For many years, India was the only country in the world where diamonds were found. They have been part of Indian history for more than 3000 years. In Indian mythology, diamond was regarded as ‘vajra’ which means ‘thunderbolt’ and that was believed to be the Warrior God Indra’s weapon. Diamond’s brilliance was compared to a flash of lightening. Early description of vajra goes back to the 4th century B.C and even at that time diamond was treated as a valuable commodity. Archaeological evidences also support this fact.
The earliest recorded written reference of diamonds comes from the ancient Sanskrit scripture, Arthshastras. Kautilya, who was an advisor to the king Chandragupta of Maurya dynasty in Northern India, wrote Arthshastra. The work is dated from 326- 390 B.C. These scriptures described diamond and its brilliance, fire and hardness.
There were many mining locations in India including Borneo, Golconda, Hindostan and Roalconda. However, of all these mines, Golconda mine was the most celebrated one. The mine was famous for producing the finest and the largest diamonds with excellent brilliance and transparency. The Golconda mines are located in the south western state of Andhra Pradesh, India, in the lower portions of Krishna and Godavari Rivers.
It is said that until the discovery of diamond mines in Brazil, South Africa; India remained the main provider of diamonds to the world. Some of the most phenomenal and historically important diamonds have come from the mines in India.
Below are described some of the most famous diamonds that the mines of India have produced –
Koh-i-noor which means ‘mountain of light’ in Persian language, at 105.62 carats, is perhaps one of the most famous diamonds in the world. It was said that whoever owned this diamond, ruled the world. The Koh-i-noor belonged to various Hindu, Muslim, Mogul, Persian, Sikh and British rulers. The gem was finally acquired by East India Company and later became a part of British Crown Jewels when Queen Victoria was announced the Empress of India in 1877.
The Koh-i-noor, originally a 186 carats diamond, was later cut and remounted into a brooch that Queen Victoria often wore.
This diamond weighing 45.52 carats, is the biggest cut blue diamond in the world. The diamond was also known as a curse diamond as it had a series of misery, misfortunes and killings associated with it. This brilliant deep blue faceted ovoid diamond was originally cut from a 117 carat rough.
Since 1958, The Hope diamond is on display at Smithsonian Museum of Washington DC, where it was donated by the Harry Winston Inc. of New York.
The Regent diamond was discovered in 1698 as a 410 carats rough from the Golconda mines of India. The diamond was originally known as Pitt diamond when it was purchased by British Prime Minister William Pitt. William Pitt got the diamond cut into a 140.50 carats brilliant cushion shaped diamond. As many other famous gems, this diamond too has its journey full of treachery, greed, murder and remorse. In 1717 Duke of Orleans who was also the Regent to France purchased this diamond and from there the diamond got its present name.
Since 1887 The Regent diamond, mounted in a Greek diadem, which was designed for Empress Eugene, is displayed at French Royal Treasury at Louvre in Paris.
This diamond that weighs 182 carats is the largest pink diamond in the world. It is also one of the most valuable stones of the Iranian Crown Jewels. Darya-i-noor is a table cut diamond and at present it is displayed in the Central Bank of Iran at Tehran.
Both Darya-i-Noor and Noor-ul-ail are believed to be biological twins. It is believed that they are both cut from the same 400 carats pale pink color rough diamond, to which French traveler Jean Baptiste Travernier referred to as ‘Diamanta Grande Table’. These two diamonds along with the Kohinoor and many other valuables were looted from India when Nadir Shah of Persia invaded Delhi in 1739.
The Orlov diamond is 189.62 carats white diamond with a faint bluish tinge. The diamond has excellent transparency, a typical feature of fine diamonds from the Golconda mines of India. It is cut into a rose cut style. The Orlov diamond forms an essential part of one of the greatest collection of gems and jewelry, the Treasures of the Diamond Fund, of Moscow Kremlin which compromises of many historical gems.
This famous gem got its name from Count Grigory Grigoryevich Orlov, one of the lovers of Empress Catherine the Great (1762-96). The diamond is also described by the French traveler Jean Baptiste Travernier in his work Six Voyages.
At 35.56 carats, Wittelsbach diamond is the third largest blue diamond known in the history. Celebrated for its dark blue color and flawless clarity, this diamond broke the records of diamond auction when in the year 2008 Christie’s sold the diamond to the London jeweler Laurence Graff for a whooping 23.4 million dollars.
The diamond was found in India and then was later brought to Europe in the 17th Century. The color and clarity of this diamond is compared to the legendary Hope diamond. In 1664, the king of Spain gifted it to his daughter Margaret Teresa. From there on it passed through several thrones including Leopold I of Austria, whose granddaughter Maria Amalia, later married into the Wittelsbach family of Bavaria.
In 19th Century for more than 50 years, the diamond became untraceable, and then suddenly in December 2008, the gem was up for auction at Christie’s.
The Sancy Diamond
The Sancy diamond that originated in India, is one of the most famous gems in the world. The diamond weighs 55.23 carats and is shaped like a shield. The shape is very unusual, as it has no pavilion, just a pair of crowns, one placed over another. It is said that a Venetian cutter brought the diamond secretly from India. In 1570, Nicholas Harlai, French Ambassador to Turkey, the Seigneur de Sancy, who was an avid collector of gems and jewelry, purchased it. In 1906, the diamond was fixed in a tiara that Lady Astor wore. Since 1962, The Sancy diamond remains on display at Louvre Museum of Paris.