Koh-i-Noor, which translates as mountain of light in Persian, is one of the world’s most well-known diamonds and in recent times has come under the scanner for its dubious colonial history.
Now, in a new Jewel House exhibition which runs until November, the Tower of London is keen to present a more detailed context for this diamond that traces its origins to the Kollur Mine of Golconda in modern-day Telangana, southern India. The display is accompanied by a video which charts the diamond’s journey around the globe and attached labels for royal ornaments the Koh-i-Noor has adorned over the years further explain the history of the infamous diamond.
Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), the charity which manages Britain’s palaces, said: “The new exhibition explores the origins of a number of items in the collection, including the Koh-i-Noor.
“It references its long history as a symbol of conquest, which has passed through the hands of Mughal Emperors, Shahs of Iran, Emirs of Afghanistan, and Sikh Maharajas. We conducted extensive audience research before putting together this display, as well as consulting local community groups and specialist academics, which has informed our approach throughout and shaped our presentation of the Koh-i-Noor’s story.
“Our aim throughout has been to present the history in a transparent, balanced and inclusive way, always informed by rigorous research.”
Among the labelling to be used, the diamond is described as a “Symbol of Conquest”, to note that it has had many previous owners, including Mughal Emperors, Shahs of Iran, Emirs of Afghanistan, and Sikh Maharajas.
“The 1849 Treaty of Lahore compelled 10-year-old Maharaja Duleep Singh to surrender it to Queen Victoria, along with control of the Punjab. Koh-i-Noor means ‘Mountain of Light’ in Persian,” reads the label.
An Armlet dating back to 1830 has the label: “Queen Victoria received the Koh-i-Noor diamond in 1850, set in this enamelled armlet. Now set with replicas, the central stone shows the Koh-i-Noor’s earlier Mughal cut. It was re-cut in 1852 to improve its sparkle and conform to European tastes.”
With Queen Alexandra’s Crown of 1902, the label reads: “The Koh-i-Noor, sometimes considered lucky, developed a reputation for bringing bad luck to men who wore it. From 1902 it was set in the crowns of several Queens Consort, beginning with Queen Alexandra’s Crown, now set with replicas. The Koh-i-Noor is currently set in Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s Crown, 1937.”
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The exhibition has been conceived as a special display of all the jewels that have returned to the Tower of London after their use during the historic Coronation ceremony of King Charles III and Queen Camilla.
Andrew Jackson, Resident Governor of the Tower of London and Keeper of the Jewel House, said: “Following the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla, we are delighted to unveil our new Jewel House exhibition, which explores the history of this magnificent collection in more detail than ever before.”
Charles Farris, Public Historian for the History of the Monarchy at Historic Royal Palaces, added: “The Crown Jewels are the most powerful symbols of the British Monarchy and hold deep religious, historic, and cultural significance.
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“From their origins to their use during the Coronation ceremony, the new Jewel House transformation will present the rich history of this magnificent collection with more depth and detail than ever before.”
*Info: Tower of London