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The Curse of the Black Orlov Diamond

Often mistaken to be black in color, the hypnotic deep "gun-metal" tones of this legendary black diamond struggle to hide the reflections of a very dark past, beginning with a theft from a Hindu idol and resulting in no less than three mysterious suicides.

The Black Orlov Diamond
The Black Orlov Diamond

The Black Orlov Diamond, also known as the Eye of Brahma Diamond, weights 67.50 carats and was once part of a much larger uncut 195 carat diamond, which can be traced back to 19th century India. Legend has it that the uncut stone originally featured as one of the eyes in a statue of Brahma, the Hindu God of creation, which stood in a shrine in the southern Indian city of Pondicherry. It is believed that the diamond was stolen from the statue by a travelling monk, after which it became cursed.

Whilst many are sceptical about the existence of such a curse and its beginnings are thought to be little more than folklore, the journey of the diamond from here is still an interesting one that is shrouded in mystery, drama and death.

In 1932 the diamond found its way to the United States, imported by a European diamond dealer named Mr 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, and shortly thereafter, on April 7th of 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, becoming what some say to be the first known victim of the diamond's curse.

It is rumoured that J.W. Paris had been suffering from extreme 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 jeweller, but no details regarding the content of these were ever made public.

Going back to the turn of the 20th century, the diamond was in the possession of a Russian heir named Princess Nadia Vygin-Orlov; the source of the black diamond's name, which was bestowed after a much later incident from where the legend is born.

During the 1917 Russian revolution, Princess Nadia fled Russia to the safety of Rome, Italy, as did many Russian royals at the time. It was some time later; December 2nd 1947 to be precise, some 15 years after the tragic death of J.W. Paris, when Princess Nadia leaped to her death from a building in central Rome, in what was believed to have been a suicide. At the time of her death the Princess was the wife of a Russian jeweler, but little more is known about the circumstances of her death.

The Black Orlov Diamond with necklaceOnly one month previous to Princess Nadia's death, another member of Russian royalty, Princess Leonila Viktorovna-Bariatinsky had leaped to her death, in what again was believed to have been a suicide. At the time of her death, Princess Leonila was married to Royal Navy Officer Prince Andre Glinstine, but no further details are available about her life at the time of her fatal jump, although it was later discovered that previous to her death she had been the owner of this now infamous precious stone, the Black Orlov Diamond.

Along with the Black Orlov, a second diamond was said to have haunted the Orlov family, one which went on to be known as the White Orlov Diamond. The White Orlov was a 180.60 carat white diamond, which was passed on to Catherine the Great by her secret lover, Count Grigori Grigorievich Orlov.

At the time, Count Grigori was thought to be completely infatuated by the Grand Duchess Catherine and had given the diamond as a symbol of his devotion to her, with a desperate hope to steal her away from her husband, Emperor Peter III. Once the diamond had been accepted, Count Grigori plotted the assassination of Peter III, elevating Catherine to the position of Empress of Russia. She was later known for being the longest ruling female leader of the country.

But things didn't end well for Count Grigori and he was spurned by Catherine. Grigori left Russia but struggled to deal with his unrequited love for the Russian leader, and in 1781 Count Grigori returned home, where he went insane and died in Moscow the following year.

The Black Orlov Diamond with necklace

In the 1950s, an attempt was made to finally break the curse when the diamond was re-cut by an Austrian Jeweller, at the request of its then owner, Charles F. Wilson. 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 even made an appearance at the Oscars, when it was worn by actresses Felicity Huffman, star of the hit TV series and movie Desperate Housewives.

  • First Published: March-07-2012
  • Last Updated: November-07-2014
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