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Cursed Diamonds and Gemstones: All That Glitters Isn’t Gold

Last year, we covered gemstone superstitions — and that blog post has been trending online ever since. This year, just in time for the scariest day of the year, we’re going to dive into the fearsome folklore surrounding some (in)famous and cursed diamonds and gemstones.

Sinister Beauty: The Hope Diamond

No list of spooky stones is complete without the Hope Diamond. Known for its exceptional size, color, and history, the Hope Diamond is a hugely impressive stone.

Oh, and it’s cursed. Allegedly.

When Harry Winston donated the diamond to the Smithsonian Museum, many thought the country was doomed. Some individuals even urged President Eisenhower to reject the gift. How could such a remarkable diamond have such dark energy?

Well, it’s what Marie Antoinette was wearing when she was beheaded. And it was reportedly stolen from a statue of the Hindu goddess Sita. The origins of the curse vary, but people agree on one thing: that it is one cursed diamond. Take these examples of the rumored peril that has come to people who have been in possession of the Hope Diamond:

  • After stealing the diamond from Sita’s statue, the thief is said to have been killed by wild dogs.
  • Sultan Abdul Hamid of Turkey lost his throne.
  • Collector Philip Henry Hope’s family went broke, requiring the stone be sold to recoup losses, and his grandson died completely broke.
  • Evalyn Walsh McLean lost two of her children, and her husband was later committed to an asylum.

That’s just a sampling of tales, and while most are flat-out lies and the curse is exaggerated, who wants to take a chance? Best to leave it at the Smithsonian.

Men, Beware: The Koh-i-Noor

If you’re going to wear the 105.6-carat Koh-i-Noor Diamond, you better not be a man.

As the curse goes, “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.” But those threatening words haven’t swayed people from wearing the Koh-i-Noor.

Believed to have been mined in India’s Kollur Mine in the twelfth century, the Koh-i-Noor has a long, bloody history. Here is but a sample of the misfortunes that have befallen the Koh-i-Noor’s owners:

  • Mughal emperor Babur lost his son to exile.
  • A later ruler, Shah Jahan, famous for building the Taj Mahal, spent the end of his days in prison — imprisoned by his own son, Aurangzeb.
  • Nadir Shah was assassinated.
  • Each of Nadir Shah’s successors were dethroned.

After centuries of poisonings, assassinations, civil wars, and invasions, the Koh-i-Noor eventually ended up with the British monarchy, where it sits today among the British Crown Jewels. However, this is not without controversy — the Indian government would like its diamond returned.

The Regent Diamond

The 140.64-carat Regent Diamond has a cruel, bloody history. Most known for decorating Napoleon Bonaparte’s sword, the Regent Diamond was stolen from India’s now-defunct Kollur Mine.

A slave hid the diamond in an open wound in his leg, then boarded a ship bound for Europe. The ship’s captain learned of the diamond and its whereabouts, so he murdered the slave. Afterward, the captain sold the diamond to an Indian merchant, and thus the curse began.

When the Crown Jewels of France were stolen in 1792, the Regent Diamond was among them. Napoleon got the stone in 1801, and Marie Antoinette had it later. And we all know what happened to her and Louis XVI.

Today, the Regent Diamond is displayed at the Louvre.

There are more cursed diamonds out there: the Sancy Diamond, the Taylor-Burton Diamond, and many more. But if you thought gemstones were safe, think again.

The Great Impostor: The Black Prince’s Ruby

Why impostor? Well, the Black Prince’s Ruby isn’t a ruby. Weighing in at a whopping 170 carats, it’s an irregularly cut cabochon spinel — and despite its impostor status, the Black Prince’s Ruby holds a position of high regard. Today, it’s set in the center of the Imperial State Crown of England.

Believed to have been mined in Badakhshan (today known as Tajikistan), the Black Prince’s Ruby first appears on record in the fourteenth century. Don Pedro the Cruel, ruler of Seville, Spain, plundered the gem from the Moors.

Then the Black Prince himself, Edward of Woodstock, had the stone, where it acquired its name. King Henry V had the gem next, having it set in his battle helmet beside real rubies, truly making this red spinel an impostor.

When King Charles I committed treason, he lost more than the stone, and the Black Prince’s Ruby passed from the British royal line to an unknown buyer. Charles II regained the stone later, but Colonel Thomas Blood nearly succeeded in stealing it during a 1671 heist.

The Delhi Purple Sapphire

The purported powers of sapphire include enlightenment, peace, and healing, yet devastation and despair have awaited all who’ve dared cross the Delhi Purple Sapphire.

Perhaps, that’s because there’s another impostor among us. But rather than a spinel masquerading as a ruby, this time, it’s an amethyst. No wonder the owners of the Delhi Purple Sapphire didn’t get to enjoy any of sapphire’s magical powers — they never had one to begin with!

Looted from the Temple of Indra during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the Delhi Purple Sapphire is a gem allegedly cursed through thievery, by the Hindu god of war and weather. When the amethyst was taken from the temple, the ancient deity cast a curse upon the stone.

Afterward, the Delhi Purple Sapphire ended up in England, where it spelled trouble for all who owned it, from financial ruin to health problems galore, bad luck, and more.

Author Edward Heron-Allen sealed the gemstone inside a box and had it locked in a bank vault. Later, he gifted the stone to the Natural History Museum, with one stipulation: the box not be opened until three years after his death.

The Perilous Pearl: La Peregrina

La Peregrina, Spanish for “The Wanderer,” is a 50.56-carat pearl that originated from the Panama coastline in the sixteenth century. The then-administrator of the Panama colony gifted the pearl to Philip II, who subsequently gifted it to Queen Mary I of England.

Is Queen Mary I’s name familiar? If so, you may know her for her reign of terror that earned her the moniker Bloody Mary. She was rarely seen without La Peregrina — especially at executions. No doubt this pear-shaped pearl absorbed vile, violent energy.

The curse of La Peregrina is purported to be that of ruining the love lives of all who wear it:

  • King Philip II lived abroad for most of his marriage to Queen Mary I.
  • After Mary’s death, Philip proposed to her sister, who refused him.
  • Centuries later, Richard Burton purchased the stone for Elizabeth Taylor—who had seven marriages throughout her life. Richard was two of those.

As of 2011, La Peregrina belongs to an anonymous collector, who paid a whopping $11 million for the stone.

The Stolen Sapphire: The Star of India

As the world’s largest gem-quality blue star sapphire, the 563-carat Star of India is quite the coveted gemstone. So coveted, in fact, that on October 29, 1964, three thieves broke into the American Museum of Natural History in New York. They raided the gem hall, making off with millions of dollars’ worth of stolen gemstones — including the Star of India.

As the story goes, the display’s alarm batteries were dead. And the ill fortune went even further:

  • There was no security guard.
  • The windows were open.
  • The stone wasn’t even insured.

The thieves climbed in through the window and made off like the bandits they were.

Luckily, the Star of India was recovered not long after in the most unusual of places: a bus station locker in Miami, Florida. Not all the gemstones stolen with it were nearly as fortunate, however. Today, the Star of India is back at the American Museum of Natural History.

Hopefully, they’ve hired someone to regularly check the alarm system.

https://twitter.com/Geology_History/status/1214898619654066178?s=20

What’s the Verdict?

Are these stones truly cursed? We reached out to countless clairvoyants for confirmation, but they refuse to go on the record with a definitive answer.

But these tales do have some things in common: the stones were acquired through less-than-honorable means or have a bloody history. Perhaps, then, the curse is nothing more than a cautionary tale: don’t take what isn’t yours, and treat everyone with the kindness with which you want to be treated.

Certified Curse-Free Stones

We’re not daring enough to own any sinister stones — but we are daring enough to stock one of the industry’s largest diamond and gemstone selections. We offer more than 70 types of gemstones and diamonds in every size, shape, and color imaginable.

And don’t worry — we certify that all Stuller Diamonds™ and Stuller Gemstones™ were legitimately acquired and are thus curse free.


Enjoyed learning about the world’s most cursed diamonds and gemstones? Read our previous Halloween-themed posts regarding gemstone and jewelry superstitions.

5 Gemstone Superstitions and How to Use Them to Sell More Stones

6 Jewelry Superstitions and How to Use them to Your Advantage




Halloween Tricks and Jewelers’ Treats

Ritual Jewelry Folklore Halloween Blog Header

Without superstition, there would likely be no jewelry business. There’s nothing exactly rational, after all, about wearing a certain kind of ring to commemorate a life event. And of course, there’s no scientific link between our particular birthstone and our personality or character. Wearing jewelry is something we do for primarily cultural, rather than logical reasons. And in that sense, the foundational desire for jewelry really has more to do with the realm of superstition, magic, myth, and folklore than with the world of pure reason. Indeed, jewelry, like superstition, and like myth and legend, is often a way of dealing with things that logic and reason don’t quite fully solve for—the deeper mysteries of life, love, birth, death, those things that lie far beyond the bounds of our comprehension.

Despite the mostly efficient efforts of our brain to assure us that all is well understood and proceeding as planned, the universe remains a deeply mysterious and uncertain place, and it’s in these fissures of mystery that superstitions flourish. It’s in those same places that the rich symbolism of jewelry often finds a home. 

Take Halloween as a starting point

Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival Samhain. Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of Winter. For a pastoral, agricultural society, it meant, in effect, the end of the old year, and the beginning of the new. In Irish mythology and literature, it also marked a time when a portal opened between the normal world and the Otherworld—a fantastical realm of supernatural beings and the dead. At this mysterious time of year, denizens of the Otherworld were free to wander the earth. This belief was echoed in the Samhain practice of dressing and parading in oftentimes ghoulish or skeletal costumes. It’s also why you see the same practice in modern Halloween, and why the Catholic church celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (celebrations of the dearly departed) during this same time frame. 

The larger point is that Halloween/Samhain/All Soul’s Day all mark an annual time of deep seasonal uncertainty and change—a time that is right at the threshold of one phase and another. Folklorists and anthropologists even have a word to describe this state: liminality. It’s in these liminal spaces betwixt and between the major stages of the year that uncertainty grows, that change and mystery arise, that superstitions find purchase and that we gather our loved ones around to celebrate the holiday and reinforce our collective understanding of things. And that makes perfect sense. In times of change and uncertainty, we do the natural thing and try to counteract the mystery with togetherness, shared folk beliefs, songs, and community.

What does any of this have to do with jewelry?

It’s a good question, but the answer is clear enough. Jewelry is a crucial part of our formula to counteract and master liminality. A significant element in our antidotes to existential disruption. Just think for a second about when jewelry is traditionally given and received and why.

Just like the holidays that stud the circle of our calendar year like bezel-set sapphires, jewels appear in our lives at the most liminal moments between life stages. At graduation, at birthdays, at weddings. Even in the case of death, jewelry of course has a place, most famously perhaps in the mourning jewelry of the Victorians. 

Another way of saying it is that jewelry is a tool of ritual, and ritual is our organized system for dealing with uncertainty, change, and mystery. Ritual is our magical way of managing liminality and ensuring a safe passage through to the next stage in the circle of life, or through to the next stage of the cyclical year. 

Jewelry is well-suited to the task. It is designed to tame disorder. Made of the most resilient materials on the planet, jewelry is built to resist entropy even at the physical level. At the emotional and personal level, its beauty is designed to spellbind and capture the attention, to drawn people in, rather than to disperse them to the four winds. 

Commonplace ritual jewelry

Built primarily around the circular form of a ring, jewelry is designed to bind, to surround, to enclose, and to protect. Not surprisingly, similar circles tend to crop up in rituals of all sorts, as universal symbols of the human bonds that shield us from the vicissitudes of existences. Like the eternal circle of the year, they place our transitions and our changes and uncertainties into a kind of form that we can understand and live within. 

In fact, the most famous scholar of rites of passage, French folklorists Arnold Van Gennep, describe ritual itself as having a cyclical structure. He explained that people undergoing a rite of passage undergo three phases: 1) a SEPARATION from a community and an old identity, 2) a liminal TRANSITION phase, and 3) a REINCORPORATION into a new role as, for instance, a wife or Amish teen after a wild Rumspringa. Rituals, you might say, are ring-like patterns within culture—meant to adorn and enshrine these most delicate and crucial transitions in our lives.

To bring this all back into the more comfortable realm of reason and the sweet solace of numbers, you need only turn to the statistical jewelry industry oracle of your choice. The most popular days for engagements almost always coincide with the winter holidays—the same days of ritual and magic that give rise to superstitions, particularly romantic superstitions. Halloween, of course, abounds with lore having to do with love and romance, and is usually listed as one of the most popular days of the year for engagements. It’s almost a bookend to the engagement season, which of course starts picking up in later October and tends to peak around Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day—all, like Halloween, holidays with ancient roots in myth, lore, and ritual. 

What does this all mean for jewelers?

The question should be: What doesn’t this mean for jewelers? It means everything. It means that jewelers are nothing less than wizards and magicians, sacred providers of the ritual tools we humans need to navigate the most crucial times of our lives. There are doctors for our physical ailments, accountants for our financial maladies, and scientists who will scan the furthest stars for their secrets. But who can bring the heart back into union with itself amidst the eternal, ever-unfolding mysteries of existence? 

No one but the poets, the musicians, the priests, the artists, and—yes—the jewelers. 

 

So with All Hallow’s Eve upon us, and the ancient cycles of seasons turning away from the warmth of the summer, the days will grow darker. But people will turn to each other for companionship, love, and light. And they will increasingly turn to us for those artifacts of enduring illumination that are our special gift to a world.  

In other words, with Halloween upon us and wandering souls out searching for nourishment, open your doors wide and welcome them. It’s your time to shine.


Looking for more Halloween stories? Find 6 Jewelry Superstitions and How to Use Them to Your Advantage here.   

Bibliography

Gennep, Arnold van. 2013. The Rites of Passage. Routledge.

Kunz, George Frederick. 1894. Folk-Lore of Precious Stones. Schulte Publishing Company.

Mahdi, Louise Carus, Nancy Geyer Christopher, and Michael Meade. 1996. Crossroads: The Quest for Contemporary Rites of Passage. Open Court Publishing.

Monaghan, Patricia. 2014. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Infobase Publishing.

Napier, James. 2013. Yule, Beltane, And Halloween Festivals (Folklore History Series). Read Books Ltd.