Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Sparkle: The Koh-i-nûr Armlet

The Royal Collection
The Koh-i-nûr (or Koh-i-noor) also known as “The Mountain of Light” is one of the most famous diamonds in the world—housed in the Crown Jewels of Britain. This originally 186 carat diamond and its two companion diamonds have been used in a variety of settings since being given as a gift to Queen Victoria by The East India Company. The stone was displayed in the Great Exhibition of 1851. In 1852, it was given to Queen Victoria who, while she thought the stone was beautiful, was not pleased with the way it was cut. As he always did, Prince Albert happily took on the task of seeing that the stone was cut to its best advantage. After consulting dozens of jewelers and spending over eight thousand pounds, the stone was cut to its present weight of 105.602 carats to maximize its light-refracting properties. Today, the central koh-i-nûr diamond remains in the crown of the late Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. The stone has officially belonged to the crown jewels (instead of privately owned) since 1877 when Victoria was declared Empress of India.

But, what was the setting that so displeased Queen Victoria when she first received these magnificent diamonds? We see here the setting in which the diamonds were housed in 1830 when they were seized by the East India Company. This was the setting displayed at the Great Exhibition and this was the form in which the stones were presented to Queen Victoria. While the setting is original, the diamonds have been replaced with rock crystals which are cut exactly as the diamonds were cut in 1830.

This armlet showcased the three large stones side-by-side, suspended by red silk braid fringed with glass, rubies and pearls. The bezels around the stones are gold and enamel. While the original diamonds will never be replaced into this original setting (they wouldn’t fit anymore anyway), it was wise of the state to keep the setting intact. It’s an interesting reminder of the diamonds’ native state and a nod to the differences in tastes and cultures.

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