Fabled gemstones have a special allure for treasure hunters. From the allegedly cursed Hope Diamond to the mysterious Black Orlov, these priceless stones often come with blood-soaked back stories that only heighten their appeal — and their asking price. The Orlov, in fact, inspired The Earl of Hell’s Waistcoat, a multimillion-dollar black diamond at the center of author Liam Ashe’s mystery thriller.
First known as the Eye of Brahma Diamond, the Black Orlov was originally a 195-carat stone set as one of the eyes in a statue of the Hindu god Brahma in the capital city of Pondicherry (thus the original name). According to local legend, the stone was stolen by a travelling Jesuit monk who was later murdered over the vile theft.
This desecration of a statue of the prominent Hindu god of creation caused the diamond to be cursed. How cursed? Well, the first recorded owner in the Western hemisphere — diamond dealer J. W. Paris — brought the stone to the United States, and less than a year later committed suicide by jumping to his death from a Manhattan skyscraper. Two subsequent owners, Russian princesses named Leonila Galitsine-Bariatinsky and Nadia Vygin-Orlov, are also thought to have jumped to their deaths within the next ten years.
In the 1950s, new owner Charles F. Wilson had the original stone cut into three smaller diamonds, perhaps in an attempt to break the curse. Today, the Black Orlov is set in a 108-carat diamond brooch attached to a 124-carat diamond necklace.
The diamond and its setting were purchased by dealer Dennis Petimezas in 2004 and have subsequently been displayed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the Natural History Museum in London. Cursed or not, it remains one magnificent treasure.