Cursed Stones: VOL. 2
In honor of the conclusion of stories a decade in the making, I thought it would be fun to revisit an older series I listed before. These are real gemstones that have storied histories, sometimes involving theft and murder, and all of which are considered to be truly cursed. How will Avengers: Endgame turn out? We will find out soon enough. But in the meantime, you can find out what happened to these gems, and learn more about the legends that surround them. The six gemstones are broken into two volumes of three stories, because it is always safer to keep them all apart, as Thanos has demonstrated.
The Sancy Diamond is a pear-shaped double rose cut diamond weighing 55.23 carats, and while it may appear to be white, it has a pale-yellow tint. This diamond has traveled through the hands of numerous kings and queens and is arguably one of the most famous historical diamonds. Despite being rumored to carry a curse for disappearing and reappearing many years later, it left quite a mark on several royal family members and was even believed to grant special powers of invincibility to those who wore it as jewelry.
The stone was alleged by some sources to have first belonged to the Moguls, but is more likely Indian origin owing to its cut, which is unusual by Western standards. Other sources report that the diamond may have first owned by the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, who supposedly lost the famous stone during a battle in 1477. The next citing of this stone was in Portugal, during the Spanish occupation, when a thief by the name D. António fled the country with a huge chunk of Portuguese Crown jewels in tow.
Nicolas Harlay de Sancy, an avid gem collector who would later become a French Ambassador to Turkey, bought the diamond in Constantinople in 1570, likely from António directly. To curry favor with the monarchy, Sancy allowed the diamond to be used in a setting in a crown for King Henry III, who wanted to distract from his balding hairline.
During the reign of Henry IV, Sancy was made Minister of Finance and the King ‘borrowed’ the diamond as collateral for a substantial loan to hire soldiers. A messenger was dispatched with the jewel but never reached his destination. He was followed by thieves en route who murdered him in search of treasure. The King’s men policed the area and when the body was discovered, and knowing that the man was loyal, Sancy made a search of the body and the diamond was found in the messenger’s stomach; he had swallowed it to prevent the thieves from stealing it.
In 1604, Sancy sold the diamond to James I of England, who wore the stone as a good luck charm. In 1605, James I was a target of the Gunpowder Plot, when a group of Catholics planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament during a ceremony while James was in the building. The diamond remained in English royal hands for years, passing from James I to Charles I.
In 1644, to raise money for his fledging monarchy, Charles I sent his wife to France to sell some of England’s crown jewels. She “pawned” the jewels, including the Sancy Diamond, to the Duke of Épernon. When the English monarchy defaulted on the loan, the Duke forgave the debt and kept the stones. Eventually, the Duke sold the diamond to Cardinal Jules Mazarin, who had already accumulated quite a collection of diamonds. Upon Mazarin’s death his impressive collection passed into the French Crown Jewels.
The Sancy again disappeared during the French Revolution, when the Royal Treasury was raided and the diamond was stolen, along with the Regent diamond and the Hope diamond. The stone reappeared in 1828 and was sold by a French merchant to Prince Anatole Demidoff of Russia. It remained in the Demidov family collection until 1865 when it was sold to Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, an Indian prince. In turn, he sold it only one year later, creating another gap in its history. It reappeared in 1867, displayed at the Paris Exposition, then vanished again for forty years.
The Sancy next surfaced in 1906 when bought by William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor, from famous Russian collector A.K. Rudanovsky. The Astor family possessed it for 72 years until the 4th Viscount Astor sold it to the Louvre for $1 million in 1978. It's now on exhibit at the museum's Apollo Gallery, where it was reunited with the Regent diamond.
The 186-carat gem, whose name means ‘Mountain of Light’ in Persian, was mined in India around 1100. The alleged curse dates back to a Hindu about the diamond in 1306 reading: “He who owns this diamond will own the world, but will also know all its misfortunes. Only God, or a woman, can wear it with impunity.” Because its history involves a great deal of fighting between men, the Koh-i-Noor acquired a reputation within the British royal family for bringing bad luck to any man who wears it.
Broken historical reports date the diamond traveling between the Slave, Khilji, Tughlag, Sayyid and Lodi dynasties between 1200 and 1300, all brief reigns ending with war and violence. The Rajah of Malwa was forced to give the diamond to the rulers of the Kakatiy Empire, which fell 20 years later, and the diamond was taken by the Sultan of Delhi. The stone would be passed through various Muslim dynasties for the next 200 years until India was invaded in the early 1500’s and the stone fell to Mughal possession.
It appears again in written record in 1628, when Mughal ruler Shah Jahan commissioned a magnificent gemstone-encrusted throne. Inspired by the fabled throne of Solomon, the throne took seven years to make, costing four times as much as the Taj Mahal. Among the stones that adorned the throne were two particularly enormous gems; the Timur Ruby and the Koh-i-Noor diamond. The diamond was lodged at the very top of the throne, in the head of a glistening gemstone peacock.
When the Shah of Persia invaded Delhi in 1739, the ensuing carnage cost tens of thousands of lives. The treasury was ransacked, with the victorious army requiring 700 elephants, 4,000 camels and 12,000 horses to pull it all back home. The Shah took the Peacock Throne as part of his treasure, but removed the Timur Ruby and the Koh-i-Noor diamond to wear on an armband. After the Shah was assassinated and his empire collapsed in 1747, the diamond passed to his successors, each were dethroned and ritually blinded, a custom at the time to render an enemy powerless and make him a burden on his community.
In 1751 the stone was given it to Ahmad Shah Durrani, founder of the Afghan Empire. One of Ahmed's descendants, formed an alliance with the United Kingdom to help defend against a possible invasion of Afghanistan by Russia, but was quickly overthrown. He fled with the diamond to Lahore, where Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh Empire insisted upon the gem being given to him in repayment for his hospitality in 1813. Ranjit Singh willed the diamond to Hindu Jagannath Temple in Puri, but his will was not executed as the kingdom was formally annexed to East India Company rule, officially ceding the Koh-i-Noor to Queen Victoria.
1850, the jewel was sealed in a small iron safe to be sent via to England for presentation to Queen Victoria I. An outbreak of cholera on board when the ship was in Mauritius had the locals demanding its departure, and they asked their governor to open fire on the vessel and destroy it if there was no response. Shortly afterwards, the vessel was hit by a severe gale that blew for some 12 hours.
In 1852 Prince Albert ordered that the Koh-i-Noor diamond to be re-cut from 186 carats to its current 105 carats thus increasing its brilliance. The Koh-i-Noor diamond was mounted in a tiara with more than two thousand other diamonds. The Koh-i-Noor diamond was then used as the center piece of the crowns of the Queen consorts to the British Kings. The Queen Consorts Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary wore the crowns.
Today, the diamond is on public display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London, where it is seen by millions of visitors each year. The governments of India, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan have all claimed rightful ownership of the Koh-i-Noor and demanded its return ever since India gained independence from the UK in 1947. The British government insists the gem was obtained legally under the terms of the Last Treaty of Lahore and has rejected the claims.
The Black Orlov, originally a larger uncut 195 carat diamond, was unearthed in India during the early 1800s. Despite its name and its smoky dark appearance, diamond is actually a deep, gunmetal gray in color. According to lore surrounding the Black Orlov, the diamond was stolen from a sacred shrine in southern Indian city of Pondicherry. The stone was allegedly removed from the eye of a statue of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, wisdom, and magic.
The thief was said to have been a traveling monk who caused the curse to come upon any owner of the diamond because it was stolen. His final whereabouts were never known although some stories suggest he had been murdered and the diamond had been stolen. From there, the stone was passed from merchant to merchant, sold over and over again for many years.
The diamond was later acquired by the Russian princess Nadezhda Orlov, whom the stone was named after. During the 1917 Russian revolution, Princess Nadia fled Russia to the safety of Rome, with the diamond in her possession. In 1947, Princess Nadia leaped to her death from a building in central Rome, in what was believed to have been a suicide.
Around that same time, another member of Russian royalty, Princess Leonila Viktorovna-Bariatinsky had leaped to her death, in what again was believed to have been a suicide. Few details were available about her life at the time of her fatal jump, although it was later discovered that she had also been the owner of the Black Orlov Diamond.
In 1932, the diamond had been sold and found its way to the United States, imported by a European diamond dealer named J.W. Paris who was in search of a buyer. Little is known about J.W. Paris but within a week of arriving in New York he had sold the diamond. Shortly thereafter, that same year, he made his way to the top of a Manhattan skyscraper in the heart of 5th Avenue and jumped to his death. It is rumored that he had been suffering from anxiety due to business worries and that two letters were found in his possession at the time of his death; one addressed to his wife and the other to a fellow jeweler, but no details regarding the content of these were ever made public.
In the 1950s, an attempt was made to finally break the curse when the diamond was re-cut by an Austrian jeweler, at the request of its then owner. The cutting itself took two years but it was deemed a successful venture in terms of shedding the precious stone of its demons. The diamond has since passed through the hands of several private dealers, none of whom seem to have been affected by the curse. The 67.50-carat Black Orlov currently sits in a 108-diamond brooch, suspended from a 124-diamond necklace, and has been displayed at several museums, including the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and London's Natural History Museum.