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Golconda diamonds

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Golconda diamonds
A map of Golconda region from 1733, published by Homann Heirs Nuremberg.jpg
A 1733 map of Golconda Sultanate—the term Golconda diamond became synonymous with Golconda itself.[1]
ColorTypically colorless; less often blue, translucent white, and pink.
CutAntique cushion
Country of originIndia
Mine of originKollur mine, Paritala and mines of Godavari delta

Golconda diamonds are diamonds mined in the geographic area known as the Godavari delta in the present-day Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Golconda Fort, located in the western part of modern Hyderabad, was a seat of the Golconda Sultanate and became an important center for diamond enhancement, lapidary and trading. The term Golconda diamond became synonymous with Golconda itself. Golconda diamonds have distinctive characteristics, they are graded as Type IIa, are devoid of nitrogen, and are large in size with good clarity.

For 2000 years Golconda diamonds were the only known fine diamonds in the World. Due to centuries of excessive mining, the Golconda diamond production is exhausted since 1830 AD, therefore gemologists and traders classified Golconda diamonds as antique, rare, and precious. Some of the world's most famous Golconda diamonds are; the colourless Koh-i-Noor (the United Kingdom), the Nassak Diamond, the blue Hope Diamond, the Idol's Eye (the United States), the pink Daria-i-Noor (Iran), the white Regent (France), the Dresden Green (Germany), and the colourless Orlov (Russia), as well as now-untraceable diamonds such as the Florentine Yellow, the Akbar Shah, the Nizam and the Great Mogul.

The 16th and 17th centuries were the peak period of the Golconda diamond industry, with 23 mines in the region (of which Kollur Mine were the most active),[A] and 60,000 people working at a time in one mine. The output from all the mines in Golconda was estimated to be around 10,000,000 carats (2.0 t). In 2015, government agencies and institutional researchers discovered new potential sites for diamond mining in the region, though as of 2022 mining has not started.

Golconda diamonds are often described as diamonds of first water, making them history's most celebrated diamonds. Several literary legends were inspired by the Golconda diamonds. These include such examples as Sindbad the Sailor's valley of the diamonds, the gem lore of Marco Polo and the theme of Russell Conwell's inspirational lecture Acres of Diamonds. According to Folklores some diamonds are alleged to be cursed or bring prosperity to their owners. In the 1950s, Golconda diamonds were accessorized by elite society and celebrities making it popular among the society and fashion industry—to increase the economics of the diamond industry. In 2013, the pink Princie Diamond—(that used to be part of the Jewels of the Nizams of Hyderabad), was auctioned for US$ 39.3 million—making it the highest recorded auction price for Golconda Diamond and the world record for US$ 1.1 million per carat.


Sindbad the Sailor and the Valley of the Diamonds, illustrated by Maxfield Parrish(1870–1966)

Medieval records from Europe and the Middle East show India's importance as the famed source of high-quality diamonds. According to Jack Ogden, a scholar known for his publications on diamonds and the history of jewels, these records include those of Pliny, Marco Polo, Muhammed al-Idrisi and others from before the 12th century. The records state that India produced diamonds with "which the gems were engraved". In addition to these sources, ancient texts of Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains, such as the Arthashastra (2nd century BCE – 4th century CE), the Ratna Pariksha, and the Puranas, refer to cities and regions of India that produced diamonds.[2] The Roman historian Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) describes in his encyclopedia the demand and fondness of Roman Imperial ladies for the diamonds of South India.[3][4] The tales of Sinbad's voyages written in the reign of the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid (786–809 CE), describes the Valley of the Diamonds featured in the legendary book One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights or Alf Laila Wa Laila or Alif Laila). These regional descriptions have the same features of Deccan in general and the Golconda region in particular.[5][6] However, these names are difficult to link to modern geographic names.[2]

According to the records of 18th and 19th centuries geologists, researchers and traders the following regions are the possible historic sources of diamond in India: a region south of the Kurnool district, which is the area near Krishna river valley in and around the districts of NTR, Palnadu, and Guntur; the area near Godavari delta in Rampachodavaram and Bhadrachalam of erstwhile Rajahmahendravaram district; northeastern Madhya Pradesh; eastern Chhattisgarh; western Jharkhand; northwestern Odisha (Kosala).[2][7] The most famous region among these was historically known as Telingana or Tilling, renamed Golconda during the Deccan sultanates period and generally known as the Godavari delta.[8] As European travelers and traders increasingly engaged in trading with producers of this region, the famed diamonds of this region came to be referred to as the "Golconda diamonds".[9][10]


Diamond mine in the Golconda region 1725 CE from the collection of Pieter van der Aa—a Dutch publisher known for preparing maps and atlases.

The peak period of the Golconda diamond mining was the 16th century–19th century CE under the Golconda Sultanate and the Nizams of Hyderabad.[8][11][12] The mines were leased under the supervision of regional governors—of whom Mir Jumla of 17th century CE was a promenient daimond trader who grew upto the position of Grand vizier (Prime Minister) of Golconda Sultanate. He established a network of diamond merchants in Europe, Africa, Middle East, Asia upto China and Malay Archipelago.[13][14][15] Shantidas Jhaveri was also a contemporary diamond trader of 17th Century CE.[16]

The mining of the Golconda diamonds occurred in alluvial soil settings, alongside river beds.[17] The depth of the mines was usually up to four fathoms (7.3 meters).[16][18] When mining reached ground water, digging was halted. Stony substances were then collected for assortment and examination to obtain diamonds.[19] The raw diamonds from the regional mines were typically then transported to the Golconda (now the western part of Hyderabad[20]) for skilled lapidary, enhancement and further evaluation and sale.[8][11][12]

The art of macle, which is a form of rough diamond used to produce jewelry, was first developed in the Golconda region.[21] Of the 38 diamond mines in India at the time, 23 were located in the Golconda Sultanate, of which the Kollur Mine was prominent where 60,000 workers were employed at once, making Golconda the "Diamond Capital" of the past.[11][22] Most of these mines were fully active until 1830 CE but were gradually abandoned as they became either submerged by the backwaters or depleted due to excessive mining. Thus mining gradually declined and finally officially closed.[23][24]

In the year 2015, research was conducted by the Centre of Exploration Geophysics (Osmania University) and by the Geological Survey of India. The research identified three zones that contain 21 new potential diamond mining sites near the delta of the Krishna and Bhima rivers, specifically in the riverbeds of the Krishna, Tungabhadra and Penna. According to the research, the sites contain volcanic pipes which probably bear Kimberlite and possibly diamonds.[25][26]


Through the centuries, Golconda region was a major trading center and the source of the world's most famous diamonds.[9] Until the end of the 19th century, it was the primary source of the finest and largest diamonds in the world, making the legendary name "Golconda diamond" synonymous with Golconda itself.[8][11][22][27][28] Golconda is trading diamonds with various European kingdoms at least since the days of Marco Polo (1254–1324 CE).[9] It was considered a point of pride by any ruler to be the owner of one of the Golconda diamonds.[29]

The top four pink diamonds of the world are from Golconda.[30] During the 1420s, Niccolò de' Conti, a prominent 15th century Italian traveler and the merchant who resided in India, had a detailed account of diamond valleys in the Golconda region.[6] The 17th-century French explorer Jean-Baptiste Tavernier reported that he was "permitted to examine" the egg-shaped Great Moghul diamond, now lost and claimed to have been cut into smaller diamonds. He reported having seen a flat diamond called the Great Table diamond in Golconda. Jean de Thévenot and François Bernier were also French traders in "Golconda diamonds".[11][31][32] Estimates are that the Golconda region had traded around 10 million carats of diamonds.[33]


Diagram of the pre-1852 cut Koh-i-Noor.[34]

Fig I. The shaded area is the base.
Fig II. A: flaw; B and C: notches cut to hold the stone in a setting; D: flaw created by fracture at E; F: fracture created by a blow; G: unpolished cleavage plane; H: basal cleavage plane.
Fig III. The opposite side shows facets and peak of the "Mountain of Light"

Golconda diamonds were popularized in the Middle East and the Western world by some of the 15th and 16th-century travelers and traders such as Niccolò de' Conti, Muhammad al-Idrisi, Marco Polo, and Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. As the exhausted diamond mines in the region produce no diamonds today, the antiques are rare and highly valued.[9][35]

The Golconda diamond fields are known for producing some of the world's most magnificent diamonds.[36] For nearly 2000 years, the mines in this region were the only source of diamonds on earth until the 17th century.[4][9][37] The Golconda diamonds have been special in history and they continue to be the modern era connoisseurs' choice because they stand high on grading standards and are devoid of nitrogen, giving the rare Type IIa designation.[9][37][38] They are large in size and most of those are known for their colourless clarity, material and some are known for their colours,[9][35][39] for which they are characterised as Diamonds of First water.[35]

Notable diamonds[edit]

Computer reconstruction of the Hope Diamond's probable earlier form, the French Blue[40][41]

Although the Golconda diamonds are known for their size and clarity, the diamond mines of the Golconda region are now depleted and inactive.[42] Later discovery of diamond deposits in regions such as Brazil post-1730 CE, Australia post-1851 CE and in Africa post-1866 CE have provided significant supplies of diamonds, even though their clarity generally do not match the Golconda diamonds.[19][43][44] For these reasons, the Golconda diamonds remain among the world's most celebrated diamonds.[9][42]

Some of the notable Golconda diamonds are: The Daria-i-Noor—(Iranian Crown Jewels collection of the Central Bank of Iran in Tehran), the Nizam Diamond—(missing from Hyderabad after a police action in 1948), the Great Mogul Diamond—(also Orlov diamond part of the Diamond Fund collection of Moscow's Kremlin Armoury), the Koh-i-Noor—(now part of the Crown Jewels in the Jewel House at the Tower of London), the Hope Diamond—housed in the National Gem and Mineral collection at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. it is also an inspiration behind the necklace "Heart of the Ocean" in the 1997 film Titanic.[45]), the Regent Diamond—(passed through the Charles X and the Napoleon Bonaparte to the French government and now part of French Crown Jewels on display in the Louvre, Paris),[23][24] the Idols Eye Diamond—(it was theft by the servant of Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II while he was in exile to Paris), it was sold in Paris to an unknown Spanish aristocrat,[46] The Florentine Yellow–(it was owned by Grand Duke Ferdinand I, later became part of Austrian Crown Jewels and now untracable),[47] and the Akbar Shah–(names of three Mughal emperors; Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan was engraved on it, later the diamond was decorated on the Peacock Throne—after Persian ruler Nader Shah lost it, the diamond appeared in Turkey for a sale and it was purchased by a British company—who later reshaped it and sold it to the Indian Prince of Baroda, Malhar Rao Gaekwad. The current possession of diamond is unknown).[48]

Popular culture[edit]

  • In 1959, the Krupp Diamond ring was robbed away from the German actress Vera Krupp (1909–1967) in a sensational robbery at her house. The diamond was recovered after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was involved. In 1967 when Vera Krupp died, in an auction the diamond was sold to actor Richard Burton in 1968 and he gifted it to his wife Elizabeth Taylor who later renamed it as the "Elizabeth Taylor Diamond".[55][56] Taylor was fond of jewelry throughout her life and owned a collection of gems and jewellery, she also published a book about her collection, My Love Affair with Jewelry, in 2002.[57][58][59]
  • On 28 July 2014, Animal Planet presented an episode “The Golconda curse" in the series Lost treasure hunters Season I.[61]


Women in the process of washing earthy substances from soil, at a site of a unnamed Golconda mine.[19]
  • According to one popular legend the Koh-i-Noor should only be possessed by a female, as it will bring bad luck to a male. Alauddin Khalji who obtained it from the Kakatiya Dynasty, was murdered by his slave. Nader Shah who looted the Koh-i-Noor from the Mughals (and named it "Koh-i-Noor") was assassinated. Shuja Shah Durrani was overthrown by his predecessor and went into exile. Ranjit Singh died of a heart stroke, and, when the diamond passed to the East India Company, it was passed on to Queen Victoria. From her, the Koh-i-Noor had been successively mounted in the crowns of Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and The Queen Mother's Crown. The crown is on public display along with the other Crown Jewels in the Jewel House at the Tower of London.[22][63][64][65][66]
  • There are legendary accounts of ill fortune and curse stories associated with the Hope diamond; Tavernier, who brought the stone to Paris was "torn to pieces by wild dogs" in Constantinople, King Louis gave it to Madame de Montespan whom later he abandoned, Sultan Hamid of Turkey gave it to Abu Sabir to "polish" but later Sabir was imprisoned and tortured. An article entitled "Hope Diamond Has Brought Trouble To All Who Have Owned It" appeared in The Washington Post in 1908.[67][68]
  • According to legend, the Regent Diamond was discovered between 1698–1701 CE at the Kollur Mine. It was then smuggled out by a slave worker who had found the diamond, by hiding it deep inside a self-inflicted cut. The slave wanted to escape from India with the diamond, and so he contacted the captain of a British ship. Both agreed to a term to share equally in the proceeds from the sale of the diamond in exchange for safe passage. Later the captain stole the diamond and killed the slave and sold the diamond to an Indian merchant "Jamchand". Jamchand allegedly sold it to Thomas Pitt who in turn sold it to Philippe d’Orléans.[69]
  • According to pervasive folklore narrated by Marco Polo from his 13th century visits to the region, the diamond valley was replete with venomous snakes, making it dangerous to obtain the diamonds. Thus the diamond traders took a herd of cattle to the hilltop near to the diamond valley. Then, after slaughtering the cattle, the cow flesh was catapulted towards the diamond valley so that it became stuck to the precious stones, which in turn were picked by eagles and vultures which carried the conglomeration to their nests to feed. The stones remained after the birds consumed the flesh, allowing the stones to be tracked and collected by the local merchants' workers.[6][70] According to "Jean R. Brink", who authored "Renaissance Culture in Context: Theory and Practice" (2017), this legend is repeated in many medieval Arabic and Chinese literary works. It was also repeated by Marco Polo who visited the region's capital Warangal (then ruled by the Kakatiya dynasty). However, Marco Polo he did not visit the exact mining sites.[71]

See also[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ The term Golconda mines originally denoted those (Kollur, Paritala, and other regional mines) that were mined during the Qutub Shahi period and continued until the time of the British Raj. The Deccan Sultanate of Qutub Shahis was known as Golconda Sultanate. Vajrakarur (in the present-day Anantapur district) was a mine of later times and Amaragiri (present-day Kollapur, Mahbubnagar district) was not known until much later.


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External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]