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The Curse of the Mountain of Light

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There are some who believe the diamond we now call Koh-i-Noor (Mountain of Light) has been around for more than 5,000 years. Although there’s no proof of that, we can trace the enthralling history of this magnificent stone for certain from the 14th century. It was then that the first mention of its curse appeared in a Hindu text: “He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity.”

A multitude of myths and stories encircle the stone like an intricate setting. India’s first Mughal emperor, Babur, claimed it was “worth the value of one day’s food for all the people in the world.” And while its true value has never been assessed, the diamond has held various rulers—Hindu, Mughal, Turkic, Afghan, Sikh and British—in thrall to its beauty over the centuries.

One of the more illustrious owners of the diamond was Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor and builder of the Taj Mahal. Jahan placed the stone into his legendary Peacock Throne, but was imprisoned by his son Aurangazeb who took the stone to his capital in Lahore and stored it in his personal mosque.

Nearly 100 years later in 1739, Nadir Shah, the king of Persia, invaded India. He took both the Peacock Throne and the diamond he called Koh-i-Noor back to Persia. However, just eight years later, he was assassinated and the stone passed to one of his generals who absconded with it to Afghanistan. In 1830, the deposed leader of Afghanistan brought the jewel to Lahore, where it remained until the invasion of the British.

The Koh-i-Noor fell into to the British as it had passed hands before: by conquest. After the Queen’s troops conquered Lahore, the fate of the diamond was even written into the surrender agreement:

The gem called the Koh-i-Noor, which was taken from Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk by Maharajah Ranjit Singh, shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England.

And surrendered it was, to Queen Victoria, who allowed it to be displayed in the 1851 Great Exhibition in London. The British public came in droves to gawk at the legendary stone, which was mostly kept in what the Illustrated London News referred to as “a golden cage or prison.” Many visitors were indeed less than enthusiastic about the appearance of the great diamond, and the next year, Prince Albert ordered that the Koh-i-Noor be cut down to maximize its brilliance.

Despite reducing it from 186 to 105 carats, the prince wasn’t happy with the result. Still, the resulting gem was mounted in brooch, which Queen Victoria often wore. After Victoria’s death in 1901, the Koh-i-Noor was set in the crown of Queen Alexandra, the wife of Britain’s new monarch, King Edward VII. And that crown, along with the rest of England’s Crown Jewels, makes its home in the Tower of London. It’s interesting to note that while there’s no hard evidence that the curse of the Koh-i-Noor is true, the British royal family has traditionally passed the stone down to the wife of the male heir to the throne, because, hey, it never hurts to be careful.

While West Seattle Coins and Bellevue Rare Coins might not have the next Koh-i-Noor diamond in stock, we do have many beautiful stones at all of our three locations in West Seattle, Bellevue and Lynnwood. And our GIA-accredited experts can assure you that any diamond you purchase from us will be 100% curse free.

 West Seattle Coins and Bellevue Rare Coins specialize in gold buying and dealing in rare coins. We are a family-owned business that was first established in 1979 and is now located in West Seattle, Bellevue and Lynnwood. We also buy and sell gold, silver, diamonds, currency and jewelry. Visit us first for a free evaluation.

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