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The Koh-i-Noor

SMI 12: Koh-i-Noor with an amulet.
Date: Before 1851
Origin: Possibly Kullar Mines, India.

The Koh-i-Noor diamond depicted in 1851. During the time of the Sikh Empire of Maharajah Ranjit Singh (1780 – 1839), it was worn around the arm and was considered the most expensive diamond in the world at one time. Composed of Gold, enamel, rock crystal, glass, rubies, pearls and silk.


The history of the Koh-i-Noor or ‘Mountain of Light’ diamond is steeped in myth and anecdote, wars and political intrigue. The diamond was described in 1628 as being part of the Peacock Throne of the Mughal Empire within India which was commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan (1592 –1666). The Mughal Emperors sat on this throne until Nader Shah (1688-1747) of Iran invaded India, ransacked the Delhi capital and took the throne and the diamonds. The Koh-i-Noor and associated diamond Timur Ruby were removed to be worn as armbands. It eventually wound up in the Durrani Dynasty of Afghanistan. It was held by the Afghan Emir, Shah Shuja (1785-1842) but taken from him by Maharajah Ranjit Singh who had held him as a prisoner. As a result, the diamond came back to India.   

Maharajah Ranjit Singh was the King of the Sikh Empire and he wore the diamond on state occasions. Whilst in the early 18th century the relations between the British and the Sikhs were cordial, however some years after the death of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, this all changed. The Sikh Empire was pitched against the East India Company in the Anglo Sikh Wars of 1845-1846 and 1848-1849. The Punjab was annexed in 1849, as part of the Treaty of Lahore in the same year, the Sikh sovereign Maharajah Duleep Singh (1838 – 1893), then still a child, was deposed and made to present the diamond to the East India Company. It was received by Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace in 1850.

It showcased at the Great Exhibition of Crystal Palace in 1851 where it received muted reviews. As a result, the diamond was recut by Garrads. Since its arrival in England, the Koh-i-Noor has only been worn by Queens and consorts due to the prevailing legend stating that it will bring bad luck if worn by a man. The diamond has also worn in the form of a brooch.

It now adorns the front of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s Crown and can be seen at the Tower of London.

Additional information

This 3d model was first exhibited at the exhibition: Anglo Sikh Wars: Battles, Treaties and Relics in 2017. We have now recreated it so it can be shared widely online.

Further reading on Sikh relics and artefacts including the Koh-i-Noor The British and the Sikhs

The recut Koh-i-Noor diamond can be seen at the Tower of London.

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