Skip to page content

Press release

Indian gem Koh-i-Noor recreated for Diamonds Exhibition

8 July 2005 – 26 February 2006
Media Preview: 7 July 2005

The Natural History Museum is revealing the famous Koh-i-noor diamond as it was first presented to Queen Victoria in 1850. The 186.1-carat Indian Mogul cut white diamond amazed its viewers as one of the largest diamonds ever seen. Now, in collaboration with Museum mineralogists, American gem artist John Nels Hatleberg has taken five months to faithfully recreate the replica. It will go on display in Diamonds, opening at the Natural History Museum on 8 July 2005.

The Koh-i-Noor, meaning ‘mountain of light’, is one of the oldest known and most coveted diamonds in the world. First recorded in India during the fifteenth century, it has passed through the hands of Mogul rulers, emperors, Sikh kings and British queens, and resided in countries, including India, Persia, Afghanistan, and England.  When the diamond went on show at the Great Exhibition of 1851, thousands queued to see it.

An original plaster cast of the stone, taken before its public display, has been in the Natural History Museum’s collection for more than 150 years. Until now, the cast was the most accurate visual record of the Koh-i-Noor from before Prince Albert had it recut into an oval brilliant weighing 108.93 carats. John Nels Hatleberg used the Museum’s model to create a map or cutting plot showing every facet of the diamond. By traditional methods of hand faceting he painstakingly recreated the Koh-i-Noor from natural and synthetic materials.

‘Within the world of diamonds, the Koh-i-Noor above all others demands to be regarded in the realm of the fantastic,’ said John Nels Hatleberg. ‘For 14 years it has been my quest to recreate the original Koh-i-Noor, and I am thrilled it will now receive its first showing at the Diamonds exhibition in London’.

Diamonds will explore one of nature’s great miracles. Showcasing some of the world’s most beautiful and spectacular white and coloured diamonds the exhibition tells the story of this remarkable stone, from deep in the Earth to the red carpet. In the biggest ever diamonds exhibition, it will be the first time such extraordinary stones as the De Beers Millennium Star, the Allnatt and the Steinmetz Pink will be displayed together. Diamonds has been made possible by the generous support of principal sponsor Steinmetz, with additional support from the Diamond Trading Company. This dazzling event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see such an astonishing array of important diamonds in one exhibition.

The original Koh-i-Noor design

When the original Koh-i-Noor arrived in London, it was considered primitive, yet the Indian Mogul cut is very complicated.

  • standard brilliant-cut diamonds have 57 facets
  • the original Koh-i-Noor had 200 facets – four times more than 99 per cent of cut diamonds
  • there were 30 instances where six facets met in one point, and 24 instances where five facets met in one point – hence the name ‘mountain of light’
  • standard brilliant-cut diamonds do not have six facets meeting in one point
  • standard brilliant-cut diamonds today have eight instances of five facets meeting in one point.
  • the original diamond was intended to be worn on an armlet to catch the light


Notes for editors

  • The actual Koh-i-Noor can be seen in the Maltese Cross, in a crown made in 1937 for the Queen Mother, on display at the Tower of London.
  • John Nels Hatleberg is a conceptual gem artist and the world authority on creating exact replicas of famous diamonds such as the Hope, Eureka, Incomparable, De Beers Millennium Star, Steinmetz Pink and Heart of Eternity. The New York Foundation for the Arts has awarded him special grant status towards realising a life dream of working with the Koh-i-Noor.
  • Winner of the 2004 Large Visitor Attraction of the Year award, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in 68 countries. The Museum is committed to encouraging public engagement with science. This has been greatly enhanced by the Darwin Centre, a major new initiative, which offers visitors unique access behind the scenes of the Museum. Phase One of the project opened to the public in 2002 and Phase Two is scheduled to open in 2008.
  • With seven decades of expertise in the diamond industry, Steinmetz has interests ranging from cutting, polishing and manufacturing, jewellery and e-tail. Known for its unique approach to marketing, the group has promoted the glamour of diamonds at various events such as the Oscars, the Baftas, the Smithsonian Institute of Natural History and the Monaco Grand Prix. Steinmetz has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, with offices around the world. Two of the most famous diamonds created by Steinmetz are the 203.04-carat, internally flawless De Beers Millennium Star and the Steinmetz Pink – a 59.60-carat, flawless fancy vivid pink diamond.
  • The Diamond Trading Company (DTC) is the sales and marketing arm of the De Beers Group, and the world’s largest source of rough diamonds handling approximately half the world’s supply. Recognised around the world by its famous advertising promise ‘A Diamond is Forever’, the DTC has a passion and commitment to diamonds and to consumers. As part of the De Beers Group, the DTC is involved in the life of a diamond from the moment it is discovered in the earth. It uses its 115 years of diamond expertise and marketing knowledge to help consumers feel more confident when making their diamond purchase. In addition, the DTC has developed significant initiatives to improve the diamond industry’s standards of operation ensuring ethical and professional practices are upheld at all times, and that there is a lasting contribution to the communities in which they operate.

For further information and images, please contact:
Sarah Hoyle, Becky Chetley, Alison Enticknap or Mairi Allan
Tel: 020 7942 5654/07799 690 151