As part of their ‘Cost Of The Crown’ series, investigating the British Royal Family’s wealth and finances, The Guardian has extracted a 46 page report from the Indian government which provided details of jewelry and other precious items stolen by the colonial British Empire during their reign over the sub-continent. Most of the gifts were handed over as gifts to Queen Victoria, the reigning monarch at the time.

The investigation was commanded by the late Queen Elizabeth II’s grandmother, Queen Mary, to find out about the origins of her jewels.

The report details the names of the jewels as well as their colonial origins and how they were stolen by the East India Company.


1 Koh-i-Noor

The legendary diamond Koh-i-Noor was taken from Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s kitty. The ruler of Lahorr had signed a treaty of friendship with the British in 1831, and six years later the then Governer-General of India, George Eden, and his sister, Fanny, visited him at his palace. The Guardian writes that Fanny had later written about Singh’s diamond collection, detailing how he decorated his horses with the finest diamonds she had ever seen:

“If ever we are allowed to plunder this kingdom, I shall go straight to their stables.”

in 1849, Singh and his heir, Duleep, were forced to sign over Punjab to the British army, who stole all of his jewels as a part of their conquest, along with the Koh-i-Noor.

The diamond is part of the Imperial Collection, imbedded into Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother’s crown, worn by consorts.

2 The Timur Ruby gemstone

Named after Timur, the founder of Timurind Empire in Central Asia, the gemstone is etched with the names of the five men who owned it: Jahangir (1569-1627), the 4th Mughal Emperor, Shah Jehan (1592-1666), the 5th Mughal Emperor, Farrukhsiyar (1685-1719), the 10th Mughal Emperor; Nader Shah (1688-1747), Shah of Iran; and Ahmad Shah Durrani (1722-1772), King of Afghanistan.

By 1813, the gemstone was under the possession of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who ruled over the Sikh Empire, and later was passed down to his heir Maharaja Sher Singh. From there, the necklace was inherited by his brother Duleep Singh, who became Maharaja when he was only five years old.

During 1948- 49, when the British Empire waged wars over the Sikh Empire, the East India Company took over Punjab and forced the then ten-year-old Maharaja to hand over his possessions. Duleep Singh was placed under a Scottish guardian, isolated from contacting his fellow countrymen.

3 Pearl necklace

Comprising of 244 pearls and a clasp of two magnificent rubies, the necklace had originally belonged to a ruler in Punjab, until it was stolen by the British. Queen Elizabeth II was spotted wearing this necklace at the Royal Opera House in London to celebrate her diamond jubilee.

4 Emerald girdle of Maharaja Sher Singh

The gold girdle inlaid with 19 emeralds first came to the public’s attention during Buckingham Palace’s celebration of Prince Charles’ 70th birthday, with a display of his favorite pieces from the royal collection. The item had previously belonged to an Indian Maharaja, Sher Singh, who used it to decorate his precious horses.