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What are the Most Cursed Diamonds in the World? The Orlov Part 2

In the spirit of the spookiest month of the year, we are running a series of articles exploring the world’s most cursed diamonds. This post is devoted to the infamous Black Orlov Diamond, and its counterpart, the White Orlov. Both diamonds were said to have been stolen from the eye of an Indian idol, but only one of them has been involved in multiple suicides…

There are two historical diamonds associated with the name ‘Orlov’ and each has its own complicated history and supernatural legends. The White Orlov diamond has a rich and varied history, much of which is shrouded in legend. While not ‘cursed’ in the way that brings bad luck to its owner, this diamond has mystical associations and its ownership has been fraught with deceit and drama. The Black Orlov diamond is a black diamond whose history shows remarkable similarities to the white Orlov, but has a more classic curse which brings death and misfortune to all who possess it. It is also known as the Eye of Brahma.

The white Orlov is now part of the Diamond Fund of the Moscow Kremlin. The Kremlin

The White Orlov Diamond
The White Orlov Diamond

lists it as weighing an incredible 189.62 ct, but this is technically an estimate as it has not been officially weighed for many years. It is cut in a modified rose-cut, and it’s shaped has been described like half an egg. The cut features a flat back, with facets rising up to a point in on the top of the diamond. This was how most diamonds were cut before many of the modern cut styles were developed. The Orlov is one of the few historical diamonds that has not been re-cut in a more modern brilliant style.

There are many myths surrounding the Orlov’s origin and history. One story is that the diamond was once an eye in a statue of a deity in southern India. The statue was located in the heart of a private, secure temple with seven enclosures. No Christian was ever allowed past the fourth enclosure. A French deserter supposedly gained access to the inner temple by pretending to worship there for years. Once he had proven himself and was able to enter the center enclosure, he stole the diamond. Around 1750, the deserter fled to find protection and a buyer with the British army. Whether this origin story is true or not, the diamond was originally from India and did come to Europe in the mid-1700s.

The diamond passed through the hands of many merchants, and eventually found itself in Amsterdam, where Count Grigory Grigorievich Orlov purchased it. This owner gave the diamond its name. Count Orlov ended up giving the diamond to Catherine the Great of Russia in an effort to regain her affections after she ended their years-long affair. She had her royal jewelers create a scepter which prominently featured the Orlov diamond. It has stayed in this setting until today.

The Black Orlov diamond’s story follows a similar trajectory. The following are several

The Black Orlov Diamond
The Black Orlov Diamond

stories about the diamond’s history. Its journey started in India, where it was said to have be an eye in a statue of the Hindu deity Brahma (hence the alternative name “The Eye of Brahma”).  It was stolen from a temple in Pondicherry by a monk. This way of removal from the temple is supposedly what caused the curse upon any owner of the diamond.

Statue of Brahma
Statue of Brahma, courtesy of kings 1912

Eventually the diamond came into the possession of the diamond dealer J.W. Paris, who committed suicide in New York, shortly after selling the precious jewel. Later, in the 1900s, the diamond was owned by two separate Russian princesses, Leonila Galitsine-Bariatinisky and Nadia Vygin-Orlov (who gave the diamond its current name). They both ended up committing suicide after owning the diamond. Each suicide was eerily similar, as they all involved leaping to their deaths from the top of a tall building.

Before you get too upset about all these deaths, keep in mind these stories of the Black Orlov are just that, stories. There are conflicting reports stating that there was never any Russian princess with the name Nadia Vygin-Orlov. Leonila Galitsine-Bariatinisky died of natural causes in 1918 at 102 years old. The myths surrounding famous diamonds are almost always exaggerated and enhanced as the fame of the diamond grows.

The Black Orlov was recut to its current size of 67.5 carats in the mid-1900s under the ownership of Charles F. Winson. It now has a more modern cushion-like shape. The diamond is owned today by Dennis Petimezas, who says he is “pretty confident” the curse is broken, and he has no fear of it. The Black Orlov is often displayed museums like the American Museum of Natural History and the Natural History Museum in London.

The Black Orlov Diamond
The Black Orlov Diamond
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What are the Most Haunted Diamonds in the World? Part 1

The Koh-i-Noor Diamond
The Koh-i-Noor Diamond

In the spirit of the upcoming Halloween festivities, we thought a series on Haunted Diamonds would be fun. First in this series, the Curse of the Koh-i-Noor Diamond!

The history of the rulers who have owned the Koh-i-Noor diamond is filled with treachery, murder, torture and betrayal. The legend of the Koh-i-Noor stretches back thousands of years to its first mention in a Sanskrit writing nearly 5,000 years old. Its first authenticated mention was in 1306 when it was stolen from the Raja of Malwa, whose family had owned the astonishing 793 carat diamond for hundreds of years. Originally named Samantik Mani (Prince Among Diamonds), the Koh-i-Noor gained its infamous name from Persian general Nadir Shah in 1739. Supposedly he cried out, “Koh-i-Noor!” (‘Mountain of Light’) upon discovering the diamond hidden within the folds of the Mughal Emperor Mohammed Shah’s turban.

Hindu Curse

It is said that any man who has ever worn the Koh-i-Noor has fallen from power or suffered serious misfortune. The first recorded instance of the Curse of the Koh-i-Noor

General Nadir Shah
General Nadir Shah

involves Prince Humayun, who received the diamond and suffered with ill luck for the rest of his life. His heir, Sher Shah Suri, came into possession of the diamond and died shortly thereafter, the victim of cannon fire. Sher’s son, Jalal Khan inherited the Koh-i-Noor and was then murdered by his brother-in-law. Prince Humayun’s great grandson, Shah Jahan (builder of the great Taj Mahal) had the diamond mounted on the Peacock Throne, which was the Mughal throne of India. The Shah was betrayed and imprisoned by own his son. The legend tells that the Shah would only be able to see his beloved Taj Mahal by viewing its reflection in the diamond. His son, Aurangazeb then took the diamond to Lahore, where it stayed until 1739, when general Nadir Shah invaded India and claimed ownership of the diamond.

The historical origin of the Koh-i-Noor diamond is not certain. It was most likely originally mined in the Golconda mines of India, from which also issued the famous (and cursed) Hope Diamond. Eventually, the British Crown came into possession of the Koh-i-Noor after Ranjit Singh, the last Indian owner of the diamond, died. This was not a provision of Ranjit Singh’s will, and even at the time the secretive transfer of the diamond to the East India Company in

Queen Victoria wearing the Koh-i-Noor as a brooch
Queen Victoria wearing the Koh-i-Noor as a brooch

London caused controversy because it was seen more as an ill-gotten spoil of war rather than a true gift to the British Crown. The diamond was presented to Queen Victoria in July of 1850.  She wrote:  “The jewels are truly magnificent. They had also belonged to Ranjit Singh and had been found in the treasury of Lahore…. I am very happy that the British Crown will possess these jewels for I shall certainly make them Crown Jewels”. 

In the Great Exhibition in 1851 the Koh-i-Noor was displayed for the public. Crowds lined up to see it, but unfortunately the overall reaction was one of disappointment. The diamond was moved to a different case to catch more sunlight, but it still underwhelmed its viewers due to its rough rose cut. In 1852, Prince Albert had the diamond recut into a brilliant oval shape in order to improve its light performance and color. The Koh-i-Noor diamond is now 105.60 cts and is currently

The British Crown containing the Koh-i-Noor Diamond
The British Crown containing the Koh-i-Noor Diamond

set in the Crown of Queen Elizabeth. The Royal Family, perhaps themselves wary of the curse, have decreed that only the females of the family could inherit the diamond, and the Koh-i-Noor should only go to the wife of any male British heir. Today it remains part of Britain’s Crown Jewels, and may be viewed at its resting place in the infamous Tower of London.

Check back next time for more stories about Haunted Diamonds!

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Famous Diamonds of the Crown Jewel Collection

Britain’s collection of Crown Jewels is world-renowned for having some of the most spectacular gemstones ever discovered, among them a number of notable diamonds. They boast some of the largest and rarest diamonds in the world, and the sheer magnitude of the collection, which is worn or used by the royal family during coronations and other ceremonies of state, is enough to catch anyone’s eye (and no doubt blind them). Here are a few of their finest examples.

1. The First Star of Africa. This is the largest, flawless cut diamond in the world, at a weight of 530 carats, and it currently resides atop of the Sovereign’s Sceptre (with Cross).

2. The Second Star of Africa. Along with the First Star of Africa, this 317 carat beauty was cut from the fabled Cullinan Diamond presented to King Edward VII by the government of Transvaal (it reportedly weighed an astounding 3,000 carats before it was cut). This stone can be found in the Imperial State Crown.

3. The Koh-i-Noor. Commonly known as the “Mountain of Light”, this famous diamond is set into the Maltese Cross at the front of Queen Elizabeth’s crown (circa 1937). It is thought to carry a curse (much like the Hope Diamond) that renders men unable to wear it without the risk of serious misfortune, and so it has been reserved for use by the queen or queen consort. It weighs in at just over 105 carats.

4. The Imperial Crown of India. This crown, designed for King George V to wear at his Delhi coronation, is adorned by not one diamond, but many…about 6,000 to be precise (accented with a stunning array of diamonds and rubies). It was only worn once.

5. The Queen Victoria Crown. Dubbed the “Small Diamond Crown of Queen Victoria”, this petite example of millinery mastery was created because the queen grew tired of wearing the heavy and uncomfortable Imperial State Crown. While smaller and lighter than other crowns, it still manages to house 1, 187 diamonds (which she chose because they were considered permissible to wear while in mourning, unlike colored stones).

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The Top 5 Famous Diamonds

There have been some truly famous jewels in the annals of history, but none more so than diamonds. In the wide world of rare and precious gemstones, diamonds of rare and unparalleled beauty have always been the preferred expression of wealth for royalty and big money. Other gemstones may gain distinction for size or color, but none can hold a candle to the many incredible diamonds that have found their way into portraits, photos, museums, and private collections throughout the years. So prepare to be dazzled by the top five most famous diamonds in history.

1. The Hope. This is THE diamond. Weighing in at 45.52 carats, this steel blue beauty was first discovered in India and was originally a whopping 112 carats! Today, it remains the largest dark blue diamond known to exist (although it is only the 4th largest blue diamond), but what makes it the most famous diamond in the world is the legend of its curse. Anyone who touched it (starting with King Louis XIV of France) either ended up in financial ruin or dead (although most accounts were eventually proven fictitious or coincidental). It currently resides at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C., still nested in the Cartier setting of 16 white diamonds to which it was transferred in 1910. Its value has been estimated at as much as 250 million dollars.

2. The Koh-i-Noor. Some say the “Mountain of Light” is even more famous than its Indian brother, the Hope Diamond, because it is rumored to date back to before the time of Christ. It enjoys a long and storied history that mainly settles around battles over ownership (as it was famously stolen again and again with the spoils of war). It also suffers from a legendary curse which supposedly brings great misfortune only to its male owners. Originally a 186-carat egg-shaped diamond, the Koh-i-Noor has since been cut down to a still formidable 105.602 carats (supposedly to better display its brilliance). It now resides in the collection of Britain’s crown jewels, set in the Maltese Cross on Queen Elizabeth’s crown (where it was placed in 1937). Its value today has been estimated at about 81 million pounds.

3. The Tiffany Yellow. The most famous in Tiffany’s long parade of rare gems, it is said to have been purchased by Tiffany & Co. for $18,000 during the sale of the French Crown Jewels in 1887. It is one of the few diamonds throughout history to retain its original cut at 128.54 carats. And while it was recently dethroned from its position as the largest golden-yellow diamond in the world, it is still thought to be the finest example of the rare deep canary yellow variety. It was last valued at 12 million dollars (circa 1983).

4. The Red Cross. Another famous canary diamond, this one is noted not for its color, which is a pale yellow, but for its size. Supposedly weighing an astounding 375 carats when found, it has since been cut down to a modest (!) 205.07 carat square cut diamond, currently valued at about 2 million pounds. The derivation of its name is twofold. First, De Beers (who pulled the gem from their mines in 1901) presented it to an art sale held by Christies in 1918, for the benefit of the British Red Cross Society. In addition, it is said to feature a Maltese Cross in the top facet.

5. The Wittelsbach-Graff. While this diamond is neither the largest nor most brilliant of its
kind (35.56 carats and classified as Fancy Deep Grayish Blue), it holds the prestige of being the most expensive diamond ever sold, fetching 23.4 million dollars at auction in 2008.