Jewelry of great beauty inspires epic tales. From The Lord of the Rings to the Heart of the Ocean in the film Titanic, beautiful gemstones and rings are the stuff of legends and fairy tales. In some cases, however, jewels are said to be tainted by curses. The Sancy, the Shah, and the Hope Diamond are gorgeous stones that inspired tales of misfortune and financial ruin. As you shop for jewelry in New York, consider some of these haunting real stones with notorious histories.
The Sancy diamond is a pale yellow, 55-plus carat stone, cut in a modified shield shape. Today, it's on display at the Apollo Gallery in the Louvre in Paris, France. However, its sinister past is the stuff of legend. Henry III owned the diamond, wearing it in a cap to cover his prematurely bald head. Henry IV borrowed the stone and attempted to use it to finance an army. However, the messenger carrying the jewel to make payment never arrived at his destination. A manhunt to find the diamond, led by de Sancy, found the messenger's body and found the jewel in the man's body.
Also an Indian diamond, the Shah is an 88 carat diamond that is cut into an elongated octahedron. The shape is often used to describe coffins. It has the names of 3 Indian Shahs carved into it. Once known as the Throne Diamond, it belonged to the Shahs until it was seized by Persians when they attacked India. The diamond remained in Persia for nearly a century, until a Russian diplomat and writer was murdered in Persia. Russia demanded severe punishment for the murder, and to avoid punishment, the Persian Shah gifted the diamond to the Russian Tsar, Nicholas I. During the Russian Revolution in 1917, the diamond was taken to the Kremlin in Moscow, where it remains today.
The most famous of notorious jewels, the Hope Diamond is a 45-carat, blue gem, which originated in India. According to legend, Marie Antoinette was executed wearing the enormous stone. King George IV, a later owner of the gem, sold it to pay off debts. He wasn't the first to own the diamond and then face financial ruin. Collector Phillip Henry Hope's family went bankrupt, forcing the family to sell the diamond in 1901. Hope's nephew sold it to a woman, Evalyn Walsh McLean, whose 9-year-old son later died in a car accident, and whose daughter killed herself. McLean's husband was then confined to an asylum. Her family sold the diamond to Harry Winston to pay off debts in 1949. Winston, a New York jeweler, donated it to the Smithsonian Institute, where it remains on display in Washington, D.C. today.
Perusing jewelry in New York is an adventure, but the stones in today's jewelry stores rarely inspire the mystique of famous diamonds of yesterday. However, perusing the sinister stories of historical gems is a good way to pass the time and to learn about different qualities in the world's most desirable gems.