Legendary treasures endowed with supernatural powers, swiped Indiana Jones-style from ancient temples. Hapless owners mysteriously struck down by violent and untimely deaths.
Supernatural or superstitious? Coincidence or marketing spin? You decide. Maybe it’s the common history of fabulous wealth, warfare, and greed that have darkened the shine of these and other spectacular gemstones.
In any case, you won’t have to worry about their sinister influence this Halloween – that is, unless you keep multimillion dollar jewel treasures secretly stashed away in your closet…
- The Hope Diamond
Image: Smithsonian Institute
In the jewelry world, this gem is the equivalent of “King Tut’s Curse.” Of all the legends of haunted, cursed, or spell-binding gems, the Hope Diamond undoubtedly takes first place. Far from its romantic fictional counterpart in Titanic, no other diamond has such a long history of dark powers attributed to its presence.
The world’s largest known blue diamond, it was reportedly stolen from an Indian idol before making its fateful way to the French royalty. It was part of the crown jewels worn by King Louis and Marie Antoinette until they were beheaded during the French Revolution. The diamond disappeared for years before reappearing in the hands of its next victim.
Henry Hope, and English banker, bought the diamond and passed it down through his family. The following century saw the slow collapse of his fortune, and once again, the diamond was on the loose. Renowned jeweler Cartier sold it to American millionairess and collector Evalyn Walsh McLean, who hoped it would bring her luck. What followed was nothing short of disaster as family members died or became insane, and the enormous debts of her crumbling estate led to the sale of the diamond to jeweler Harry Winston.
Right: McLean bought the Hope Diamond under a warranty that allowed her to exchange for a stone of equal value if a family member died within 6 months!
Winston donated the Hope to the Smithsonian in 1958 (a wise choice, some would say).
- The Koh-i-Noor Diamond
According to Hindu legend, this diamond was pilfered from the god Krishna himself – and only a god or a woman can safely possess it.
This renowned gem’s long and violent history started with its capture by the Mughals in 1304. Centuries later, the story goes, a Mughal emperor was betrayed by a member of his harem while trying to hide the diamond from the invading Persians. These conquerors didn’t have long to enjoy their hard-won acquisition; the British took the diamond during their colonial conquest and gave it to Queen Victoria as a commemoration of victory.
Thanks to its checkered past, the diamond has remained under female ownership ever since – though the descendants of former owners, including Iran, India, and even the Taliban, still contest its possession.
For now, it is set in a coronation tiara which the next queen of England will wear.
- The Dehli Purple Sapphire
Image: Live Science: Sinister Sparkle Gallery – Mysterious & Cursed Gems
Like so many of the world’s most famous jewels, this purple stone (which is actually an amethyst) traces its origin to the gem-rich mines of ancient India. A British officer took it from a temple of the storm god Indra, during a violent Indian uprising. But as with so many treasures taken by force or subterfuge, death and sorrow followed in its wake, and the officer’s family and friends suffered under the shadow of illness, poverty and suicide.
In 1890, scholar Edward Heron-Allen acquired the jewel and began to uncover its dubious past. He couldn’t even give the stone away – each new owner met with terrible misfortune and returned it. Convinced of its evil powers, he triple-boxed the scarab-set stone with a copy of its history, willed it to the Natural History Museum, and sent it to his lawyer. Attached was a note suggesting the new owners seriously consider throwing it into the ocean!
Today the Museum displays it in a vault. Recently, it was on loan to the Heron-Allen Society for a symposium, amidst the ominous peals of a violent thunderstorm.