Britain’s Most Famous Diamond Has a Mysterious and Bloody Past

The jewel is in the crown worn by the Queen Mother, which was displayed on her coffin during her funeral
The jewel is in the crown worn by the Queen Mother, which was displayed on her coffin during her funeral

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Almost anyone who has touched the Koh-i-Noor diamond has come to a horrible end, says a British historian.

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 Indiaduring 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.

The diamond itself was not particularly renowned at the time — the Mughals preferred colored stones such as rubies to clear gems. Ironically given the diplomatic headaches it has since caused, it only won fame after it was acquired by the British.

“People only know about the Koh-i-Noor because the British made so much fuss of it,” says Dalrymple.

India has tried in vain to get the stone back since winning independence in 1947, and the subject is frequently brought up when officials from the two countries meet. Iran, Pakistan and even the Afghan Taliban have also claimed the Koh-i-Noor in the past, making it a political hot potato for the British government.

Over the course of the century that followed the Mughals’ downfall, the Koh-i-Noor was used variously as a paperweight by a Muslim religious scholar and affixed to a glittering armband worn by a Sikh king.

It only passed into British hands in the middle of the nineteenth century, when Britain gained control of the Sikh empire of Punjab, now split between Pakistan and India.

Sikh king Ranjit Singh had taken it from an Afghan ruler who had sought sanctuary in India and after he died in 1839 war broke out between the Sikhs and the British.

Singh’s 10-year-old heir handed over the diamond to the British as part of the peace treaty that ended the war and the gem was subsequently displayed at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London — acquiring immediate celebrity status.

“It became, for the Victorians, a symbol of the conquest of India, just as today, for post-colonial Indians, it is a symbol of the colonial looting of India,” Dalrymple says.

The Koh-i-Noor, which is said to be cursed, has not been worn by a British monarch since the death of Queen Victoria in 1901.

It last emerged from its glass case in the Tower of London for the funeral of the Queen Mother, when it was placed on her coffin. So might it be worn again — perhaps by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, when Prince Charles ascends to the throne?

“If that doesn’t finish the monarchy, nothing else would” laughs Dalrymple.

Spectacular Colored Diamonds On Exhibit At Los Angeles County Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is bringing together rare colored gems never before seen in the United States inside the museum’s Gem and Mineral Hall in an exhibition titled “Diamonds: Rare Brilliance.”

At the exhibition’s center is the “Juliet Pink Diamond,” an extremely rare pink diamond of more than 30 carats, and a Fancy Deep Grayish Bluish Violet named the “Argyle Violet Diamond,” after the Argyle mine in Western Australia where it was discovered in 2015. Through examples, such as the fluorescent lighting of a “Rainbow” diamond necklace and a very rare Victorian Orchid Diamond, the exhibition will attempt to bring to light the rare properties of colored gemstones, the science behind natural colored diamonds, and how the interplay of light and chemistry gives diamonds color.

The Juliet Pink is a 30.03- carat Fancy Intense Pink diamond. Its intense color grade, lack of inclusions, and size make it exceptionally rare. (Image courtesy of Brian Lazar)
The Juliet Pink is a 30.03- carat Fancy Intense Pink diamond. Its intense color grade, lack of inclusions, and size make it exceptionally rare. (Image courtesy of Brian Lazar)

The Diamonds: Rare Brilliance exhibition will open Friday and run through March 19, 2017. The colored gems and jewels in the exhibition are owned by L.J. West Diamonds, which specializes in the sourcing, manufacturing and distribution of colored diamonds. The diamonds on display are as follows:

The Juliet Pink Diamond, set in a necklace with marquise, pear and round-cut white diamonds totaling 98.70 carats. (Image courtesy of Brian Lazar)
The Juliet Pink Diamond, set in a necklace with marquise, pear and round-cut white diamonds totaling 98.70 carats. (Image courtesy of Brian Lazar)

The Juliet Pink Diamond (top two photos) – This 30.03-carat Fancy Intense Pink oval diamond, with a VVS2 clarity grading, is cut from a 90-carat rough from South Africa. It is set in a necklace with marquise, pear and round-cut shape white diamonds, VVS E-F, totaling 98.70 carats.

The Argyle Violet – The 2.83-carat oval shaped gem is the largest violet diamond unearthed from the Argyle diamond mine, polished from a 9.17-carat rough diamond. It possesses the unique color grading of Fancy Deep Grayish Bluish Violet, and served as the headline stone of the 2016 Argyle Pink Diamonds Signature Tender, an annual sale of rare pink, red and blue diamonds, unearthed from the Argyle Diamond Mine in Western Australia.

The Rainbow Diamond Necklace demonstrates the fluorescent properties of colored diamonds, and is comprised of a range of stones—88 natural multi-colored diamonds. It is 35.93 carats in total. (Image courtesy of Brian Lazar)
The Rainbow Diamond Necklace demonstrates the fluorescent properties of colored diamonds, and is comprised of a range of stones—88 natural multi-colored diamonds. It is 35.93 carats in total. (Image courtesy of Brian Lazar)

The Victorian Orchid Vivid Purple Diamond – It is one of the rarest stones currently worldwide because of its unusual color, according to LJ West. It is a 1.64-carat Fancy Vivid Purple diamond with an SI2 clarity grade is fashioned in a cushion-cut shaped and is set in a platinum flower designed ring with a matching pair of kite-shaped diamonds.

Colorful, uncommon diamonds arrive at the Natural History Museum

 

Photograph: Michael Juliano
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Diamonds aren’t particularly rare—anyone who’s set foot in a shopping mall ofDowntown’s Jewelry District can tell you that. But colored diamonds can be extremely hard to find, with a year’s haul of certain colors no larger than the palm of your hand.

The Natural History Museum has put four such noteworthy colored diamonds on display as part of its Diamonds: Rare Brilliance exhibition. The glittery addition to the museum’s gem hall runs through March 19, 2017 and is included in the cost of general admission.

Photograph: Michael Juliano
Photograph: Michael Juliano
Photograph: Michael Juliano
Photograph: Michael Juliano

The exhibition—really just two cases of stones at the center of the museum’s gem and mineral vault—features four fancy pieces. The Juliet Pink is a massive 30-carat diamond that was cut from a 90-carat rough stone. The Argyle Violet takes its name from a mine in Australia, and in the three decades of operations there, only 12 carats worth of vividly violet diamonds have been found. This single, impossibly large stone accounts for 2.83 of those carats. In addition, the Victorian Orchid, a 1.64-carat deep purple stone set inside an ornate ring, and the Rainbow Necklace, an array of colored diamonds, are both on display.

Diamonds aren’t just for desirable jewelry; the stones hold billions of years of geologic history inside. That rock on your finger is at least a billion years old and was formed after years and years of intense pressure. Diamonds have been ripped from the bellows of the earth, and so they act like a time capsule of the earth’s interior, enveloping other minerals that grow nearby and giving us a glimpse into billions of years of geologic history.

Harvard Made Radios Out of Atomically Imperfect Diamonds

Diamonds are good for more than jewelry, and researchers at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences proved it Friday when they announced that they made the world’s smallest radio receivers from the durable mineral.

The researchers said the receivers are made by using atomic imperfections on pink diamonds. An electromagnet tunes the receiver, which is capable of picking up FM radio signals, like those used by many radio stations in the United States. The receiver can then convert high-fidelity audio signals to sound.

This might seem like an expensive way to listen to some old pop music. Harvard’s team explains that making radio receivers out of diamonds has its benefits, however, like the ability to work in temperatures up to 350 degrees Celsius or in corrosive environments where traditional receivers would be destroyed.

Diamonds are also biocompatible. All of these factors together mean that Harvard’s itty-bitty radio receivers could be used everywhere from a spacecraft on another planet to the human heart. (Which would bring a whole new meaning to Rihanna’s command to shine bright like a diamond from a few years ago.)

The researchers said atomic defects could also be used to create radio receivers and wavelength convertors in “the frequency bands of interest to modern communications and quantum information processing.” Basically, these very small imperfections could find their way into the smartphones and quantum computers of the future.

Diamonds themselves could also be built into more devices: Researchers at the University of Bristol announced in November that they’ve created diamond-based batteries that could generate electricity for longer than the entire length of human civilization.

That doesn’t mean diamonds are perfect. Despite their reputation, they don’t actually last forever. They can be crushed with a hammer, for example, or burned using special equipment.

But diamonds are still the hardest naturally occurring substance on the planet. Using this durability to our advantage so we can make better wireless communications tools or batteries makes perfect sense — especially since they canbe grown in a lab instead of dragged out of the earth like they are now.

Inverse reached out to Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and will update this post if it responds.

Large, Exceptional Gem Diamonds Formed from Metallic Liquid inside Earth’s Mantle

New research in the journal Science explains how diamonds of exceptional size and quality formed — from metallic liquid deep inside Earth’s mantle.

World’s biggest and most-valuable diamonds like the Cullinan, Constellation, and Koh-i-Noor formed in deep mantle metallic liquid. Image credit: Colin Behrens.
World’s biggest and most-valuable diamonds like the Cullinan, Constellation, and Koh-i-Noor formed in deep mantle metallic liquid. Image credit: Colin Behrens.

To date, researchers have puzzled over the origin of large diamonds like the famous Cullinan Diamond, discovered in South Africa in 1905; the Koh-i-Noor, found in India in the 13th century; or the widely publicized Lesedi La Rona stone, uncovered in Botswana in 2015.

Historically, research into such diamonds has been nearly impossible due to the high value of the jewels and the fact that they rarely contain inclusions that might shed light on their geological origin.

“Some of the world’s largest and most valuable diamonds exhibit a distinct set of physical characteristics that have led many to regard them as separate from other, more common diamonds,” said study senior author Dr. Wuyi Wang, director of research and development at the Gemological Institute of America.

“However, exactly how these diamonds form and what they tell us about the Earth has remained a mystery until now.”

Dr. Wang and co-authors studied large gem diamonds by examining their so-called ‘offcuts,’ which are the pieces left over after the gem’s facets are cut for maximum sparkle.

The researchers determined that these diamonds sometimes have tiny metallic grains trapped inside them.

In addition to the metallic inclusions, some of these exceptional diamonds contain mineral inclusions that show the diamonds formed at extreme depths, likely within 224-466 miles (360-750 km) in the convecting mantle.

This is much deeper than most other gem diamonds, which form in the lower part of continental tectonic plates at depths of 93-124 miles (150-200 km).

“This new understanding of these large diamonds resolves one of the major enigmas in the study of diamond formation — how the world’s largest and most valuable diamonds formed,” said study first author Dr. Evan Smith, also from the Gemological Institute of America.

“The composition of the inclusions, however, provides the story.”

The metallic inclusions are a solidified mixture of iron, nickel, carbon and sulfur, also containing traces of fluid methane and hydrogen in the thin tiny space between the metallic phases and the encasing diamond.

Pure carbon crystallized in this mix of molten metallic liquid in Earth’s deep mantle to form diamonds.

Small droplets of this metallic liquid were occasionally trapped within the diamonds as they grew. During cutting and polishing, parts of the diamond that contain inclusions are often cut off or polished away to craft exquisite polished gems with minimal flaws.

“Previous experiments and theory predicted for many years that parts of the deep mantle below about 155 miles (250 km) contain small amounts of metallic iron and have limited available oxygen,” Dr. Smith said.

“Now, the metallic inclusions and their surrounding methane and hydrogen jackets in these diamonds provide consistent, systematic physical evidence to support this prediction.”

The results are also important for understanding how volatile substances like carbon might cycle through Earth’s interior over time.

Century Diamonds Outlet