The Shah Diamond
The Shah is an 88.70-carat, bar-shaped, partially polished diamond bearing
three engraved markings. It was probably found in Golconda, India. The first
engraving reads "Bourhan-Nizam-Shah-II, 1000" (Mohammedan calender),
which places the stone in the hands of the ruler of the Indian province of
Achmednager in 1591.
The next one reads, "Son of Jehangir Shah-Jehan Shah, 1051." This
refers to Shah Jehan, who completed the bejeweled Peacock Throne and built the
Taj Mahal (meaning "Elect of the Palace") for his beloved Queen,
Mumtaz Mahal; the date corresponds to 1641.
He and Mumtaz had a beautiful romance. They met while the Emperor was still
young Prince Khurrum. Mumtaz was the daughter of a high-ranking palace official
and was of Persian extraction. She had white skin and curling black hair that
fell on her shoulders. Persian miniatures show her wearing a flaring crownlike
headdress, thickly jeweled, and earrings that fell to her shoulders. She was
married to the Prince in 1615 and shared all his campaigns throughout India,
meanwhile bearing fourteen children.
The Shah's shape, similar to a quartz crystal, is one of the most unusual in
the world of famous diamonds.
Jehan ascended the throne in 1627 and was proclaimed Shah of Agra, near
Delhi, the following year. The coronation festivities are said to have cost
more than seven million dollars. The Shah was weighed and a like amount of
gold, silver and gems distributed to the people. But poor Mumtaz lived only a
short time after. She died in 1631 in the Deccan, the region of Golconda, while
on another expidition with her husband. Jehan then made the construction of the
edifice, requiring fourteen years, a major effort of his life.
The Shah is believed to be the stone that Tavernier, the French jeweler and
traveler, saw dangling before the throne at the Court of Aurungzeb, Jehan's
son, in 1665. (Before the completion of Shah Jehan's reign, Aurungzeb rose
against his father, imprisoned him and usurped his throne.) How the gem was
later carried to Persia is not definately known; it is possible, however, that
Nadir Shah, the Persian conqueror of India, took it in 1739 when he seized the
Great Mogul's treasures during the sack of Delhi.
It was during this time that the great diamond was in the possession of the
Persian rulers that the third inscription, "Kadjar Fath Ali Shah,"
who was the Shah of Persia in 1824, was engraved on it. A tiny furrow was also
cut on the diamond, possibly to take the cord on which it was suspended.
In 1829, the Shah was given to Czar Nicholas I of Russia by the Persian
Government in appeasement for the assassination of the Russian Ambassador,
Alexander Griboyedoff, in Teheren; thus, it became part of the Crown Jewels of
In 1914, when World War I broke out, the diamond was sent to St. Petersburg
to Moscow for safekeeping. After the Revolution, when the strong boxes were
opened in 1922 by the new regime, the Shah was amoung the treasures. It is now
one of the prize possessions in the Russian Treasury of Diamonds & Precious
Stones in the Kremlin.