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With the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth next Tuesday, and the many references to the Crown Jewels that she will wear, the history of the world's best knowm diamonds - the Koh-i-Noor, the Mughal and the Pitt or Regent - make fascinating reading.
The Indian mines of Kil- lur produced all three. Al- though none of these stones is in India today, their early and eventful history is closely knit in the pattern of India's poli tical history.
It is perhaps the Koh-i-Noor that has left tile most blazing trail in its slow but exciting journey from Killur to the British Crown.
Literally speaking, the words "Koh-i-Noor" mean "a moun- tain of light". The stone weigh- ed 793 carats. There is a state- ment corroborating the above fact in the literature of Aur- angzeb's time (1619-1707). As the Indian lapidary hates cut ting a stone, it may be safely assumed that the Koh-i-Noor originally did weigh 793 carats and lay uncut till the Mughal king ordered its cutting. Hor- tense Borgia, a Venetian lapid- ary, who undertook the task, was so clumsy that he reduced the weight of the stone to 186 carats. It was again cut in 1852 and the weight reduced to
106 or 102 carats.
Whereas once Orloff was the only rival of Koh-i-Noor, sev- eral stones weigh more today. The Koh-i-Noor's greatest merit today is its age. It is one
of the most ancient gems krown. In water and colour it
I is inferior and it has a greyish
tinge. Its shape is of the regu
i The first mention of the Koh-i-Noor, according to tradi tion, is in. 57 B.C., When it is said to have been in the pos session of tlaja Vikraffiaaitya of Ujjain and MalWa. The stone seems to have laid ih the Malwa treasury for some cen turies. In 1304, When thfe Khilji
ruler ransacked Malwa, he ftp-' pears to have brought the stone to his treasury in Agra. 1
When ill 1526 (after the battle of Panipat^ Babar laid the foundationti of the Mughal kingdom, his son discovered the diamond amongst the treasures of Agra. For three centuries it remained in the proud posses sion of the.Mughals. Strangely enough, so far it bore no name!
When Nadir Shah plundered Delhi in 1729 and .entered the Mughal palace, the defeated ruler Mohammad. Shah was wearing this huge unnamed stone in his turban. "A verit
able mountain of light," shout ed Nadir; hence the stone's christening.
In 1730, the Koh-i-Noor left India for Khorasan as part of Nadir's loot. After 80 years, it came back to India in 1810, safely hidden in the bosom of the fugitive king, Shah Shu jah Durrani. When Sha Shu jab Sought asylum in North India, Mahafaja Rattjit Singh was the ruler of the Punjab. It was the lion of the Punjab who extorted the Koh-i-Noor out of Durrani's possession in exchange for promised aid" to recover the lost Afghan throne
When after the Sikh wars the British occupied the Pun jab in 1850, Sir John Law rence took it out of the treas^
ury and used to carry it in his waistcoat pocket till Lord Daihousie presented it to Queen Victoria and it was set in the British Crown.
® Now Lost
Known to the WWfd »s the largest authentic speci men of a diamond, the Mughal is now lost.
According to the great trav eller Tavernier, the stone weighed 787i carats (only a few carats less than the Koh-i Noor), It was full of flaws, so Shah Jehan, the great lover of diamonds, wanted it cut. Again, Hortenso Borgia, the best available lapidary (Who had cut the Koh-i-Noor also), was given the task of cutting it. He tried giving it a re seatte shape With a high
crown on it and so ruined it. In the process of cutting it came down to 240 carats. The stone had at this stage a crack, but was of very high
In 1650, Mir Jumla, the Per sian Wazir of QolCodna. found the Mughal while farming the Gani diamond mines of Kol hu\ The amazing diamond, ac cording to Bernier, the trav eller-historian, was only one of the sackful of diamonds " Mir Jumla had. When this fact came to be known, the willy wazir presented the Mughal to Prince Aurangzeb who was then the Governor of the South on behalf of Shah Jehan, his father.
i In 1739, when NadirShatt sacked Delhi, lift took- the Mugt i hal away as a part . of his
booty. After this, fact ahfl fic tion became mixed up again, the Darya-e-Noor, which studs the Persian crown, is supposed to be the Mughal, though WP idaries dispute the fact. The stone is probably lost.
* Brought Luck
The Pitt was found At Purtial in 1701, almost ly ing on the roadside, about' 45 miles away from Gol
Originally weighing 419 car ats, it is a perfectly cut bril liant, The cutting took about two years' patient work and cost £5.000, reducing its weight to 1363 carats. . A stone of the highest water shape arid purity, the Pitt is considered to be the world's best diamond.
Historically speaking, we first hear of this stone Whet) William Pitt, Governor Of Fort St. George.- Madras, bought it for .*1.2,500 from a Parses mcrdharL,, named Jftm Chnnd. Henc* the name Pitt.
In 1712, Pitt took it home to Kflstland and was so fearful of losing it that he . changed his room and plans without notice, spent sleepless nights and soon lost, his health. In 1717. the French -Regent Orleans bought the Pitt f6r £136,000 and renamed it the Regent, In France, the Rsgent became involved i- the histor ical Garde Mobile robbery but was later rediscovered Under mysterious circumstance^.;;
Utiliko the Xoh-i-Noor, the Pitt brought luck to it's owner. Napolean believed that' he Won bis Empire because lie WOre the R^ent in the pommel Of his. sword. . . ' ,
Once when ths French National Treasury Was/empty, the stone was pledged to a Berlin merchant and later re deemed. it was exhibited In 1855 in France and is tod&y the m'oud possesion of the
Such is the fascinating story of these ''Stones of Destiny" that one wonders whether their journeys are over or will they go On their travels again.
(By Leela Kohli.)