Diamonds and jewels may be beautiful; however, they have their fair share of horror stories, too. When it comes to some of the world’s renowned gemstones, it seems that with sparkle, often, comes superstition as the origin and, sometimes, even the whereabouts of many famous gems, including the Koh-i-Noor Diamond and infamous Star of India, is draped in danger, mystery and myth.
Below, discover the stories behind some of the world’s most formidable precious stones.
French merchant Jean Baptiste Tavernier purchased what is now known as the grey-blue Hope Diamond from a diamond mine in Golconda, southern India, in the 17th-century. Originally, it was an 112.19-carat diamond, however, in 1668, King Louis XIV of France purchased the diamond and had it re-cut and set in gold, creating a faceted 45.52-carat diamond measuring one-inch by 0.8 inches.
According to Washington’s Smithsonian Museum, where the stone resides, after the execution of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in 1793, the diamond, along with other jewels was stolen from the French Royal Treasury before ending up in the hands of England’s King George IV. On his death in 1830, the diamond was sold to cover King George IV’s enormous debts before being owned by Henry Philip Hope and his family, from whom it derives its name. Eventually, the Hope family had to sell the diamond to help pay their debts, which is when it ended up with New York’s Joseph Frankel’s Sons & Co. Although, as expected, they too then had to sell the diamond to cover their debts, and so on and so forth as the gem continued to be purchased and sold to cover varying debts, including those of mining heiress and socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean, whose family owned the Washington Post newspaper. At one point, the diamond fell into the hands of Pierre Cartier, grandson of Jacques-Théodule Cartier who was the founder of the now world-famous jewellery brand, Cartier.
It is due to the financial misfortunes of its owners that many consider the Hope Diamond “cursed”, bringing debt wherever it goes. Although, thankfully, the Smithsonian has steered clear of the curse.
A hot topic of discussion in both UK and international politics, the British own the Koh-i-Noor Diamond which makes up part of the monarchy crown displayed at the Tower of London; however, somewhat famously, the Indian government continue to lobby for its return to its country of origin.
Upon extraction from the Kollur mine in Golconda, southern India, the Koh-i-Noor Diamond was an immense 739 carats. Once cut, the diamond emerged a whopping 105.6 carats and with a striking faceted finish. According to Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire, someone stole the Koh-i-Noor Diamond from the Rajah of Malwa in 1306, and it went on being traded and owned and fought for by various rulers, including those of Hindu, Mongolian, and Persian persuasion, until the 19th-century. In 1849, the diamond was acquired by the British as a gift to Queen Victoria.
According to Hindu texts, “he who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God or woman can wear it with impunity.” Consequently, only women have worn the gem, including Queen Alexandra of Denmark, Queen Elizabeth, and the Queen Mother.
In 2010, then British prime minister David Cameron made an announcement that the Koh-i-Noor Diamond would be ‘staying put’ in the UK and, to this day, there’s no sign that it’s going anywhere.
Believed to curse anyone that handles it illegally, the Blue Diamond is one of real mystery, and its whereabouts are not currently known. Reports say, in 1989, a Thai cleaner working at the Saudi royal family’s palace made his way into Prince Faisal bin Fahd’s room and stole a large amount of jewellery, including the Blue Diamond. Apparently, the jewels were stored in the dust bag of the cleaner’s vacuum cleaner and then smuggled out of the palace before, in part, being sold illegally on the black market. Horrifyingly, many Saudi diplomats and businessmen involved in the search for the Blue Diamond, as well as other jewels stolen during the robbery, have inexplicably disappeared or ended up dead. Police have recovered some of the jewellery; however, the Blue Diamond is still out there.
Coming in at a whopping 563.35 carats, the Star of India is a sapphire cabochon with instantly recognisable, natural star-shaped pattern adorning its surface. It is the largest sapphire ever found.
The Star of India came to light in Sri Lanka in the early 18th-century. In 1900, American industrialist J.P. Morgan donated the stone to New York’s Museum of Natural History, however, in 1964, a group of thieves stole the gem from the museum, entering through a bathroom window they had left on the latch during the day. At the time, the Star of India was the only exhibit protected by an alarm; however, the system failed thanks to a faulty battery. Just a couple of days after the heist had taken place, police arrested the thieves and, a few months later, the stone turned up in a locker at a Miami bus station. Today, the Star of India remains on display at the American Museum of Natural History.
Despite their beauty, it seems that many of the world’s jewels and, in particular, its diamonds all hold mysterious and, often, dangerous pasts. If you’re one for mystery, you may want to find out more about other worldly jewels with haunting histories, including the misleading Black Prince’s Ruby and “cursed” Delhi Purple Sapphire. Also, find out more about the Orlov diamonds which are thought to have been stolen from statues of ancient Hindu gods and now bring only back luck to their owners.