Wear At Your Own Risk – Cursed Gemstones Throughout History

by Kat Paulick

“Whoever shall then open it, shall first read out this warning, and then do as he pleases with the jewel. My advice to him or her is to cast it into the sea.”

Delhi Purple Sapphire (via East Coast Daily)

Delhi Purple Sapphire

This was the message Peter Tandy found when he opened a sealed box inside the London Museum of Natural History’s mineral cabinets. Along with the message was the Delhi Purple Sapphire, a stone that had left a sea of destruction in its wake after its removal from the Indian Temple of Indra in 1857. Stolen from a temple which honored the Hindu god of war during a bloody mutiny, the gem is said to carry a curse which befalls misfortune on whoever possesses it.

Its victims include English Colonel W. Ferris, who brought the stone to England and later went bankrupt – along with his son, who inherited it after his death. Writer Edward Heron-Allen then purchased it. After months of misfortune, the writer gifted it to a friend, a singer who permanently lost her singing voice while in possession of the stone, and who returned it. Heron-Allen threw the gem into the Regent Canal, only for it to be found and returned to him months later.

Edward Heron-Allen (via Wake Forest University Library)

He eventually locked it up with the family banker to be donated after his death, with explicit instructions that his daughter must never touch or wear it. Today’s scholars believe that much of the jewel’s legend may have been fabricated by Heron-Allen to give plausibility to a short story he wrote in 1921 called “The Purple Sapphire.” Legend or not, it isn’t the only cursed gemstone to wreak havoc through history.

The Hope Diamond

Hope Diamond. Courtesy of Sciglow.com

The Hope Diamond is perhaps the most famous jewel to carry a powerful curse. Also brought to Europe after being looted from India, it makes a strong argument to avoid stealing fabulous jewels from Hindu temples.

Evalyn Walsh McLean, one of the owners of the famous Hope which she is wearing in the picture. 1914.

In the years since it was taken, many of its owners have met tragic ends. Gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier brought it to France around 1666 and sold to King Louis XIV, where it passed down the royal line, being worn by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette before their deaths by guillotine, as well as Princesse de Lamballe, who was bludgeoned to death during the French Revolution. Even Tavernier was said to have met a violent death, being allegedly torn apart by wild dogs. Tragedy visited most owners of the diamond before it reached its current home, the Smithsonian Institution, in 1958. So far, the Smithsonian appears unscathed by its presence.

Kooh-i-Noor Diamond


Koh-i-Noor, or “Mountain of Light”,  is another diamond with a bloody history, being passed from ruler to ruler after its extraction from an Indian mine around the year 1100. It is said to carry a curse that threatens the throne and life of any man who dares to wear it. Its first known victim was Mughal emperor Babur, who was exiled from his kingdom. From there it decimated the lives of Mughal ruler Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal and was later imprisoned by his own son, Mughal conqueror Nadir Shah, who was assassinated, and a line of Persian successors, each of whom was dethroned and ritually blinded.

Koh-i-Noor eventually made its way to England in the 1850s, and was set into a tiara. It currently remains among the British crown jewels, making Queen Elizabeth II the longest known possessor and giving credence to the old claim that “only God or a woman can wear it with impunity.”

If you’re sensing a theme here, you’re not the only one – “When the powerful take things from the less powerful, the powerless don’t have much to do but curse [them],” notes Richard Kurin, scholar for the Smithsonian. History has proved, however, that curses be damned – there will always be those who shun superstition and covet beautiful (and more importantly, valuable) gems. What will become of them, unseen forces will decide…

Don’t forget to read the other three parts of the Cursed Series for more intriguing stories about these enigmatic gemstones.

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