Mountain Of Light: The Kohinoor Diamond

The Kohinoor diamond is a world famous gem and means mountain of light. British Queens have worn it and legends and curses surround it.

Diamonds have held human fascination for centuries. Once cut and faceted diamonds become some of the most beautiful, priceless and sought-after gems on the planet. White diamonds are the most prized, yellow or brown stones are said to be imperfect, and red, blue and black diamonds are the most rare. The cut, the brilliance and of course the size of a diamond is what differentiates a stone from being merely ordinary to extraordinary and priceless.

People have cheated, lied, stolen, and killed to obtain diamonds. Fortunes have been made and lost by diamond hunters and speculators. Kings have gambled their thrones to acquire the priceless rocks. Diamonds are known as the hardest substance on earth and are mined deep under-ground. They've been discovered in India, South Africa, Ghana, Australia, Borneo, Siberia and a few isolated locations in North America. New York and Israel are the two major centres for diamond cutting and trading. But diamonds aren't just valued for their beauty. They're also used for various industrial applications like deep well drilling, as cutting edges or tips or as powder abrasives, thermal conductive devices, and in electronic manufacturing.

The word diamond is a derivation of the Greek word, "adamas", which means invincible. The first written reference to diamonds was found in Roman literature from the lst century AD. Up until the 18th century, India's Golconda mines were the only location in the world where the gems were mined. Diamonds were eventually discovered in Brazil in 1726 and then in 1866 in South Africa, a country that has since become the world's number one exporter of the gemstones.

Diamonds are synonymous with romance, engage-ments, weddings and enduring love. Liz Taylor has always been bedazzled by diamonds and it's a well known fact that her former husband, the late Richard Burton, spared no expense to acquire a multi-faceted, pear-shaped, 70 carat beauty that Liz would later re-name the Taylor-Burton diamond. The stone was first acquired by Cartier in 1969 and Burton was determined to purchase it for his then wife. Ten years later Liz Taylor sold the gem for 3 million dollars. The Taylor-Burton diamond is not the only one that's acquired a reputation. Over the centuries there have been literally dozens of famous and infamous diamonds: the Great Mogul(supposedly the biggest diamond ever found), the Cullinen (currently the largest cut diamond in the world), the Jubilee, the Tiffany, the Sultan of Morocco, the Black Orloff, the Great Chrysanthemum, the Idol's Eye, the Hope and the Koh-i-noor, or "Mountain of Light".

Legend had it that the Koh-i-noor diamond is actually one piece of another legendary and even older diamond called Great Mogul. The priceless and sought-after gem is said to have weighed 240 karats and it mysteriously disappeared in 1665, never to be seen again. The first owner of the Koh-i-noor diamond was the Rajah of Malwa. Two hundred years later it was claimed by Sultan Babar, the first Mogul Emperor. He passed it on to successive generations of mogul rulers, including Shah Jehan, the builder of the Taj Mahal. When Nadir Shah of Persia overan Delhi in the early 1700's, one of the possessions he seized was the Koh-i-noor diamond. It's alleged that when he first saw the magnificent stone, he was overcome by its brilliance and cried out "Koh-i-noor!", meaning "mountain of light" in the Urdu language. The gemstone was passed on or seized by other successive rulers until the beginning of the 19th century. The British had established rule in India by now and just before Queen Victoria's Exhibition opened in London in 1851, her Chief Commissioner of the Punjab Province acquired the diamond. He immediately dispatched the Koh-i-noor to Queen Victoria who decided to display it at the Crystal Palace Exhibition. Her Majesty ordered the diamond re-cut after viewers were disappointed by the diamond's lack of brilliance. Today the 108.93 oval brilliant adorns Elizabeth's crown, along with 2800 smaller diamonds, and resides in the Tower of London with the rest of the Royal Family's crown jewels.

Priceless jewels, particularly diamonds, have often been associated with bad luck, death, and curses. The Koh-i-noor is just such a gem. Accurate historical data about all those who laid claim to the diamond remains blurred in history. However it is known that the Shah of Persia died in a palace revolt trying to defend his treasures, including the Koh-i-noor. Thereafter successive Indian empires suffered misfortune and misery, including Ranjit Singh, whose own kingdom was eventually controlled by the conquering British. None of his 8 descendants were able to produce heirs and his entire royal line eventually disappeared. Legend also said that whoever shall possess the Koh-i-noor will one day rule the world and that no man shall dare wear it. Thus far any man who's possessed the diamond has suffered ill luck, even death. Queens Victoria and Elizabeth are the only monarchs who have worn the Koh-i-noor and lived to tell about it. Is this an ancient Guru's curse come full circle? Or simply coincidence? As long as the Koh-i-noor diamond, or Mountain of Light, resides safe inside the guarded tower of London, no one can say for certain.

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