Diabolical Diamonds: Cursed Gems That Are to Die ForOct 16th, 2018
Here at Koerber’s we love a scary story, especially when it involves our favorite thing – jewelry! That’s why every Halloween, we dig through our treasure trove of terrible tales to bring you the creepiest stories we can. This year, we’re turning our attention to two diabolical diamonds that have bloody histories to share.
The Koh-i-Noor Diamond – Now set into Queen Elizabeth’s crown as part of the British Crown Jewels, the Koh-i-Noor diamond is second only to the Hope Diamond for nasty notoriety. Why the Queen’s crown and not the King’s? Well that’s just part of the legend.
The Koh-i-Noor, Persian for “Mountain of Light” was originally discovered in India, where it served various Indian dynasties for many years. The earliest known mention of the gem was in 1526 when Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire, received the stone as a tribute for his conquest of Delhi and Agra.
More than 100 years later, the Koh-i-Noor resurfaces in Shah Jahan’s ornate Peacock Throne. However, before Shah Jahan – also the man behind the Taj Mahal – could rest on his laurels, his son usurped the throne and had his father imprisoned. The Koh-i-Noor began to develop a reputation for changing hands amidst violence and upheaval.
Fast forward to 1739, and Delhi is invaded by Nader Shah. During his occupation of Delhi, the treasury of the Mughal Empire was raided, and during this looting the Koh-i-Noor diamond changed hands yet again. Again, the diamond is found at the center of political discord, and when Nader Shah’s empire collapsed in 1747, the Koh-i-Noor fell to his grandson.
The diamond then changed hands a number of times, regularly being used to seal pacts and treaties in an attempt to stem the flow of blood that seemed to follow it wherever it went. Any time a man tried to wear the Koh-i-Noor, misfortune followed. That is, until 1849, when the diamond changed owners yet again. According to the Last Treaty of Lahore, following the end of the Second Anglo-Sikh War, “The gem called the Koh-i-Noor...shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England.”
Even the gem’s trip to England was marked by misfortune, with an outbreak of cholera and terrible storms that lasted for hours at a time. In fact, the diamond nearly didn’t make it onto the ship to England at all, after being forgotten in a waistcoat pocket for six months. It was only rescued when a valet found what he thought was a glass paperweight while doing the laundry.
Since 1850, the Koh-i-Noor has been part of the Crown Jewels, formally in the possession of Her Majesty, the Queen of England. And why? Supposedly it carries a Hindu curse that says only a woman can wear the stone safely, while any male who wears it will “know its misfortunes.”
The Black Orlov Diamond – Few things send shudders down a jeweler’s spine like the words Black Orlov. The origins of the diamond are as murky as its gun-metal hue, but legend has it that the Black Orlov was originally serving as one of the eyes in a statue of Brahma, Hindu god of creation, which stood in a shrine in Pondicherry, India. Uncut and weighing in at 195 carats, the stone caught the attention of a traveling Jesuit monk. The monk couldn’t stay his hand – he stole the gem and, as a result, called down a curse.
For many years, the Black Orlov was shrouded in secrecy, lying in wait. However, in 1932 it found its way to the United States, imported by European diamond dealer, J.W. Paris. Few details are known about Mr. Paris’s life, however it is known that within a week of arriving in New York, the jeweler sold the diamond, climbed to the top of a Manhattan skyscraper, and jumped to his death. As his blood covered the 5th Avenue sidewalk, Mr. Paris became the first recorded victim of the Black Orlov curse.
From there, the diamond entered into the possession of the mysterious Princess Leonila Viktorovna-Bariatinsky. While little else is known about Princess Leonila’s life, it is well documented that she took her own life by climbing to the top of a tower and jumping to her death.
The now-infamous diamond then traveled to Rome, Italy, to the ownership of Princess Nadia Vygin-Orlov, a Russian heiress. During the 1917 Russian Revolution, Princess Nadia fled Russia to the safety of Italy, where she lived out the remainder of her days. However, not all those days were to be happy. On December 2, 1947, she climbed to the top of a building in central Rome and jumped to her death. Thus Princess Nadia became another victim of the diamond’s dastardly curse, and the diamond secured its name – The Black Orlov.
Later, the Black Orlov was acquired by Charles F. Winston, who cut the stone into three pieces in an attempt to break the curse and honor the three victims of its blood lust. It has been set into a brooch of 108 diamonds, and suspended from a necklace of 124 diamonds. In 2004, the Black Orlov was purchased by diamond dealer Dennis Petimezas who says he’s “pretty confident that the curse is broken.”
It seems only time will tell.
Love spooky stories? Don’t miss last year’s Halloween blog, featuring even more cursed gems throughout history!