The A-Z of Jewelry: K is for... Koh-i-Noor Diamond

By Sarah Jordan
Continuing the Sotheby’s series exploring the history of jewelry trends, Sarah Jordan looks at the fabulous royal diamond.

T he rough from which the Koh-i-Noor originates is thought to have been discovered in the legendary Golconda mines of India in the 1600s. Early records suggest it weighed 186 old carats, or 191 carats in modern-day measurements. It was initially used to decorate the Peacock Throne of the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, in Delhi, before passing through the hands of royalty in Persia, Afghanistan, and the Sikh Kingdom of Lahore in the 19th century. It was only in the 18th century that the name Koh-i-Noor, meaning ‘Mountain of Light’ in Persian, was applied to the stone.

The Koh-I-Noor diamond in Queen Mary's Crown
The Koh-I-Noor diamond in Queen Mary's Crown

The diamond was formally presented to the Queen at Buckingham Palace in July 1850 and in 1851 it went on display at the Great Exhibition in London. Although some three million people viewed the stone, it was met with a lacklustre response because of its less-than-sparkly cut. Prince Albert opted to re-cut the stone, reducing its weight and introducing a more sophisticated brilliant cut with additional ‘star’ facets, for added fire.

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