Heritage Treasures: The Koh-i-Noor Diamond

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Heritage is the culture we value rather than what we own

The Koh-i-Noor Diamond is the world’s most infamous jewel, thought to have been mined in southern India in the 1300s. Over the centuries it has changed hands among Mughal emperors, Afghan warlords and Indian Maharajas, eventually coming to the British crown; a dark history that continues to spark controversy.

Following Britain’s conquest of the Punjab in 1849, the diamond was taken from 10-year-old Sikh King, Duleep Singh through the Treaty of Lahore. It was dispatched to England where it became a special possession of Queen Victoria. Some 3 million people came to see it displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the Koh-i-Noor quickly became not only the most famous diamond in the world, but also the single most famous object of loot from India – a symbol of Victorian Britain’s imperial domination of the world.

As well as the British crown, four other governments claim the Koh-i-Noor: India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

Image: The Koh-i-Noor diamond set in the Queen Mother’s crown, Royal Collection Trust.