The Magnificent Maharajas and their Royal jewels
As we all are trying to cope up with the current breakdown in the world due to this pendemic, I too like all of us trying to study something which is close to my heart.I have always loved reading and understanding about the national treasures, the unknown civilizations, the less known facts and the less researched truths amaze me and take me back to that period , imagining how life use to be for them.It also for somewhile takes me back away from the current worldly affairs and the day to day activities.Being part of the Jewellery business I thus thought to study about the royal families , their rich jewels and cultures and thus a lot of fascinating, eye openers came in front .A lot of less known facts about the worlds best jewels which belonged to this once called “ The Golden bird” country, makes me clear why India was the first choice for so many invaders and what rich heritage we inherited.
India was called as the “jewel in the Crown” of British empire rightly because of its rich culture, heritage of gems & jewelry and the royal legacy carried forward to its successors.
For more than 2,000 years, India was the sole supplier of gemstones to the world. Golconda diamonds, sapphires from Kashmir and pearls from the Gulf of Mannar were coveted and drew merchants across land and sea to India. For the rulers, jewels were a statement of power, prosperity and prestige. But for Indian women, jewellery was, and is, in many parts considered a social and economic security, the value of which will almost always appreciate, never depreciate.
Indian Jewels were always a source of Power and esteem for any ruler who invaded or ruled India. Based upon the exhibitions world over by numerous companies , researches and books, below is the detail about some eminent jewels of the Indian history which I feel should be known to us .
It is said that Western jewelers and goldsmiths worked at the Mughal courts.
“Cartier Diamonds” who designed Maharaja of Patiala Diamond necklace in 1928 visited India in 1911 first time and it is said that Jacques Cartier had become familiar with the extravagant tastes of the maharajas who were so passionate about precious stone and had extra ordinary appetite and taste for the real jewels.
Source: Google Wikipedia , My India , Article by Ru mani Saikia Phukan
The Kohinoor is one of the oldest and most famous diamonds in the world.
The history of Kohinoor diamond goes back in history to more than 5000 years ago.
The current name of the diamond, Koh-i-noor is in Persian and means “Mountain of Light”. Below you will find a timeline of this priceless diamond. The diamond was part of the Mughal Peacock Throne. It changed hands between various factions in south and west Asia, until being ceded to Queen Victoria after the British annexation of the Punjab in 1849.
Up to 1500
It is believed that the diamond was first mentioned more than 5000 years ago in a Sanskrit script, where it was called the Syamantaka.
It is worth mentioning that there is only speculation that the Syamantaka and the Kohinoor are the same diamond. After that for upto 4,000 years the diamond is not mentioned anywhere.
Up until 1304 the diamond was in the possession of the Rajas of Malwa, but back then, the diamond was still not named Kohinoor. In 1304, it belonged to the Emperor of Delhi, Allaudin Khilji.
In 1339, the diamond was taken back to the city of Samarkand, where it stayed for almost 300 years. In 1306 in a Hindi writing, a curse is placed on the men who will wear the diamond: “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.”
In 1526 the Mogul ruler Babur mentions the diamond in his writings, Baburmama.
The diamond was gifted to him by the Sultan Ibrahim Lodi.
He was the one who described the diamond’s value equal to half-day production costs of the world.
One of the descendants of Babur, Aurangzeb , protected the diamond diligently and passed it on to his heirs.
Mahamad, the grandson of Aurangzeb, however, was not a fear-inspiring and great ruler like his grandfather.
Nadir and Mahamad
The Persian general Nadir Shah went to India in 1739. He wanted to conquer the throne, which had been weakened during the reign of Sultan Mahamad. The Sultan lost the decisive battle and had to surrender to Nadir.
When Nadir Shah heard of the diamond, he decided he wants it in his possession.
It was him the one that gave the diamond its current name, Koh-i-noor meaning “Mountain of light”.
But Nadir Shah did not live for long, because in 1747 he was assassinated and the diamond got to one of his generals, Ahmad Shah Durrani.
A descendant of Ahmad Shah, Shah Shuja Durrani brought the Koh-i-noor back to India in 1813 and gave it to Ranjit Singh (the founder of the Sikh Empire). In exchange Ranjit Singh helped Shah Shuja get back the throne of Afghanistan.
Maharaj Ranjith Singh
In 1849, after the conquest of the Punjab by the British forces, the properties of the Sikh Empire were confiscated.
The Koh-i-noor was transferred to the treasury of the British East India Company in Lahore.
The properties of the Sikh Empire were taken as war compensations. Even one line of the Treaty of Lahore was dedicated to the fate of the Koh-i-Noor.
The diamond was shipped to Britain on a ship where cholera broke out and supposedly the keeper of the diamond lost it for some days and it was returned to him by his servant.
The diamond was handed to Queen Victoria in July 1850.
Kohinoor diamond in Queen-s Victoria brooch
After the diamond was handed to Queen Victoria, it was exhibited at the Crystal Palace a year later. But the “Mountain of Light” was not shiny as the other cut gemstones of that era and there was a general disappointment regarding it.
In 1852 the Queen decided to reshape the diamond and it was taken to a Dutch jeweler, Mr Cantor who cut it to 108.93 carats.
The 1852 re-cutting
Queen Victoria wore the diamond occasionally afterwards. She left in her will that the Koh-i-noor should only be worn by a female queen.
If the head of state was a man, his wife would have to carry the diamond. After Queen Victoria’s death, the Kohinoor became part of the Crown Jewels. Since arriving in the UK, it has only been worn by female members of the family. Victoria wore the stone in a brooch and a circlet. After she died in 1901, it was set in the Crown of Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII. It was transferred to the Crown of Queen Mary in 1911, and finally to the Crown of Queen Elizabeth (later known as the Queen Mother) in 1937 for her coronation as Queen consort.
Today, the diamond is on public display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London, where it is seen by millions of visitors each year. The governments of India, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan have all claimed rightful ownership of the Koh-i-Noor and demanded its return ever since India gained independence from the UK in 1947. The British government insists the gem was obtained legally under the terms of the Last Treaty of Lahore and has rejected the claims.
On 18 April 2016, the central government of India told the Supreme Court that India cannot and should not stake claim to the Kohinoor diamond because the diamond was not stolen but handed over to the East India Company by Maharaja Ranjit Singh after he lost the 1849 Sikh War.
Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, Centre’s counsel, told the apex court that according to law, the government has no right to bring back antiques taken out of the country before independence. However, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) can take up issues of claiming back only those precious items and antiquities that have been illegally exported out of the country, under the provisions of the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.
The proceedings are still going on as a petition was filed by All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front in the Supreme Court where it was mentioned that the government was not making efforts to bring the Kohinoor back.