India Claims Britain Did Not Steal Historic Kohinoor Diamond in Crown Jewels

Kohinoor Diamond
Pavana Kishore, executive director of Jewels de Paragon, shows the Kohinoor diamond at an exhibition in Bangalore, India, May 19, 2002. The governments of India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan have all tried to claim ownership of the stone at various points. Getty

Legend says the 105-carat Kohinoor diamond should only be worn by a woman or a god. If a man dares to wear it, he will be cursed, and receive a bloody fate similar to many of its previous owners.

But whoever claims the precious, colorless stone will conquer the world, and so for centuries, kings have fought over the Kohinoor's possession.

Currently housed in the Tower of London, the Kohinoor—meaning Mountain of Light, in Persian—came into British hands in the mid-19th century.

It was initially in the possession of the rulers of Punjab's Sikh Empire when the Anglo-Sikh wars broke out in the late 1840s. The East India Company, acting for the British Crown, emerged victorious and had the 10-year-old Maharaja present the jewel to Queen Victoria under the Treaty of Lahore.

A massive, colorless diamond, the Kohinoor is thought to have been mined in southern India in the 1300s. Over the following centuries it changed hands several times among Mughal emperors, Afghan warlords and Indian Maharajas.

But after it was bestowed to Queen Victoria, it was brought to England in 1851, and eventually formed part of the Queen Mother's crown jewels. Today, it sits within a glass cabinet in England's capital city.

The governments of India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan have all tried to claim ownership of the Kohinoor and have demanded its return at various points in recent decades.

But the stone's early history is lost in the mists of time.

For the first time, on Tuesday, a spokesman for the Indian government told the Supreme Court in London that India should not try to reclaim the priceless Kohinoor diamond from Britain, the BBC reported.

Solicitor-general Ranjit Kumar said the stone was "neither stolen nor forcibly taken," but had been "gifted" to the East India Company by the former rulers of Punjab in 1849.

The case is being heard by the Supreme Court after an Indian NGO filed a petition asking the court to direct the Indian government to bring back the diamond.

The court is still considering the issue, and said it did not want to dismiss the petition as it could "stand in the way" of future attempts to bring back items that once belonged to India.

Kumar, representing the Indian government, said he would consult with the foreign minister on the issue and frame a response within six weeks, the Times of India newspaper reported.

Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, said a few years ago that it should be returned as "atonement for the colonial past."

But successive British prime ministers have refused to do so. Most recently, David Cameron said that returning it would set an "unworkable precedent."

"If you say yes to one, you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty," he told Indian media during a trip to the country in 2010.

The diamond was last worn by the late Queen Mother and was displayed on top of her crown when her coffin lay in state after her death in 2002.