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The Great Mogul

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From the Archives : Originally published June 05th, 2009
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Category : Gems and Treasures





The Great Mogul diamond is considered to be the largest diamond in India. Discovered between 1630 and 1650, the rare Mogul diamond was found in in the Kollur mine on the Kistna. The rough diamond weighed around 793 carats. It takes its name from its owner, Shah Jehan, fifth in succession from Baber, founder of the so-called "Mogul" dynasty in Hindustan.



Until the Koh-i-Nur diamond was brought to Europe in 1850, there was never any serious doubt about the Great Mogul’s identity but since that time its very identity has been called in question. While some authorities continue to regard the two famous stones as distinct, others now hold that they are really one under two different names. There is, however, no real foundation for doubting the individual existence of the two. Evidence to the contrary is as weak as the facts on the other side are strong. The histories of the stones differ in this remarkable respect, that the story of the Koh-i-Nur may be said to have no beginning, while that of the Great Mogul seems, on the other hand, to have no end. The available data, if duly considered, must satisfy all candid inquirers that they are undoubtedly two distinct gems, having little in common beyond their unusual size, and their simultaneous presence for nearly a hundred years in the Khazana or treasure-house of the Mogul emperors.



Soon after its discovery the Great Mogul fell into the possession of the Emir Jemla, who dealt largely in precious stones, a well-known Persian adventure, who rose to great power in the Court of the Rajah of Golconda, and whose history is inseparably associated with that of the "Great Mogul."


Jemla was the Vizier to the Emperor of Golconda and due to security reasons he fled to Delhi and took shelter under Shah Jehan, builder of Taj Mahal. He is supposed to have carried the most magnificent presents, in the hope of inducing the Mogul to declare war against the Kings of Golconda and Viziapur, and against the Portuguese. On this occasion he is supposed to have presented Shah Jehan with that celebrated diamond which has been generally deemed unparalleled in size and beauty.


The diamond in question is strongly supposed to be the Great Mogul itself as it is impossible that it could have been the Koh-i-Nur; for that gem had already been in the possession of the Mogul emperors ever since the time of Baber himself.


It was at a strange and sanguinary period when the first European saw this remarkable stone in november 1665, a few years before the death of "the Grand Monarque," Shah Jehan.


During the 17th century, the French jewel trader Jean-Sebastien Tavernier, who had almost spent his life searching rare diamonds, came to know of this precious gem and named it as a rose-cut diamond in 1665. In his “Six Voyages” account, Tavernier refers in three places to this gem as the largest diamond he ever got to see.


The stone was given a proper shape by the venetian lapidary Hortentio Borgis, the same jewel cutter who cut the famous Orloff diamond.


Another legend says that the Great Mogul and the Orloff diamond would be aswell one gem under two names. Just like the Koh-i-Nur, the Orloff does not have any precise beginning but its first appearance in history was around 1750 in South India.


The Orloff is supposed to have been cut from the Great Mogul as the weight between the two stones differs. The Great Mogul weights 280 carats and the Orloff around 180, this is why the Great Mogul is supposed to have its top removed and is now known as the Orloff which now resides in the Kremlin museum on the imperial sceptre.


Some people continue arguing that their forms strongly suggest that the two diamonds are only one gem, but this theory is yet to be proved.


On the right : drawings of the Orloff                                                    On the left: drawing of the Great Mogul



Presently, the existence of this rare Mogul diamond is a big question. The current location of this Great Mogul diamond is unknown. There were a number of dead mines along the river Kistna. This was the homeground to a number of rare gems. Few decades earlier, several precious diamonds were yielded from this place. 


The subsequent history of the Great Mogul from the time it was seen by Tavernier in 1665, remains a blank. Henceforth no distinct reference anywhere occurs to it, and although we may presume that it continued in the possession of Aurung-zeb's successors down to the sack of Delhi by Nadir Shah or perhaps was stolen or even was cut in several stones in order to escape detection. We have no knowledge of what became of it on that memorable occasion.


The authorities are almost unanimous in assuming that the big stone carried off by the Persian invader, was the Koh-i-Nur. But amongst the spoils may of course have also been the Great Mogul, though no distinct mention is made of the fact. Hence some have thought that it is now amongst the treasures of the Shah of Persia under the name of "Darya-i-Nur," or "Sea of Light ."But some evidences tend to prove that the Darya-i-Nur is certainly a different stone.


Its present location is unknown, and some believe that either the Orlov diamond or the Koh-i-noor may have been cut from this stone after its loss following the assassination of its owner, Nāder Shāh, in 1747.


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