British Columbia

Camilla won't be wearing the Koh-i-Noor diamond. This Vancouver artist wants the royals to give it back

A Vancouver-based artist is getting attention for a mural he painted depicting the controversial Koh-i-Noor diamond. 

Queen Consort will wear a recycled crown for the coronation that will not feature the diamond

Artist Jessie Sohpaul is photographed wearing a black and white plaid shirt over a black t-shirt standing in front of his mural ‘Kohinoor, where are you?’ off of Main Street in Vancouver, B.C.
Artist Jessie Sohpaul stands in front of his mural, Kohinoor, where are you?, off Main Street in Vancouver on Feb. 15, 2023. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A Vancouver-based artist is getting attention for a mural he painted in 2022 depicting the controversial Koh-i-Noor diamond. 

On Tuesday, Buckingham Palace announced that Queen Mary's Crown will be used for the coronation of Camilla, the Queen Consort at Westminster Abbey — but without the Koh-i-Noor diamond.

The name of the diamond is also spelled Kohinoor and Koh-i-Nur.

Jessie Sohpaul, the artist behind the Kohinoor, where are you? mural, says he believes the British monarchy might not want to spark conversations about the rightful owner of the diamond — but the opposite could happen instead. 

"I think it might even spark more conversation, now that she's not going to be wearing it," he said. 

A mural titled ‘Kohinoor, where are you?’ off of Main Street in Vancouver, B.C.
The 35-feet long mural is located in Vancouver's Punjabi Market on Main and 49th Streets, in the back alley behind AC Jewellers. The diamond is at the centre, and the word 'Kohinoor' in English and Punjabi are painted at the top left and bottom right. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Sohpaul's 35-feet long mural, located in Vancouver's Punjabi Market on Main Street at 49th Avenue, in the back alley behind HC Jewellers, has the diamond in the centre and the word 'Kohinoor' in both English and Punjabi painted at the top and bottom. 

It also features two Sikh men on both ends, wearing turbans, facing the street. 

"The idea of having the Koh-i-Noor in the centre and the men facing away from it … tells the story of how the Koh-i-Noor is 'missing'. The British have it now," he said.

"So that was the kind of idea. It's not in South Asian or Indian hands."

History of the Koh-i-Noor

Sohpaul says he wanted to paint the mural in a location that would be symbolic to the community and get people interested in the diamond's history. 

"Koh-i-Noor is one of the diamonds that every Punjabi, Indian, Pakistani household knows about, you know, the infamous diamond that was stolen," he said. 

WATCH: Return of the Koh-i-Noor would be a 'powerful' gesture, says muralist: 

Vancouver muralist on returning Koh-i-noor diamond to India

3 months ago
Duration 1:19
Jessie Sohpaul, the artist behind the ‘Kohinoor, where are you?’ mural, says the British monarchy should return the diamond to correct some of its colonial wrongs.

The Koh-i-Noor is believed to have been mined sometime in the 13th or 14th century, and was owned by various Indian rulers before falling into the hands of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century.

It remained in the Mughal empire until the mid-18th century, when it was taken by the Persian ruler Nadir Shah. It then changed hands several times before coming into the possession of the Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh in the early 19th century. 

The British East India Company is known to have eventually seized it from Ranjith Singh's 11-year-old son, Duleep Singh, in 1849 and presented it to Queen Victoria. It has remained a part of the British Crown Jewels ever since.

"The British will say it wasn't stolen, it was written in a treaty," Sohpaul says. "But that treaty was kind of forced upon Duleep Singh, the last rightful owner of the Koh-i-Noor."

The Koh-i-Noor's ownership has been a subject of controversy, Sohpaul says, as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran have claimed rights to it, due to their ties pre-partition. 

Though the return of the diamond would not undo colonial Britain's wrongs, Sohapaul believes it would be a "powerful" gesture by the monarchy in acknowledging its past.

WATCH: The history behind Britain's possession of the Koh-i-Noor diamond: 

Was one of the largest cut diamonds in the world taken from a young child by the British? Stuff the British Stole

6 months ago
Duration 2:21
The Koh-i-noor diamond belonged by Maharaja Duleep Singh but is now embedded in a royal family crown.

"There are a lot of people that don't get educated on this topic and I think this would start that sort of conversation, how we can kind of move forward based on the histories of the colonial past," he said.

The Buckingham Palace has announced that the Queen Consort is to wear a recycled crown for the coronation with some minor changes that will pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II, as the Crown will be reset with the Cullinan III, IV and V diamonds.

"The choice of Queen Mary's Crown by Her Majesty is the first time in recent history that an existing crown will be used for the Coronation of a Consort instead of a new commission being made, in the interests of sustainability and efficiency," the palace said in a statement.


Priya Bhat is a journalist at CBC Vancouver. You can contact her at

With files from All Points West