A K Agnihotri: DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (partii)

A Modern-Day Resurgence

 

In 1947, DeBeers commissioned the services of leading advertising agency N.W. Ayer, and the slogan “A diamond is forever” was coined, later immortalised in the James Bond movie, “Diamonds are Forever.”  The premise of this large-scale marketing campaign was the suggestion that diamonds should be the only choice for engagement rings. The DeBeers advertising campaign was wildly successful, and was a contributing factor to today’s widespread embracing of the tradition of diamond engagement rings. In today’s fine jewellery market, more than 78% of engagement rings sold contain diamonds.

 

With the surge in popularity of the precious stone, many companies and organizations began campaigns to educate jewellers and consumers about what to look for when selecting a diamond. As jewellers experimented with ways to enhance the diamond’s visual appeal and presentation, new cutting techniques were adopted to help increase the stone’s brilliance. Over time, several prominent shapes emerged as the most popular varieties, including round, oval, marquise, square (princess), and rectangular (emerald).

 

Today, the world’s diamond deposits are slowly becoming depleted. Less than 20% of the diamonds mined are of gem quality; less than 2% are considered “investment diamonds.” 75-80% of mined diamonds are used for industrial applications, such as grinding, sawing, and drilling. Typically, more than 250 tons of ore must be mined in order to produce a one-carat, gem-quality stone.

 

The diamond’s rarity, beauty, and strength make it a fitting symbol of the resilience and longevity of marriage. In addition to engagement rings, diamonds are traditionally given as gifts to commemorate the milestone of the sixtieth anniversary. With their rich history, sense of permanence, and lustrous brilliance, diamonds are a natural choice to signify a lasting union.

 

History of the Koh-I-Noor

MYTH-The origin of the diamond is unclear. According to some sources, the Koh-i-Noor was originally found more than 5000 years ago, and is mentioned in ancient Sanskrit writings under the name Syamantaka.  According to some Hindu mythological accounts, the Lord Krishna obtained the Syamantaka from Jambavantha, whose daughter Jambavati later married Krishna. Krishna was blamed for the theft of the diamond from Satrajith's dead brother, killed by a lion (itself having been killed by Jambavantha). Satrajith accused Krishna of having killed his brother. Krishna fought a fierce battle with Jambavan to restore his reputation and gave the jewel back to Satrajith. In shame, Satrajith offered Krishna his daughter, as well as the Koh-i-Noor. Krishna accepted his daughter Satyabhama, but refused to take the Syamantaka.

The diamond originated in the Kollur region of Guntur district in present day Andhra Pradesh, one of the world's earliest diamond producing regions, sometime in the 1200s during the Kakatiya rule. This region was the only known source of diamonds until 1730 when diamonds were discovered in Brazil. The term "Golconda" diamond has come to define diamonds of the finest white colour, clarity and transparency. They are very rare and highly sought after. The diamond became the property of Kakatiya kings who installed it as one of the eyes of the presiding Goddess in a temple in their capital city of Warangal.

The Khilji rule at Delhi ended in 1320 AD and Ghias ud Din Tughluq  ascended the throne. Tughluq sent his commander Ulugh Khan in 1323 to defeat the Kakatiya king Prataprudra. Ulugh Khan’s raid was repulsed but he returned in a month with a larger and determined army. The unprepared army of Kakatiya was defeated.

The loot, plunder and destruction of Orugallu (present day Warangal), the capital of Kakatiya Kingdom, continued for months. Loads of gold, diamonds, pearls and ivory were carried away to Delhi on elephants, horses and camels. The Koh-i-Noor diamond was part of the bounty.

From then onwards, the stone passed through the hands of successive rulers of the Delhi Sultanate, finally passing to Babur, the first Mughal Emperor, in 1526.

The first confirmed historical mention of the Koh-i-Noor by an identifiable name dates from 1526. Babur mentions in his memoirs, the Baburnama, that the stone had belonged to an unnamed Rajah of Malwa in 1294. Babur held the stone's value to be such as to feed the whole world for two and a half days.

The Baburnama recounts how Rajah of Malwa was compelled to yield his prized possession to Alaud din Khilji; it was then owned by a succession of dynasties that ruled the Delhi Sultanate, finally coming into the possession of Babur himself in 1526, following his victory over the last ruler of that kingdom. However, the Baburnama was written c.1526-30; Babur's source for this information is unknown, and he may have been recounting the hearsay of his day and mixed up the Emperor of Warangal with the Rajah of Malwa. He did not at that time call the stone by its present name, but despite some debate about the identity of 'Babur's Diamond' it seems likely that it was the stone which later became known as Koh-i-Noor.

Both Babur and Humayun mention very clearly in their memoirs the origins of 'Babur's Diamond'. Humayun had much bad luck throughout his life. Sher Shah Suri, who defeated Humayun, died in an accident. Humayun's son, Akbar, never kept the diamond with himself and later only Shah Jahan took it out of his treasury. Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his own son, Aurangzeb.

Shah Jahan had the stone placed into his ornate Peacock Throne. His son, Auranzeb, imprisoned his ailing father at Agra Fort. Legend has it that he had the Koh-i-Noor positioned near a window so that Shah Jahan could see the Taj only by looking at its reflection in the stone. Aurangazeb later brought it to his capital Lahore and placed it in his own personal Badshah Mosque. There it stayed until the invasion of Nadir Shah in 1739 and the sacking of Agra and Delhi. Along with the Peacock Throne, he also carried off the Koh-i-Noor to Persia in 1739 and who is attributed, allegedly, to the name Koh-i Noor since there is no reference to this name before 1739.

The valuation of the Koh-i-Noor is given in the legend that one of Nader Shah's consorts supposedly said, "If a strong man should take five stones, and throw one north, one south, one east, and one west, and the last straight up into the air, and the space between filled with gold and gems, that would equal the value of the Koh-i-Noor."

After the assassination of Nader Shah in 1747, the stone came into the hands of Ahmed Shah Abdali of Afghanistan. In 1830, Shah Shuja, the deposed ruler of Afghanistan, managed to flee with the Kohinoor diamond. He then came to Lahore where it was given to the Maharaja of Ranjit Singh; in return for this Maharaja Ranjit Singh won back the Afghan throne for Shah Shuja.

Passage from India

Maharaja Ranjit Singh willed the Koh-i-Noor to the Jagannath Temple but after his death the British administrators did not execute his will. On 29 March 1849, the British raised their flag on the citadel of Lahore and the Punjab was formally proclaimed to be part of the British Empire. One of the terms of the Treaty of Lahore, the legal agreement formalising this occupation, was as follows:

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

The diamond is now set into the crown worn by the female consort to Monarch of the United Kingdom.

The Curse of the Koh-i-Noor

It is believed that the Koh-i-Noor carries with it a curse which affects men who wear it, but not women. All the men who owned it have either lost their throne or had other misfortunes befall them. Queen Victoria is the only reigning monarch to have worn the gem. Since Victoria's reign, the stone has generally been worn by the British Queen Consort, never by a male ruler.

The possibility of a curse pertaining to ownership of the diamond dates back to a Indian text relating to the first authenticated appearance of the diamond in 1306: "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."