The History of The Koh-I-Noor Diamond
Nobody knows exactly where in India the Koh-i-Noor stone was initially discovered, but at 186 carats (roughly the size of an egg), it must have been like unearthing a star that had fallen from the sky. Its oldest recorded history dates back to the 14th century when it was owned by different reigning maharajahs and Mughals as they won and lost power.
Apparently, every ruler declared the stone as his own, but because none held power for too long, the diamond changed hands, and often. It wasn’t until 1628 that there were documented photos of the stone; by then it was in the hands of the big-spending Shah Jahan (the Mughal monarch who built the Taj Mahal) (the Mughal ruler who built the Taj Mahal). He commissioned a magnificent, jeweled throne and had the Koh-i-Noor diamond put at the top of the head of an ornate gemstone peacock.
On the Gemstone Throne
For decades, India was the world’s only supplier of diamonds—all the way until 1725, with the discovery of diamond mines in Brazil. Most of the jewels were alluvial, meaning they could be filtered out of river sands, and monarchs of the subcontinent welcomed their role as the first diamond connoisseurs.
which degree of courtier may wear which gem in which setting,” Dalrymple and Anand wrote in their book. The world’s oldest literature on gemology also came from India, and they offer comprehensive classification systems for different sorts of stones.
Turco-Mongol leader Zahir-ud-din Babur arrived from Central Asia through the Kyber Pass (located between modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan) to attack India in 1526, creating the Islamic Mughal dynasty and a new age of fascination with gemstones. The Mughals would rule northern India for 330 years, stretching their domain throughout virtually all of present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and eastern Afghanistan, all the while relishing in the mountains of gemstones they inherited and pillaged.
Although it’s impossible to tell exactly where the Koh-i-Noor came from and when it initially came into the Mughals’ possession, there is a definite period at which it appears in the recorded record. In 1628, Mughal monarch Shah Jahan commissioned a spectacular, gemstone-encrusted throne.
The bejeweled construction was inspired by the fabled throne of Solomon, the Hebrew king who figures in the annals of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Shah Jahan’s throne took seven years to complete, costing four times as much as the Taj Mahal, which was simultaneously under construction. As court chronicler Ahmad Shah Lahore recounts in his history of the throne: