Many precious stones have a blood-soaked history, but a new book reveals the world’s most famous diamond the Koh-i-Noor surpasses them all, with a litany of horrors that rivals “Game of Thrones”.
The Koh-i-Noor (Mountain of Light), now part of the British Crown Jewels, has witnessed the birth and the fall of empires across the Indian subcontinent, and remains the subject of a bitter ownership battle between Britain and India.
“It is an unbelievably violent story… Almost everyone who owns the diamond or touches it comes to a horribly sticky end,” says British historian William Dalrymple, who co-authored ‘Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond’ with journalist Anita Anand.
“We get poisonings, bludgeonings, someone gets their head beaten with bricks, lots of torture, one person blinded by a hot needle. There is a rich variety of horrors in this book,” Dalrymple tells AFP in an interview.
In one particularly gruesome incident the book relates, molten lead is poured into the crown of a Persian prince to make him reveal the location of the diamond.
Today the diamond, which historians say was probably first discovered in India during the reign of the Mughal dynasty, is on public display in the Tower of London, part of the crown of the late Queen Mother.
The first record of the Koh-i-Noor dates back to around 1750, following Persian ruler Nader Shah’s invasion of the Mughal capital Delhi.
Shah plundered the city, taking treasures such as the mythical Peacock Throne, embellished with precious stones including the Koh-i-Noor.
“The Peacock Throne was the most lavish piece of furniture ever made. It cost four times the cost of the Taj Mahal and had all the better gems gathered by the Mughals from across India over generations,” Dalrymple says.