Every year, two and half million visitors gain paid admission to the Tower of London to see Britain’s most visited heritage attraction, the Crown Jewels. The Keeper of the Jewels attests that managing these tours is a 50 million euro-a-year business. As a result of these crowds, we can assume that millions of people have set eyes on the Queen Mother Elizabeth’s crown, made in 1937. This crown does not have the largest gem among the crowns of the Royal Collection, nor did a sovereign ever own it. Yet the crown provides a setting for one of the collection’s most famous diamonds in recent centuries. The Kohinoor Diamond, brought to Britain from India in 1850, has been well known throughout the Western world, having been described in both historical accounts and literary texts.1 This diamond is one of the diamonds on which the fictional Moonstone is modeled in Wilkie Collins’s novel, The Moonstone.2 Because the Kohinoor Diamond has been exhibited to the public from the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851 until today, this diamond plays a major role in interpreting Collins’s novel The Moonstone: Collins uses the dynamic contrast between the history of the Kohinoor Diamond and the fictional Moonstone Diamond to challenge the British cultural practice of building and maintaining empire. The final placement of the two diamondsthe historical Kohinoor Diamond with the British Crown Jewels and the fictional

1 The Kohinoor Diamond has also been called the “Mountain of Light.” For recent nonfictional discussions of the Kohinoor Diamond, see Ian Balfour, Famous Diamonds, 5th edn (Antique Collectors Club, 2009) 164-84; Katherine Prior and John Adamson, Maharajas’ Jewels (New York: The Vendome Press, 2000) 71-4; Kevin Rushby, Chasing the Mountain of Light: Across India on the Trail of the Kohinoor Diamond (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000); Patrick Voillot, Diamonds and Precious Stones (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998) 32-4. For a transatlantic example in literature, Thoreau counts on his reading audience to know about the Kohinoor Diamond; he refers to it in Walden to contrast the translucent gem with nature’s translucent waters: “White Pond and Walden are great crystals on the surface of the earth, Lakes of Light. If they were … small enough to be clutched, they would … be carried off by slaves, like precious stones, to adorn the heads of emperors; but being liquid, and ample, and secured to us and our successors forever, we disregard them, and run after the diamond of Kohinoor. They are too pure to have a market value; they contain no muck” (247).