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koh-i-noor diamondIn the history of famous gems and beaded jewelry, the Koh-i-Noor Diamond stands out for its dark tales of tragedy, torture and murder, of thrones, lost and gained. The legend is that whoever holds the diamond will be invincible, and men who believed the legend were willing to slaughter thousands for it. Even now, the gem is at the center of a dispute.

Its origin is a mystery. The strongest legend is that India's Kakatiya dynasty placed the 186 carat diamond in the eye of a Hindu goddess statue, probably starting an enduring trend of legends about cursed gems stolen from the eyes of statues. No one is even sure when it received its name, which translates to "mountain of light." Beginning in the 14th century, the jewel became a spoil of war, changing hands from warlord to warlord until in 1739, Persian ruler Nadir Shah sacked the Indian city of Agra and took Shah Jahan's magnificent jeweled Peacock Throne and the Koh-i-Noor. The Peacock Throne disappeared, apparently broken up for its gold and jewels, but the struggle raged for possession of the Koh-i-Noor. The following years were violent and bloody, with various factions fighting for control. There were

Beginning in the 14th century, the jewel became a spoil of war, changing hands from warlord to warlord until in 1739, Persian ruler Nadir Shah sacked the Indian city of Agra and took Shah Jahan's magnificent jeweled Peacock Throne and the Koh-i-Noor. The Peacock Throne disappeared, apparently broken up for its gold and jewels, but the struggle raged for possession of the Koh-i-Noor. The following years were violent and bloody, with various factions fighting for control. There were

The following years were violent and bloody, with various factions fighting for control. There were blindings, tortures, murders. One royal owner hid the diamond in the plaster wall of his cell. Finally, in 1843, young Dhulip Singh became the Maharajah of the Punjab and owner of the Koh-i-Noor. By 1849, the British stepped in and stopped the fighting by annexing India through the Treaty of Lahore, which specifically stated that the Koh-i-Noor was to be surrendered to Queen Victoria.

Afterward, the Maharajah, then living in London, was visited by the Queen and shown the stone, recut on the orders of Prince Albert to 108 carats. The young man reportedly said that it gave him great pleasure to place the stone in Victoria's hands.

In 1937, the diamond was set in the crown made for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. It glitters regally from the Maltese Cross at the apex. The crown is worn only by female royals; It's considered unlucky for men to wear it. Understandable, considering its history.

Controversy over the fabulous stone hasn't ended. In 1947 and in 1953, India asked that the stone be returned. In 1976, the Prime Minister of Pakistan submitted a formal request that the Koh-i-Noor be returned to Pakistan, one of the many claimants to the stone. Britain maintains that the diamond was not seized – as it was so many times in its history – but was presented under the Treaty of Lahore. India protested a handover to Pakistan, and recently Iran made its own claim.

So far, Britain holds fast to the Koh-i-Noor, the diamond that was so drenched in blood and grief. It rests now in majestic glory, marveled at by tourists, with the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.

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