They are some of the world’s finest gemstones but with a sordid and often gruesome history. Tales of violent death and destruction have a way of following these legendary gemstones. Their size and lustre seemingly dwarfed by pools of blood and bad luck that seem to follow all those who came to own them.
Here’s a closer look at six of these priceless gems that have gained notoriety throughout history and the cursed legends that surround them.
The first owner of this brilliant 45.52-carat blue diamond of Indian origin, French merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier was said to have met an untimely end after being ripped apart by wild dogs. The gem was then bought by the French monarchy wherein it gained its moniker – The French Blue, only to be looted during the French revolution in September 1792.
Renamed the Hope diamond by London collector and banker Henry Phillip Hope, the tragedies linked to this fabulous gem only grew stronger. The stone is supposed to have heaped personal ruin and bankruptcy on Washington DC heiress Evelyn McLean who bought the gem from Pierre Cartier.
McLean is said to have died alone and penniless following the death of her daughter from a drug overdose. Her entire jewellery collection was then sold to Harry Winston to pay off her debts who in turn donated it to the Smithsonian Institute.
The Hope Diamond, is valued at a staggering USD 200-250mn today and is one of the most popular exhibits at the Smithsonian drawing crowds of approx 7mn visitors around the year.
Delhi Purple Sapphire
To begin with, it’s not a sapphire but an amethyst set on a ring which was donated with an accompanying letter to London’s Natural History Museum in 1944 by the daughter of writer and Persian scholar Edwards Heron-Allen.
The letter claims the gem was ‘looted’ from a Hindu temple in India and bought to the UK by a British colonel only to begin a series of unfortunate events that culminated in his death.
The gem then passed onto to his son and later to Heron-Allen who quickly gave it to his friends. They in turn faced the brunt of the gem’s bad luck, plagued by a series of suicides, unexplained disasters and failed careers.
Scared out of his wits, Heron-Allen imprisoned the stone inside seven boxes and deposited it in his bank with the instructions that it should not be opened for 33 years post his death. His daughter however waited for barely 12 months before doing just that and donated it to the museum with a note that advised throwing the gem into the sea.
The museum chose instead to showcase the gem as part of its Vault Collections – and so far none of the visitors have reported suffering from any untoward incidents.
Star of India
This 563.35-carat stone is famed as the world’s largest known gem-quality blue star sapphire found in Sri Lanka about three centuries ago. This greyish-blue, golf ball sized gem made headlines on October 29, 1964, when it was part of a USD 410,000 jewel heist at the American Museum of Natural History at New York.
Curiously enough, the museum’s alarms were found to be not working (the batteries had been dead for months), hall windows unlocked (apparently for ventilation purposes) and there was no security guard on duty. What’s more the gems had not been insured either to save on expensive premiums.
Fortunately for the authorities concerned, the gems were soon recovered from a locker at a local bus terminal. But stories of a jinx associated with the gem have continued to gain currency since then.
Black Prince’s Ruby
It’s the king-sized, deep-red stone set at the center of England’s royal crown. Often mistaken for a giant ruby, this 170-carat gem is infact one of the world’s largest uncut spinel with a history of disease, battles and death attached to it.
It was said to have been discovered near the corpse of the Sultan of Granada by soldiers of Pedro the Cruel – the man who had murdered him. Soon after it was Pedro’s turn to be attacked and he appealed to a knight – Edward the Black Prince – for help.
Upon their victory the gem was gifted to Edward as a token of gratitude by Pedro. Unfortunately he did not live long enough to treasure it – falling prey to a mysterious disease barely a decade later. More deaths have since followed in its footsteps.
The ruby was said to have been worn by Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 – which nearly cost him his life. It was found on the corpse of Richard III after he was slain during the Battle of Bosworth.
Mined in India’s famed Golconda mines, this pale yellow 55.23-carat shield-shaped stone is said to be a harbinger of a violent death for its owners – atleast those who have acquired it using unfair means. Making its way to Europe in the 14th century, this diamond has been a part of several French and English crowns.
Curiously enough many of the kings who possessed it like – Burgundy’s Charles the Bold, England’s Charles I, and France’s Louis XVI – suffered rather sudden, violent deaths not long after.
One story goes that the gem was recovered from the stomach of a courier who had swallowed it for safekeeping after he was attacked and killed by thieves. The stone was also said to have been stolen during the French revolution. It’s now on display at the Louvre in Paris.
This 67.50 carat black diamond was said to have been stolen by a priest from a Hindu temple dedicated to Brahma, the creator. And so began its cursed voyage. Its many victims include two Russian princesses who inexplicably leapt off a building soon after acquiring the gem.
JW Paris, a diamond dealer credited with having brought the gem to the US, is also said to have jumped off the tallest building in New York soon after.
The stone is now the star of a 108-diamond brooch, suspended from a spectacular 124-diamond necklace that has since been owned by a string of wealthy, private individuals and has also made an appearance at the Oscars.