all about it till he was called upon to produce it six weeks later, in order that it might be sent to Her Majesty the Queen.

Recalling the circumstances when thus reminded of them, he hurried home and, asked his bearer whether he had got the box which had been in his pocket some time previously. Careful about trifles, like most Indian servants, the bearer had preserved it, though he thought it only contained a useless piece of glass. This strange vicissitude in the history of the stone is related by Bosworth Smith in his Life of Lord Lawrence.

He adds that he had been told on good authority that it had passed through other dangers, on the way home, before it was safe in the possession of the Queen. In 1851 the Koh-i-Nar was exhibited in the first great Exhibition, and in 1852 the recutting of the stone was entrusted by Her Majesty to Messrs. Garrards, who employed Voorsanger, a diamond cutter from M. Coster’s atelier at Amsterdam.

The actual cutting lasted thirty-eight days, and by it the weight was reduced to 106 1/16 carats. The cost of the cutting amounted to £8,000.