Indian government officials said Tuesday they will seek to retrieve a 105-carat diamond that was given as a gift to Queen Victoria in 1850, when India was a British colony.
The priceless Koh-i-Noor Diamond now sits on display as part of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London. Ownership of the diamond is much disputed, and at least four countries, including India, have claimed the jewel in the past.
During a hearing in the Supreme Court Monday, India’s solicitor general surprised and outraged many Indians when he said the diamond belonged to Britain and should not be returned to India. He said the diamond was a gift, and not stolen like many Indians believe to be the case.
"It was given voluntarily by Ranjit Singh to the British as compensation for help in the Sikh Wars. The Koh-i-Noor is not a stolen object," Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar said.
In response, India’s Ministry of Culture released a statement late Tuesday indicating that Kumar’s comments didn’t reflect the official stance of the government.
"The government of India wishes to put on record that certain news items appearing in the press regarding the Koh-i-Noor Diamond are not based on facts,” the statement read. "[The government]... further reiterates its resolve to make all possible efforts to bring back the Koh-i-Noor Diamond in an amicable manner.”
The government called the stone a “valued piece of art with strong roots in our nation’s history” and added that Prime Minister Narenda Modi has successfully recovered three other historical artifacts from Australia, Canada and Germany since he took office in 2014.
Prior to her death in 2002, the mother of Britain's Queen Elizabeth wore the diamond in her crown. The Duchess of Cambridge, wife of Prince William, will wear the same crown on official occasions when she becomes queen consort. Prince William is second in line to the British throne.