The Project Gutenberg EBook of Stories about Famous Precious Stones, by 
Mrs Goddard Orpen

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Title: Stories about Famous Precious Stones

Author: Mrs Goddard Orpen

Release Date: August 29, 2011 [EBook #37239]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images
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Copyright, 1890,
D. Lothrop Company.

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The Regent14
The Orloff40
The Koh-i-Nur83
Koh-i-Nur, as recut85
Tavernier's Blue Diamond118
The "Hope Blue" Diamond119
"Brunswick" Blue Diamond123
"Hope Blue" Diamond, as mounted126
The Crown of England171
The Sanci183
The Great Mogul209
The Austrian Yellow220
Diamond in the rough229
Diamond after cutting232
"The Necklace of History"243
The Tara Brooch265
St. Patrick's Bell279

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Of all the gems which have served to adorn a crown or deck a beauty the Regent has perhaps had the most remarkable career. Bought, sold, stolen and lost, it has passed through many hands, always however leaving some mark of its passage, so that the historian can follow its devious course with some certainty. From its extraordinary size it has been impossible to confound it with any other diamond in the world; hence the absence of those conflicting statements with regard to it which puzzle one at every turn in the cases of certain other historical jewels.

[Pg 10]

The first authentic appearance of this diamond in history was in December, 1701. In that month it was offered for sale by a diamond merchant named Jamchund to the Governor of Fort St. George near Madras, Mr. Thomas Pitt, the grandfather of the great Earl of Chatham.

Although, as we shall see later on, the diamond came fairly into the hands of Mr. Pitt, it had already a taint of blood upon it. I allude to the nebulous and gloomy story that has drifted down to us along with this sparkling gem. How far the story is true it is now impossible to ascertain. The Regent itself alone could throw any light upon the subject, and that, notwithstanding its myriad rays, it refuses to do.

Tradition says the stone was found by a slave at Partreal, a hundred and fifty miles south of Golconda. The native princes who worked these diamond mines were very particular to see that all the large gems should be reserved to deck their own swarthy persons; hence there[Pg 11] were most stringent regulations for the detection of theft. No person who was not above suspicion—and who indeed was ever above the suspicion of an absolute Asiatic prince?—might leave the mines without being thoroughly examined, inside and out, by means of purgatives, emetics and the like. Notwithstanding all these precautions however, the Regent was concealed in a wound made in the calf of the leg of a slave. The inspectors, I suppose, did not probe the wound deeply enough, for the slave got away safely with his prize and reached Madras. Alas! poor wretch, it was an evil day for him when he found the great rough diamond. On seeking out a purchaser he met with an English skipper who offered him a considerable sum for it; but on going to the ship, perhaps to get his money, he was slain and thrown overboard. The skipper then sold the stone to Jamchund for one thousand pounds ($5000), took to drink and speedily succumbing to the combined effects of an evil conscience and de[Pg 12]lirium tremens hanged himself. Thus twice baptized in blood the great diamond was fairly launched upon its life of adventure.

And now we come to the authentic part of its history.

Mr. Pitt has left a solemn document under his own hand and seal recounting his mercantile encounter with the Eastern Jamchund. It would appear from this notable writing that Mr. Pitt himself had been accused of stealing the diamond, for he begins with lamentations over the "most unparalleled villainy of William Fraser Thomas Frederick and Smapa, a black merchant," who it would seem had sent a paper to Governor Addison (Mr. Pitt's successor in Madras) intimating that Mr. Pitt had come unfairly by his treasure. The writer then calls down God to witness to his truthfulness and invokes His curse upon himself and his children should he here tell a lie.

After this solemn preamble, Mr. Pitt goes on minutely to describe his transaction with the[Pg 13] diamond merchant; how in the end of 1701 Jamchund, in company with one Vincaty Chittee, called upon him in order to effect the sale of a very large diamond. Mr. Pitt, who seems to have been himself a very considerable trader in precious stones, was appalled at the sum, two hundred thousand pagodas ($400,000), asked for this diamond. He accordingly offered thirty thousand pagodas; but Jamchund went away unable to sacrifice his pebble for such a sum. They haggled over the matter for two months, meeting several times in the interval. The Indian merchant made use of the classical expressions of his trade, as, for example, that it was only to Mr. Pitt that he would sell it for so insignificant a sum as a hundred thousand pagodas. But all this was of no avail and they consequently parted again without having effected a bargain.

Finally Jamchund having resolved to go back into his own country once more presented himself, always attended by the faithful Vincaty [Pg 14]Chittee, before the Governor, and offered his stone now for fifty thousand pagodas. Pitt then offered forty-five thousand, thinking that "if good it must prove a pennyworth." Then Jamchund fell a thousand and Pitt rose a thousand. Now the bargain seemed pretty near conclusion; but it often happens that hucksters who have risen or fallen by pounds come to grief at the last moment over the pence that still separate them, so these two seemed unable to move further towards a settlement. Mr. Pitt went into his closet to a Mr. Benyon and had a chat over it with that gentleman who appears to have advised him to the purchase, remarking[Pg 15] that a stone which was worth forty-seven thousand pagodas was surely worth forty-eight. Convinced by this reasoning the Governor went again to Jamchund and at last closed the bargain at forty-eight thousand pagodas ($96,000). It was a lucky moment for him, since it was upon this minute but adamantine corner-stone that the Governor of Fort St. George began to build up the fortunes of the great house of Pitt.


The diamond, valued far below its price in order not to attract attention, was sent home to England and lodged with bankers until Mr. Pitt's return from India, when he had it cut and polished. This process, the most critical one in the life of a diamond, was performed in an eminently satisfactory manner. The rough stone, which had weighed four hundred and ten carats, came forth from the hands of the cutter a pure and flawless brilliant of unparalleled lustre weighing one hundred and thirty-six and three fourths carats. It took two years to cut it, and the cost of the operation was ten thou[Pg 16]sand dollars; but its lucky owner had no reason to complain, since he sold the dust and fragments for no less than forty thousand dollars and still had the largest diamond in the world to dispose of.

This, however, proved to be no easy matter, for though many coveted it few persons were ready to give Mr. Pitt's price for it. One private individual did indeed offer four hundred thousand dollars, but he was not listened to. The fame of this wonderful stone soon spread over Europe. In 1710 an inquisitive German traveler, one Uffenbach, made "a wonderful journey" into England and tried to get a sight of it. But by this time Mr. Pitt and his diamond were so renowned a couple that the former must have been a most miserable person. The German tells us how it was impossible to see the stone, for Mr. Pitt never slept twice in the same house and was constantly changing his name when he came to town. Indeed his life was one of haunting terror lest he should be[Pg 17] murdered for his jewel as the hapless slave had been in the very outset of its career.

At last, in 1717, he was relieved from his troubles. He sold the stone to the King of France, having in vain offered it to the other monarchs of Europe. The Duke of Saint Simon minutely chronicles the whole transaction. The model of the diamond, which was then known as the "Pitt," was brought to him by the famous Scotch financier, Law. At this time the Duke of Orleans ruled in France as regent for the boy who was afterwards to be Louis XV. The state of the French finances was well-nigh desperate. The people were starving, the national credit was nil, and the exchequer was almost if not quite empty. Nothing dismayed, however, by the dark outlook, that accomplished courtier, the Duke of Saint Simon, set himself to work upon the feelings of the Regent until he should be persuaded to buy this unique gem. When the Regent feebly urged the want of money the Duke was ready with a plan for borrowing and[Pg 18] pledging other jewels of the crown until the debt should be paid.

The Regent feared to be blamed for expending so extravagant a sum as two millions of money on a mere bauble; but the Duke instantly pointed out to him that what was right in an individual was inexpedient in a king, and what would be lavish extravagance in the one would in the other be but due regard for the dignity of the crown and the glory of the nation. In short says the courtier in his entertaining Memoirs, "I never let Monsieur d'Orleans alone until I had obtained that he would purchase this stone." To such successful issue was his importunity brought. The financier Law did not let the great diamond pass through his hands without leaving some very substantial token of its passage. He seems to have received forty thousand dollars for his share in the negotiation.

It is instructive to learn that the Regent's fear of being blamed for the purchase was en[Pg 19]tirely groundless. On the contrary he received the applause of the nation for his spirited acquisition of a gem the price of which had terrified all the other monarchs of Europe; whereupon the Duke of Saint Simon remarks with complacency that much of the credit was due to him for having introduced the diamond to court. The sum actually paid to Mr. Pitt appears to have been one hundred and thirty-five thousand pounds sterling, equivalent to eight hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, and the diamond received its name of Regent in compliment to the Duke of Orleans.

The Regent now enters upon a long period of tranquillity, nothing conspicuous happening to it for many years. It pursued its way quietly as a royal gem during the reign of Louis XV., adding its lustre to the brilliant but dissolute court of that monarch. After a lapse of nearly sixty years the Regent again came forward upon a stately occasion in order to fitly decorate a king of France. It was on the eleventh of June,[Pg 20] 1775, that the unfortunate youth Louis XVI. was crowned king in the ancient cathedral town of Rheims. A new crown of especial splendor was made for the new king and in it were incorporated nearly all the royal jewels. The top of the diadem was ornamented by fleurs-de-lys made of precious stones. In the centre of the principal one blazed the Regent, flanked right and left by the "Sanci" and the "Gros Mazarin," while round about sparkled a thousand diamonds of lesser magnitude. Louis's gorgeous head-gear was no less than nine inches high, and it is said that the King, made dizzy by the immense weight of it, put up his hand several times to ease his poor head. At last he said peevishly "It hurts me"; simple, thoughtless words to which after-events have given a sad and most fateful significance.

One of the actors in this magnificent pageant was the King's youngest brother, the Count d'Artois, a handsome youth of such exquisite courtliness of manner that he obtained and[Pg 21] kept through life the title of the Vrai Chevalier. We shall meet him again in still closer proximity to the Regent, fifty long years hence.

During the troubled reign of Louis XVI. the crown jewels including the Regent were lodged in the Garde Meuble where upon stated days they were exposed to public view. On the famous tenth of August, 1792, when Louis was deprived of his crown he was also relieved from the burden of looking after the Regent. It had at once become the National Diamond and as such belonged to everybody, hence everybody had a right to see it. In compliance with this popular notion the Regent was deposed from its regal niche in the crown of France and was securely fastened in a steel clasp. A stout chain was attached to the clasp and padlocked inside an iron window. Thus secured from the too affectionate grip of its million owners the Regent used to be passed out through the window and submitted to the admiration of all who asked to see it. As a further security police[Pg 22]men and detectives were liberally scattered about the place in the interest of national probity.

After the bloody days of the second and third of September when the ferocious mob of Paris broke into the prisons and massacred the unfortunate inmates, the Government imagined that the people should no longer be trusted with the custody of the Regent. Accordingly they locked up all the crown jewels as securely as they could in the cupboards of the Garde Meuble and affixed the seals of the Commune most visibly thereto. Notwithstanding their precautions, however, the result does not seem to have justified their conclusions. On the seventeenth of the same month it fell to M. Roland, then Minister of the Interior, to make a grievous statement to the Assembly. He informed the deputies that in the course of the preceding night some desperate ruffians had broken into the Garde Meuble Nationale between two and three o'clock in the morning and had stolen[Pg 23] thence jewels to an enormous value. Two of these ruffians had been arrested, but unfortunately not those who had the large diamond and other national property secreted upon their persons. A patrol of ten men who were posted at the Convent des Feuillants had pursued the miscreants, but being less effectively armed than the robbers they were unable to capture them.

The two thieves then in custody upon being questioned gave, of course, answers which aroused the suspicions of these easily inflamed patriots. It seemed certain—so at least argued Roland—that the robbery had been planned by persons belonging to the late dominant aristocratic party in order to supply themselves with money to be used in paying the foreign troops who were to subdue France and again reduce her to slavery. He then proceeded to deliver an impassioned address upon this fertile theme. Patriot deputies freely accused each other of being the authors of this crime. Dan[Pg 24]ton was pointed at by one party, while he retorted by naming Roland, minister as he was, as one who knew too much about it.

It seems probable however that none except the thieves themselves were concerned in this astonishing robbery and that they were actuated by greed alone. The patriots only made use of it for party purposes to obtain their own objects, just as they tried to utilize in the same way any uncommon natural phenomenon, such as comets, earthquakes or hail stones.

A few days later an anonymous letter was received by the officials at the Commune stating that if they searched in a spot most carefully described in the Allée des Veuves of the Champs Elysées, they would find something to their advantage. They accordingly hunted at the place indicated and found the Regent and a valuable agate vase. All the rest of the booty, however, the thieves made off with after having thus eased their consciences of the weight of the great diamond.[Pg 25]

We lose sight of the Regent in the black gloom that hangs over the Reign of Terror. There is however a persistent tradition, impossible now either to prove or disprove, that on the occasion of the marriage of Napoleon Bonaparte with Josephine Beauharnais in 1796 the former wore a most superb diamond in his sword hilt. Could this perchance have been the Regent? It is certainly difficult to imagine how Napoleon could have become possessed of the Regent at this date. Yet it is also difficult to imagine how the young man who was then an unknown and a poor general without an army although full of high expectations, could have become the owner of any diamond of such splendor as to attract the attention of at least two contemporary historians. It is just possible it may have been the peerless Regent already shedding its rays upon the blade of that sword destined to flash through Europe and to leave behind it so bloody a trail.

However this may be, it is certainly a fact[Pg 26] that in 1800 Napoleon, then First Consul, pawned the Regent to the Berlin banker Trescow. With the money thus obtained he set out on that famous campaign beyond the Alps which ended at Marengo and which began his career of unexampled success. Thus once more the Regent may be said to have founded the fortune of a great house, but more aspiring in its second attempt it succeeded less effectually than in the case of Pitt. However in 1804 the house of Bonaparte had not fallen upon its ruin and it is some idea of this fact that gives color to the extraordinary revelations of the man called "Baba."

In 1805 several men were tried for having forged notes on the Bank of France, and one of them who went by the nickname of "Baba" made a full confession of how the forgeries were accomplished, and then, to the vast astonishment of the court, he delivered this theatrical speech: "This is not the first time that my avowals have been useful to society, and if I[Pg 27] am condemned I will implore the mercy of the Emperor. Without me Napoleon would not have been on the throne; to me is due the success at Marengo. I was one of the robbers of the Garde Meuble. I assisted my confederates to conceal the Regent diamond and other objects in the Champs Elysées as keeping them would have betrayed us. On a promise that was given to me of pardon I revealed the secret; the Regent was recovered and you are aware, gentlemen, that the magnificent diamond was pledged by the First Consul to the Batavian[A] government to procure the money which he so greatly needed."

There must have been some truth in Baba's statement, or at least the Tribunal considered there was, for he was not sent with his companions to the galleys, but was confined in the Bicêtre prison where he was known as "the man who stole the Regent."

[Pg 28]Napoleon did not set the Regent in his imperial crown. Having redeemed it from the hands of Trescow for three millions of livres he mounted it in the hilt of his state-sword. There was something very fitting in this bestowal of the diamond. That the great soldier who had carved out his way to the throne with his sword should use the famous stone to ornament that blade was eminently appropriate. The Emperor seems to have considered that the Regent, whose name he most properly did not alter, belonged to him in an especially personal manner. In his confidences with Las Casas when at St. Helena he particularly complains of the manner in which the Allies defrauded him of this diamond, saying that he had redeemed it out of the hands of the Jews for three millions of livres and therefore that it belonged to him in his private capacity.

On the first of April, 1810, the Regent was called upon to add its glory to the gorgeous scene in the long gallery of the Louvre on the[Pg 29] occasion of the official marriage of Napoleon with Marie Louise. The Emperor who was very fond of splendid pageants was attired in the most magnificent apparel contained in the imperial wardrobes. But he seldom had the stoical patience demanded of those who pose as kings. He never could acquire the deliberate stateliness of Louis XIV. who was born and brought up within the narrow limits of regal etiquette. Indeed the Emperor was frequently known to divest himself of his costly robes in a very expeditious manner going so far as actually to kick—unholy sacrilege!—the imperial mantle out of his way. On the day of his marriage with the Archduchess the Regent was used to decorate the cap of the bridegroom. Madame Durand, one of the ladies-in-waiting to the new Empress, has left an account of the ceremony in which occurs the following passage:—

"He (Napoleon) found his black velvet cap, adorned with eight rows of diamonds and three white plumes fastened by a knot with the Regent blazing in the centre[Pg 30] of it, particularly troublesome. This splendid headgear was put on and taken off several times, and we tried many different ways of placing it before we succeeded."

Like poor Louis XVI. at his coronation Napoleon found that his sparkling top-hamper hurt him.

There was little opportunity for the Regent to appear fittingly after this event, although no doubt it was present at that kingly gathering in Dresden in the spring of 1812, when Napoleon in the plenitude of his power was starting upon the Russian campaign. But in the crash of a falling throne the imperial diamond is lost to view.

When Marie Louise escaped from Paris in 1814, flying before the advancing allies she took with her all the crown jewels, and specie to the amount of four millions. These valuables the fugitive Empress kept with her until she reached Orleans, where she was overtaken by M. Dudon a messenger from the newly-returned Bourbon king. This gentleman demanded and obtained[Pg 31] the restoration of the money and the jewels. Thus the Regent was forced to abandon the fallen dynasty and to return to Paris to embellish the cap of the new king.

In the scrambling restoration of Louis XVIII. it was impossible to have a coronation. Indeed the court of this returned Bourbon was of the quietest, being under the dominion of Madame d'Angoulême, an austere bigot, of a temper very different from that of her gay and pleasure-loving mother, Marie Antoinette. It was not until May, 1818, that there was anything like a fitting occasion for the Regent to appear. It was in that month the most delightful of all the months of the year in France, that the youthful bride of the Duke of Berri arrived from Naples. Louis XVIII. resolved to have the young princess met in the forest of Fontainebleau, and thither accordingly the whole court migrated on the previous day. It was the king's wish that the meeting should take place in a tent pitched in the stately forest. Perhaps he dreaded the im[Pg 32]perial memories that still haunted the chateau, Napoleon's favorite residence where he had given his splendid hunting fêtes. The king arrayed himself sumptuously in a velvet coat of royal blue embroidered with seed pearls, and the Regent was placed in the front of his kingly cap while his sword was decorated by the less brilliant Sanci diamond. Thus regally adorned the king, too fat and gouty to stand in a royal attitude, was majestically seated in his arm-chair where he was discovered by the youthful Caroline when she tripped lightly into the tent.

Charles X. was destined to enjoy the Regent but for a few brief years. Having succeeded to the throne on the death of his brother in September, 1824, he made his state entry into his capital in the first days of October. This Charles, now an old man, is the youthful Count d'Artois who figured at the coronation of Louis XVI. half a century before. Hardly was the late king laid to his rest in the sombre vaults of St. Denis when his successor laid his hands[Pg 33] upon the Regent. The grand diamond sparkled upon the hat of the elderly monarch when bowing and smiling he made his entry into Paris as King of France. He was very fond of display, the Vrai Chevalier of the olden time, and spent months devising the most perfect and complete of coronations. Everything was to be conducted according to the strict old court etiquette; even the dresses of the ladies were designed from fashion plates of the time of Marie de Médicis. This was the last king of France crowned at Rheims, none but the elder Bourbons having dared to face the legitimate traditions of the sleepy old town. A crown splendidly garnished with diamonds was made especially for Charles who was duly anointed. But it all availed not to keep him on his infirm throne. He abdicated in 1830 when at St. Cloud and proceeded with royal slowness to quit the kingdom.

He retained however his hold over the crown jewels while relinquishing the crown itself, for he carried the Regent and all the rest of the[Pg 34] diamonds off to Rambouillet. As soon as the municipal government in Paris became aware of this fact they sent two agents to receive the precious objects from the hands of the ex-king. But his dethroned majesty would not give them up, whereupon a column of six thousand troops marched upon Rambouillet, and Charles was convinced by the irresistible logic of their flashing bayonets. He surrendered the Regent and other gems which were instantly appropriated by his "good cousin of Orleans," Louis Philippe.

He again in turn was obliged to fly and leave his diamonds behind; so that the Regent was found by Louis Napoleon amongst the other treasures of the country when he laid hold of the vacant crown of France. The late Emperor had it set in the imperial diadem.[B] It is a thick, square-proportioned diamond about the size of a Claude plum with a very large top surface, technically the table, and it gives forth even in[Pg 35] daylight the most vivid rays. One authority on precious stones observes that the Regent is not cut to rule, being too thick for its size, but he quaintly remarks that such a diamond is above law. The Regent may do as it likes, but smaller stones should beware how they imitate peculiarities which in them would be called defects.

On the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 the Regent and its glittering companions in glory were safely lodged in a sea-girt fortress. But Napoleon never returned to redeem them.

From the day when this peerless diamond first came to France it has always been a sovereign gem in the strictest sense of the term. It has never been used to adorn any one but the reigning monarch, and has never condescended to deck the brow of a woman.

During the present Republic the Regent has dwelt somewhat in obscurity. It lies snugly put away along with the other crown jewels in the vaults of the Ministère des Finances. But[Pg 36] when the Chamber some two years since decreed that crown jewels should be sold by auction, they exempted the Regent. Republican France will not sell the Regent. This is a very remarkable fact, and would have eased the mind of the old Duke of Orleans could he have foreseen it. This sparkling gem, which he dreaded to buy fearing the censure of his people, has now sunk so deeply into their affections that even after the final extinction of the race of Bourbons which it was bought to adorn, the same people, now being sovereign, cannot bring themselves to part with it.[Pg 37]



"Diamonds," says an old writer, "have ever been highly valued by princes. To a sovereign," he argues, "who can command the lives and property of his subjects by a word, the ordinary objects of human desire soon lose that stimulating interest which rarity of occurrence and difficulty of acquisition can alone keep. The gratification of the senses and of unrestricted sway soon palls upon the appetite, and War and Diamonds are the only objects that engross the attention; the former because it is attended with some hazard and is the only kind of gambling in which the stake is sufficiently exciting to banish the ennui of an illiterate despot; the latter because the excessive rarity of large and at the same time perfect specimens of this gem supplies a perpetual object of desire while each new acquisition feeds the complacent vanity of the possessor."

According to this philosophy we should expect to find that the most despotic princes would be the most addicted to the vani[Pg 38]ties of War and Diamonds. Whether this conclusion be true as regards war may be open to doubt. Russia, without contention, is the most despotic monarchy of Europe, and yet the one which can show the shortest list of wars. With regard to diamonds, however, the deduction holds in all its force. The Russian regalia is richer in precious stones than that of any other Asiatic country. Besides numberless sapphires, rubies and pearls it possesses an immense quantity of diamonds.

This passion for gems which characterizes the Russians was early observable among them. It is no doubt an inherited Asiatic taste, brought with them from the steppes of Siberia and the plains of Thibet, just as they brought thence their high cheek-bones, their flat noses, their dull skins, and the strong tendency to long hair and flowing beards.

As early as the time of Peter the Great the diamonds were a notable feature of the Russian crown. But it was in the reign of Catharine II.[Pg 39] that the most splendid gems which Russia now possesses were added to her treasures. First and foremost stands the Orloff. With the exception of the very dubious Braganza of Portugal the Orloff is the largest diamond in Europe. It outweighs the Regent by more than half a hundred carats, reaching as it does the astonishing weight of one hundred and ninety-three carats.

The origin of this gem is absolutely lost and its early history is involved in obscurity and contradiction. It appears a stone of ancient date. It was known in India for generations before it was transferred to Europe. Three Fates—a slave, a ship captain, and a Jew—seem destined to preside over the advent of each great diamond into our Western world. Nor were they wanting in this instance—except that a soldier was substitute for the slave.


The date, however, is not so easy to discover as the circumstances of its entrance into European history. It was, at all events, at some time prior to 1776 that a grenadier belonging to [Pg 40]the French army which garrisoned the French possessions of Pondicherry deserted from his flag and became a Hindoo. This conversion was not the result of deep inward conviction, but of far-sighted craft. The Frenchman had heard of the great Sringerī-matha, the most holy spot in all Mysore. This temple, situated on an island at the junction of the Cavery and the Coleroon, was one of four especially sanctified monasteries founded in the eighth century by Sankarācárya. This man, a strict Brahmin, restored the glories of the old religion somewhat dimmed by Buddhism, and planted a monastery in each of the four extremities of India to keep alive the faith of Brahma. The one at Srirangam was noted, and the resort of pilgrims. It consisted of seven distinct inclosures, many lofty towers, and a gilded cupola, besides which it[Pg 41] was furnished with a perfect undergrowth of dwellings for the many Brahmins who served at the altar.

Now the object of the grenadier's metamorphosis was that he might be received into these sacred precincts and become a priest of Brahma. And why? Because Brahma had a diamond eye. As the French historian puts it, "the soldier had become enamored of the beautiful eyes of the deity." European heretics were not allowed to penetrate further than the fourth inclosure. If the grenadier was to gaze at the eye of the god it must be as a Hindoo.

Being, then, externally a Hindoo, the Frenchman proceeded to gain the confidence, and even the admiration of the priests by the extraordinary fervor of his devotion. The ruse succeeded, and he was eventually appointed guardian of the innermost shrine.

One night, on the occasion of a great storm, the Hindoo-grenadier believed the moment propitious for his grand enterprise. Being alone[Pg 42] with the god he threw off his disguise, climbed up the statue, gouged out the Wonderful Eye, and made off with it to Trichinopoly.

Here he was safe for the moment among the English troops encamped at that place. But soon he journeyed on to Madras in search of a purchaser for the Eye. He of course met an English sea-captain, the middle figure of the indispensable trio of Fates, and to him the grenadier sold the diamond for two thousand pounds ($10,000). After this the grenadier falls back into obscurity.

The sea-captain went to London and there speedily fell in with the Jew, the third Fate. The name of this Fate was Khojeh Raphael, and his character was that of "a complete old scoundrel." He seems to have traveled all over Europe in his character of Jew and merchant and to have left a not altogether immaculate record of himself. Khojeh Raphael paid twelve thousand pounds ($60,000) for the stone and then in his turn set about hunting up a pur[Pg 43]chaser. But this proved no easy matter. The splendid Catharine of Russia, it is said, rejected it though fond of diamonds and not slow to spend money, because the price asked was too high for her. It remained for a subject to buy it and present it to her as a gift. This then is the history of the Orloff diamond in India according to the most trustworthy accounts.

Having brought the diamond to Europe we no longer deal vaguely, but are instantly face to face with an exact date.

"We learn from Amsterdam that Prince Orloff made but one day's stay in that city where he bought a very large brilliant for the Empress his sovereign, for which he paid to a Persian merchant the sum of 1,400,000 florins Dutch money."

So says a gossipy letter dated January 2, 1776; and as further we are informed of the value of the "florins Dutch money" in English pennies, we learn that the price paid to the "complete old scoundrel" of a Khojeh Raphael was one hundred thousand pounds ($500,000).[Pg 44] The Prince Orloff mentioned in the letter is no other than Gregory, the favorite of Catharine II., a man of such singular fortunes that a few words may well be spared to him.

Orloff's grandfather first came into notice in an extraordinary manner. In 1698, when Peter the Great barely escaped assassination at the hands of his body-guard, the renowned Strelitz, he resolved to destroy the corps altogether. This he performed effectually by cutting off their heads by scores and hundreds. The Czar aided in this bloody work with his own hand and decapitated many of his mutinous soldiers on a big log of wood. One young fellow, Jan nicknamed Orell (eagle), annoyed at finding the severed head of a comrade exactly in the spot where he had decided to lay his own neck, kicked it aside with the remark, "If this is my place I want more room." The Czar, delighted with the congenial brutality of the observation, pardoned the soldier and gave him a post in his new regiment of guards.[Pg 45]

Slightly altering his nickname "Orell" into "Orloff," the respited victim founded a family destined to become renowned in Russian history. His son was taken into the ranks of the nobles, and his famous grandson Gregory, born in 1734, became a soldier early in life. Gregory Orloff was a man of ability, but his fortune was undoubtedly due to his personal beauty. He was tall and handsome with a well-earned reputation for audacious courage, always alluring to the mind of a woman. His first appearance in the world of fashion reflects little credit upon him and still less upon the Russian society in which he lived. He was on the point of being sent to Siberia to think over his misdeeds at his leisure, when a hand was extended to him which afterward raised him almost to the summit of human greatness. The Grand Duchess Catharine interested herself on his behalf and rescued him from Siberia. Orloff rapidly advanced in her favor, and it may have been he who first inspired her with the boundless ambi[Pg 46]tion which he afterwards aided her in gratifying.

At all events Gregory Orloff and his brothers were the prime movers in that military insurrection which overthrew Peter III., a feeble, drunken imbecile, and set up in his place his wife Catharine, a handsome imperious strong-willed woman. The revolt took place on July 9, 1762, and the new Empress instantly ordered her vanquished husband into confinement. Let us trust that she ordered not his death. Catharine II., often called the Great, and sometimes the Holy, has enough for which to answer without the addition of the deliberate murder of her husband to swell the account against her. Be this as it may, the fact remains that a fortnight later Peter III. was strangled by Alexèy Orloff, brother of Gregory the favorite of Catharine.

Thus left in undisturbed possession of the throne the Czarina loaded with riches and titles the brothers who had aided her. But nothing was sufficient for the ambition of Gregory Orloff.[Pg 47] Not content with the position of First Subject he aspired to that of Master. Catharine, who seemed unable to refuse him anything, was several times on the point of recognizing him officially as her husband, and he had reason to suppose himself on the verge of grasping the great prize of his ambition when it was snatched away.

In 1772, being then absent upon a mission to the Turks, Orloff's credit with Catharine was utterly destroyed by his rival Potemkin. Hurrying back in such desperate haste that he had not a coat for which to change his traveling cloak, in hopes of repairing his evil fortunes, Orloff was met by an order to travel abroad. It was thus that Catharine always relieved herself of the presence of favorites whose company had become irksome.

Orloff, maddened with rage, set out on his travels and wandered all over the north of Europe. It was during his exile that he heard of the wonderful diamond that Khojeh Raphael had for sale. Knowing how fond Catharine[Pg 48] was of all jewels and especially of diamonds, he hoped to propitiate her by a unique gift of the kind. Catharine took the gift, but refused to receive the giver back into her favor. Her fickle affections were engaged by another handsome face, and Gregory Orloff spent the remaining years of his life in aimless journeyings varied by an occasional visit to St. Petersburg. He died mad in 1783. He used sometimes to address the Empress, calling upon her by the pet-name of "Katchen"; or again he would taunt her with her unkindness.

Such was the life and death of Gregory Orloff. The diamond to which his name was given although accepted by Catharine seems not to have been worn by her as a personal ornament. It was mounted in the Imperial Sceptre where it has ever since remained undisturbed. In its latter state of tranquil splendor it differs signally from the Regent whose European career, as we have seen, has been a singularly stormy one. As the sceptre is used only at coronations[Pg 49] the history of the Orloff becomes one of long repose and seclusion, diversified by transient re-entrances into grandeur as successive Czars appear upon the scene to be crowned.

The most singular coronation which has ever been performed was probably that which followed the death of Catharine and preceded the consecration of her son and successor. Catharine died in 1797 after a reign of thirty-five years. But before she could be buried there was a ceremony to be performed, the like of which had never been seen.

Her son Paul, a taciturn individual who seems never to have forgotten his father's miserable death, performed an expiatory coronation in his honor, seeing that that ceremony had been neglected in Peter's life. For this purpose the body of the long-dead Czar was disinterred and was dressed in the Imperial robes. The ornaments of the coronation which had been fetched expressly from Moscow for the purpose were then disposed about the moulder[Pg 50]ing figure. It must have been a grisly sight—the crowned skeleton of the murdered Peter lying beside his wife's body with Orloff's diamond banefully glittering on his bony hand. Nor was this all. With a genius for grim appropriateness the new Czar summoned the two surviving murderers of his father to attend as chief mourners. These were Prince Baratinsky and Alexèy Orloff. The former overcome by the horror of his recollections fainted away many times; but Orloff, with iron indifference, stood four hours bearing the pall of the man he had strangled with his own hands thirty-five years before. After performing this public penance both men were banished from Russia.

The coronation of a sovereign is always a stately ceremony; but the installation of the Czars of Russia is elaborate almost beyond description. The ceremonial invariably followed is that used at the coronation of Peter the Great and his Empress. The ritual is largely religious,[Pg 51] as the Czar is Head of the Church as well as Emperor. The sceptre of course plays an important part and is taken up and put down a bewildering number of times. The following extract from a work entirely devoted to the explanation of the many comings and goings and uprisings and downsittings will give a slight idea of what a performance the coronation is:

"The Metropolitan having received the Sceptre from the hands of the noble bearer carries it to the Emperor who takes it in his right hand. The Metropolitan says, 'Most pious, most powerful, and very great Emperor of all the Russias, whom God has crowned, upon whom God has shed His gifts and His Grace, receive the Sceptre and the Globe. They are the symbols of the supreme power which the Most High has given thee over thy peoples, that thou mayest govern them and obtain for them all the happiness they desire.' And the Emperor takes the Sceptre and sits upon the throne."

But this is not nearly all. The sceptre, which is graphically if somewhat grotesquely called the Triumph-stick, is held only for a brief time. The Emperor at the end of the prayer, lays it[Pg 52] upon a velvet cushion and upon another he places the globe or Empire-apple as it is termed. Then he calls to himself the Czarina and crowns her with his own imperial diadem. But the consort is not invested with any imperial power, therefore she does not receive either the sceptre or the globe. After having crowned his wife, the Czar again seats himself upon his throne holding his Stick and his Apple in either hand. Cannons roar, bells clang and multitudes shout "Long live the Father!" while all present bow low before the monarch in adoration. Then the new Czar and Czarina receive the communion with more stately movings about from place to place. Finally the Te Deum is sung, the crowned Emperor, sceptre in hand, walks forth, and the intricate ceremonial is thus brought to a close, having been in continuance some four or five hours.

The Regalia, which includes seven or eight crowns, is kept in the Kremlin in an upper room "where," says a traveller, "they [the[Pg 53] crowns, etc.] look very fine on velvet cushions under glass cases." The Czars are always crowned in Moscow, the ancient capital of Russia.

Paul, having performed the weird ceremony already described, then had himself duly and solemnly crowned. His reign was a short one however, and in 1801 he gave place to his successor Alexander, in the orthodox Russian manner—that is to say he was strangled.

In 1812 the Orloff and its magnificent companions had to fly from Moscow. In the beginning of September in that terrible year, finding that the mountains of slain on the bloody field of Borodino could not stop Napoleon, the Russians sullenly retired before him. On the third of the month the Regalia was carried out of Moscow and lodged in a place of safety in the interior. This flight was followed by that of everybody and everything that was portable. When Napoleon entered on the fourteenth it was to find an absolute desert in Moscow, only[Pg 54] a few stragglers, prisoners and beggars having been left.

Alexander I., strange to say, died peacefully in 1826, leaving the throne to his brother Nicholas. Nicholas has been aptly called "the Iron Czar." He was the third son of his father, but his elder brother, Constantine, having no taste for the perilous glory of a crown renounced his rights in favor of Nicholas. There was some delay in crowning the new Czar owing, says the Court Circular with decorous gravity, to the illness and death of the late Emperor's widow who survived her husband but five months. In reality, however, the delay was caused by events more serious to the peace of mind of the new sovereign. A revolution, which seems an indispensable accompaniment to a change of rulers in Russia, exploded after the accession of Nicholas and came near to costing him his life. This event seems to have further hardened a nature that was already sufficiently severe, and when Nicholas went to Moscow in[Pg 55] August, 1826, his coronation progress was not meant to gladden the people but to make them quake. When the Czar left the Cathedral of the Assumption, his crown upon his head and his sceptre in his hand, "his face looked as hard as Siberian ice." So wrote of him an eye-witness, who further says the people were too frightened to cheer—they dropped on their knees with their faces in the dust. It was a gloomy coronation notwithstanding all the diamonds and glitter of the pageant. There was but one redeeming incident that spoke of human kindliness and affection. When the Czar had been crowned his mother, the widow of the murdered Paul, advanced to do homage to him as her sovereign, but the Czar knelt before his mother and implored her blessing. After the Empress Mother came Constantine, the elder brother, who had waived his rights to the crown, and he was in turn affectionately embraced by Nicholas. This exhibition of fraternal affection in Russia, where brothers had been known to[Pg 56] strangle each other in order to grasp the much-coveted sceptre, was considered as something quite unprecedented. The Court Chronicler of the day speaks of it with emotion as a sight to move the hearts of gods and men.

Nicholas died in the middle of the Crimean War and Alexander II. reigned in his stead. The extraordinary pomp of his coronation has never been surpassed. He in his turn held in his hand Orloff's great diamond as the symbol of absolute power. Yet he, who could deal as he chose with the lives of all his subjects, had not power to save his own from the hand of the assassin. The murder of Alexander II. by Nihilists in March, 1881, is fresh in memory as also the succession of the present Czar. The Orloff was then once more taken from its repose in the sumptuous privacy of the Kremlin to enhance the splendors of an Imperial Coronation. Within a short time the Orloff has served to grace yet another splendid ceremony. On the occasion of the recent installation of[Pg 57] the Czarevitch as Hetman of the Don Cossacks, the sceptre as well as the crown and globe, were exhibited to the admiring multitudes of Novo Tcherkask.

Such is the career of the imperial diamond given by Gregory Orloff to his Empress. In appearance the gem differs materially from the Regent. It is essentially an Asiatic stone, presenting all the peculiarities of its Eastern birthplace. It is variously described as of about the size of a pigeon's egg or of a walnut. One writer expresses disappointment at it, remarking that the sceptre resembles a gold poker, and the Mountain of Light (a name sometimes given to the Orloff) "which we had pictured to ourselves as big as a walnut was no larger than a hazel-nut!" Never having seen this diamond the present writer cannot speak of its apparent size; but if the drawings are reliable it is certainly a monstrous "hazel-nut" of a diamond.

The cutting of the Orloff is purely in the Eastern style, being what is known as an Indian[Pg 58] rose. Asiatic amateurs have always prized size above everything in their gems. The lapidaries therefore treat each stone confided to them with this object mainly in view. A stone is accordingly covered with as many small facets as its shape will allow, and no attempt at a mathematical figure, such as that presented by our European diamonds, is ever ventured upon by them. Cardinal Mazarin was the first who intrusted his Indian rose-diamonds to the hands of European cutters in order to have them shaped into brilliants. The fashion thus set by him has been generally followed throughout Western Europe. Russia, however, true to her Asiatic traditions, keeps to Indian roses, most of her imperial diamonds being of that cut.

The Orloff is now back again safe in the Kremlin, where let us hope it may long rest undisturbed either by rumors of invasion or a demand for a new coronation with its probable attendant assassination, universal terror and judiciary retribution.[Pg 59]



From time immemorial pearls have competed with diamonds for the first place as objects of beauty. In some countries indeed, notably in Persia, the post of honor has been awarded to them in spite of the brilliant flashes of their more showy rivals.

Pearls differ in one essential respect from other precious gems in that they require no aid to enhance their beauty. They need only to be found, and the less they are handled the more perfect do they appear.

Unlike diamonds, pearls were known to Greeks and Romans, while the area over which they are found comprises a large portion of the globe, extending from China to Mexico and from Scotland to Egypt. A certain pearl of[Pg 60] astonishing magnitude formed the chief treasure of ancient Persia, while every one is familiar with the persistent myth of Cleopatra's ear-ring and the cup of vinegar. People for centuries have wondered over the insane extravagance of the draught; but they might have spared their wonder, for no acid which the human stomach can bear is powerful enough to dissolve a pearl.

The various notions relative to the origin of pearls have done credit to the fertility of man's imagination. Some writers have affirmed that they were the product of "ocean dew," whatever that may be, and were accordingly affected by atmospheric conditions. Thus they were large and muddy during the season of the monsoon, becoming clear and lustrous again in hot dry weather, while thunder and lightning had a fatal effect upon them. These ideas were prevalent in the Ceylon fisheries, which at one time were most prolific in their precious crop. Another idea was even still more quaint. According to it, the oyster was looked upon as affecting[Pg 61] the habits of the feathered tribe. The pearl was an egg which the oyster laid after the manner of hens.

Modern science, more exact if less imaginative, has decided that the pearl is due to an accident, and an inconvenient accident which frequently befalls the parent oyster. A grain of sand, or some such minute foreign substance, gets within the jealous valves of the mollusk and causes great irritation to the soft body of the pulpy inhabitant. Accordingly it endeavors to render the presence of the intruder less irksome by coating it with exudations from its own body. In other words the grain of sand is "scratchy," so the oyster smooths it over. Why, then, after once coating the objectionable grain of sand and thus making it a comfortable lodger, the oyster should go on for years adding layer after layer of pearl-substance remains is truly a mystery. But such is its habitual practice, and to this apparently aimless perseverance we owe the existence of pearls.[Pg 62]

Long before America was discovered by Columbus, pearl-fishing had been largely carried on by the inhabitants of the islands in the Gulf. When the Spaniards arrived in the South Sea they were charmed to find the dark-red natives decorated with strings of pearls. Montezuma was at all times bedecked with these glimmering little globules, and in Florida De Soto was shown the tombs of the chiefs profusely ornamented with the same gems. The mortuary shields were in some instances closely studded with thousands upon thousands of pearls; and many stories have come down to us of weary soldiers flinging away bags of these gems which they had in vain tried to exchange for food or water.

Pearls vary very much in size, ranging from the seed-pearl no bigger than a mustard grain, to the Pelegrina as large as a pigeon's egg; and they vary also in shape. The most prized are the round pearls which besides their extreme rarity are supposed to have an especially deli[Pg 63]cate lustre; the pear-shaped pearl generally retains the greatest size.

The Pelegrina is a pear-shaped pearl weighing one hundred and thirty-four grains, and at the date of its arrival in Europe and for a century afterwards was the largest known pearl. It came across the water in 1559, for the Pelegrina is an American prodigy. In that year, Philip II., King of Spain, was in a very festive mood. He had the year before lost his uncongenial although royal wife, Mary of England, and he was looking out for another bride. His choice fell upon Elizabeth of France, a pretty girl of sixteen who had been betrothed to his son Don Carlos. She arrived in Spain early in the following year, and he expressed his delight at her beauty. He lavished all sorts of presents upon her and amongst others a "jewel salad." In this quaint conceit the rôle of lettuce was played by an enormous emerald, ably seconded by topazes for oil, and rubies for vinegar, while the minor but essential part of salt was assigned to pearls.[Pg 64]

Philip, whose one redeeming characteristic was a love for the fine arts, spent a considerable sum upon the purchase of jewels. He acquired a very large diamond just about this time, but the Pelegrina pearl was given to him.

Garcilaso de la Vega, that gossipy historian who incorporated every possible subject and all sorts of anecdotes into his history of the Incas, saw the Pelegrina. Of course so interesting a fact was immediately set forth at length in the Royal Commentaries of Peru, where it belongs at least with as much reason as the account of the writer's drunken fellow-lodger in Madrid.

He says:

"In order more particularly to know the riches of the King of Spain one has but to read the works of Padre Acosta, but I will content myself with relating that which I did myself see in Seville in 1579. It was a pearl which Don Pedro de Temez brought from Panama, and which he did himself present to Philip II. This pearl, by nature pear-shaped, had a long neck and was moreover as large as the largest pigeon's egg. It was valued at fourteen thousand four hundred ducats ($28,800) but Jacoba da Trezzo, a native of Milan, and a most excellent workman[Pg 65] and jeweller to his Catholic Majesty, being present when thus it was valued said aloud that it was worth thirty—fifty—a hundred thousand ducats in order to show thereby that it was without parallel in the world. It was consequently called in Spanish La Peregrina which may be translated, I think, into "incomparable."[C] People used to go to Seville to see it as a curiosity.

"At that time there chanced to be in that city an Italian who was buying the finest pearls for a great nobleman in Italy, but the largest gems he had were to it as a grain of sand to a large pebble. In a word, lapidaries and all those who understand the subject of Pearls said in order to express its value that it outweighed by twenty-four carats every other pearl in the world. It was found by a little negro boy, so said his master. The shell was very small and to all appearance there was nothing good inside, not even a hundred reals worth, so that he was on the point of throwing it back into the sea."

Fortunately he thought better of it and kept the insignificant shell. The lucky slave was rewarded with his liberty, while his master was given the post of alcalde of Panama, and the king kept the pearl.

[Pg 66]The Pelegrina was found off the small island of Santa Margareta, about one hundred miles distant from San Domingo. Pearl-fishing, as then carried on by the natives, was a simple affair, although at the same time rather dangerous. The method was as follows:

The negroes having proceeded in their fragile canoes to the rocky beds inhabited by the oysters, the divers then attached heavy stones to their feet to expedite their sinking. Carrying a basket, a knife, and a sponge dipped in oil, they plunged into the sea holding fast to the rope which was to bring them to the surface again. Their noses and ears were stuffed with wool, but the pressure of the water frequently caused apoplexy, while sharks abounded in the vicinity. However, if the diver escaped both these perils, he proceeded as fast as possible to scrape off the shells with his knife and to put them into his basket. Occasionally he put the sponge to his mouth and sucked a little air from it, while the oil prevented him from swal[Pg 67]lowing any water. When he could bear it no longer he kicked the stones from off his feet, rattled at the rope, and was hauled up as rapidly as possible. Sometimes the divers remain "a quarter of an hour, yea, even a half" under water, placidly observes the padre in conclusion. Considering that he purports to have been an eye-witness, he should have been more careful of his written statements. From three to five minutes is the limit assigned by more cautious writers, and probably even this is an over estimate, as two minutes is now considered a long time for a good diver to remain under water without a diving bell.

Philip II. appears to have retained the Pelegrina for his own personal adornment and to have worn it as a hat-buckle. It looped up the side of his broad hat or cap according to the Spanish fashion. The black velvet and other sombre hues which he affected could hardly have given to the delicate gem the soft background which its beauty demanded. But if it[Pg 68] is true, as has been asserted by poets, that pearls are emblematical of tears, then this great pearl was the most fitting ornament for a king who put his son to death, poisoned his nephew, burnt his subjects and devastated the Netherlands during quarter of a century.

Philip's son and successor, likewise Philip of name, made little use of the Pelegrina; but his wife Margareta wore it on the occasion of a grand ball which was given in Madrid in 1605 to celebrate the conclusion of peace between England and Spain.

James I. was very eager for the alliance of his son with the royal house of Spain. To effect this purpose he sent the Prince of Wales and his favorite Buckingham on a romantic mission to Madrid to make love to the Infanta. This was considered a very remarkable proceeding, and great was the astonishment of all the crowned heads throughout Europe who were in the habit of doing their courting by means of ambassadors, envoys, and other plenipotentiaries.[Pg 69]

The Prince of Wales was received with great pomp. Balls, jousts and bull-fights in profusion were ordered for his benefit, and the King, Queen and Infanta loaded their visitor with kind attention. At the same time it must have been rather an irksome visit to all concerned. Charles spoke to the Queen once in French, she being a French princess, whereupon she advised him to do it no more as it was customary to kill any man who spoke to queens of Spain in a foreign tongue!

On the departure of the English prince gifts to a fabulous amount were exchanged amongst the royalties. One pearl in particular was declared by the court chronicler to be so fine that it might "supply the absence of the Pelegrina." The splendid pearl, thus highly rated by the Spanish courtier, was given by Charles to the Cardinal-Infante along with a pectoral of topazes and diamonds.

The Pelegrina appeared at most of the court pageants of Madrid, serving to deck either the[Pg 70] kings or the queens during several generations. When, for example, in the summer of 1660, Philip IV. of Spain brought his daughter Maria Theresa to the frontier to be married to the young King of France, Louis XIV., the beautiful pearl appeared on the scene to lend its splendor to the occasion. Mademoiselle de Montpensier, the fantastic lady who was known in her day as la grande Mademoiselle, speaks thus of the Pelegrina and its wearer:

"The King (Philip IV.) had on a gray coat with silver embroidery: a great table diamond fastened up his hat from which hung a pearl. They are two crown jewels of extreme beauty—they call the diamond the Mirror of Portugal, and the pearl the Pelegrina."

On this occasion the two courts of Versailles and Madrid vied with each other in splendor, and their doings have rendered famous the little boundary river of the Bidassoa with its Isle of the Pheasant. A modern traveler whisking past in the train sees but little to recall the once famous spot; a half dried-up river and a marshy[Pg 71] reed-covered swamp are all that now remain. The island is gone, so also are the royal houses whose meeting there was so great an event.

There is one occasion upon which the Pelegrina served to deck a bride so young and fair that it deserves more than a passing notice. The bride was Marie Louise d'Orléans, the first wife of Charles II. This poor sickly King, the last descendant of the mighty Charles V., was a very shy boy and extremely averse to the society of women. When he was about seventeen his mother and the royal council decided that he must be married, and they cast their eyes upon the neighboring house of France, into which Spanish monarchs were in the habit of marrying when not engaged with it in war. The only suitable lady was "Mademoiselle"—for such was in ancient France the distinctive title of the eldest niece of the King. Mademoiselle, besides being niece to Louis XIV., was furthermore pretty, vivacious, and only sixteen. Her portrait was[Pg 72] sent to Spain, and what was the amazement of the court to see the shy young king, who could scarcely look a woman in the face, fall violently in love with this portrait. He kept it always beside him and was observed frequently to address the tenderest expressions to it.

Such being the satisfactory state of the King's feelings the match was rapidly concluded, and Marie Louise set out from Versailles to go to her unknown husband. On his side Charles II. went forward to meet her as far as Burgos, and there they first saw each other in 1679. When the King was unexpectedly announced, Mademoiselle was observed to blush and look agitated which made her all the prettier. As Charles entered her apartment she advanced in order to kneel at his feet, but the Boy-King caught her by both arms and gazing at her with delight cried, "My Queen, my Queen!"

Although she arrived in Madrid in the autumn of 1679, the young Queen did not make her state-entry into her capital until the following[Pg 73] January. In the meantime she was kept in the closest seclusion. Not all the power of the King of Spain joined to the love which Charles bore to his wife was sufficient to break down the adamantine wall of etiquette which long usage had built around the queens of Spain. Like a Moorish slave in a harem, the gay young French girl was shut up alone with her Lady of the Bedchamber and was permitted to see no one except the King. She was not allowed to write to her own family nor receive their letters. She was even refused permission to read a letter from Paris which a compassionate friend sent her in order that she might hear a little news. She was a prisoner indeed, although the prison was gilded. It needed something to atone for two months of such a life, and if a grand display could sweep away the recollection of it that consolation was not withheld.

On January 13, 1680, the Bride-Queen at last entered Madrid. Madame la Mothe, whose keen French eyes saw everything and whose[Pg 74] sharp French pen chronicled it, has left a minute account of the ceremony. She says:

"The Queen rode upon a curious Andalusian horse which the Marquis de Villa Magna, her first gentleman-usher, led by the rein. Her clothes were so richly embroidered that one could see no stuff; she wore a hat trimmed with a plume of feathers and the pearl called the Pelegrina which is as big as a small pear and of inestimable value, her hair hung loose upon her shoulders, and upon her forehead. Her neck was a little bare and she wore a small farthingale; she had upon her finger the large diamond of the king's, which is pretended to be the finest in Europe. But the Queen's pretty looks showed brighter than all her sparkling jewels."

There is a picture still extant of this queen which proves her to have been pretty in spite of the disfigurement effected by some of her sparkling jewels. Madame la Mothe does not mention what the picture shows, namely, that the Queen's ears were weighted down by a pair of ornaments as large as saucers which the Queen-mother had presented to her. Above the ear-rings moreover were a pair of huge jewelled[Pg 75] rosettes fastened to the hair in such a way as to make one almost fancy that the ears were being dragged out by their enormous pendants and had to be nailed up by the rosettes.

Marie Louise lived but a few years to enjoy the love of her husband and the splendor of her rank. It was said that she died of a broken heart caused by the torments of court jealousies and intrigues against which the King, her husband, in vain tried to shield her.

Charles II. died in 1705, and being childless he bequeathed his crown to Philip of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV. and cousin to the wife of his youth whose memory was still dear to him. Of course other claimants arose to grasp so splendid an inheritance, so that the funeral torches of Charles may be said to have set fire to Europe. At all events, a vast conflagration soon burst forth known as the War of the Spanish Succession, which included ere long within its fiery embrace Spain, France, England. Austria, Italy, Germany and Holland. After all[Pg 76] their fighting however Philip still remained King of Spain, and the house which he founded is now, in the person of the Baby-King of Spain, the last reigning example of that mighty tribe of Bourbons which at one time ruled over so large a portion of Europe.

During the first years of his reign Philip V. had to fight for his throne, nor was he invariably successful. At one time he was so hard-pressed by his rival, the Archduke Charles, that he had almost to seek rufuge in France. By the urgent entreaty of his ministers the King and Queen did not actually quit the soil of Spain, but the Pelegrina did do so. The invaluable pearl, along with the rest of the crown jewels, was entrusted to a French valet named Susa, who crossed over the frontier into France, kept his treasures safe until the danger was passed, and then when the tide of success began to flow for Philip brought them back again to Madrid.

This is the last authentic appearance of the Pelegrina in Spanish history. After this date,[Pg 77] 1707, its story becomes confused and oftentimes contradictory. It is alleged to have been given first to one favorite and then to another, while finally as a climax of confusion another pearl in Spain, one in Sardinia, and one in Moscow, impudently assume its name and masquerade as the true and veritable Pelegrina.

Our own inquiries both in Madrid and St. Petersburg have failed to supply the links that are missing in its history. We cannot say when it finally passed away from the crown of Spain, for there have been many clearances of the royal jewels to meet the exigencies of various kings. At all events, for the last thirty years it has been in the hands of a Russian family. The Oussoupoffs belong to the ancient nobility and they are extremely wealthy; but how and when the Princess Oussoupoff became possessed of the Pelegrina we do not pretend to say. The friend who made the inquiries for us said significantly that it was impossible to ask many questions in Russia. Questions, however inno[Pg 78]cent, are looked upon with great suspicion and any questioner is liable to repent of his inquisitiveness. It is a pity that so historic a gem as the Pelegrina should be practically lost to us in a Russian lady's jewel casket. Any other large pearl would have served her purpose equally well for mere ornament, and had the Pelegrina remained in Western Europe we should probably know something more about it or at all events we should be able to ask what questions we like without incurring the suspicion of treason and of being desirous of hurling the Romanoffs from their throne.[Pg 79]



The Koh-i-nûr is the most ancient, the most illustrious, and the most traveled of all our diamonds. It is what is called a white diamond, but its color would be of the deepest crimson, if only one thousandth part of the blood which has been shed for it could have tinted its rays. It looms through the mist of ages until the mind refuses to trace further backwards its nebulous career.

It is to an emperor that we owe the first contemporary account of the imperial gem. In 1526 Baber, the Mogul conqueror, speaks of it as among the captured treasures of Delhi. But that was by no means the first time that it mingled in the affairs of men. It was already "the famous diamond" in Baber's time, and a[Pg 80] wild tradition would have us believe that it was found no less than five thousand years ago. If it were found then, and if it has been ever since the contested prize of adventurers, thieves and all sorts of marauders, we cannot be too thankful that forty-seven of those fifty centuries are mercifully hidden from us.

Sultan Baber was a great man, a mighty conqueror and a good writer. He has left full and minute journals of his long adventurous life, which take the panting reader through such a series of battles, sieges, conquests, defeats, royal pageants and hair-breadth escapes, that at last one cries out with wonder, "Can this man have been mortal to have lived through all this?"

Baber came from good old conquering stock. His father was sixth in descent from Tamerlane the Tartar, and his mother stood somewhat nearer to Jenghis Khan. Following in the footsteps of his fierce ancestors, Baber invaded India, or as he himself complacently remarks: "he put his foot in the stirrup of resolution and[Pg 81] went against the Emperor Ibrahim." Rushing down like a devastating whirlwind from his mountain fastnesses around Cabul, Baber fell upon the Punjaub, first striking down all that opposed him and then writing about it in his Memoirs.

On the twenty-first of April, 1526, he encountered the army of Ibrahim on the field of Paniput. "The sun was spear-high when the contest began, and at midday they were completely beaten and my men were exulting in victory," says Baber. The Indian emperor was killed and his head was brought to the victorious Mogul. Immediately after the battle, the conqueror sent forward two flying squadrons to Agra and Delhi respectively to seize the treasures of the fallen king. The troop which went to Agra was commanded by Humayûn, the favorite son of Baber. It is with this troop and its doings that we are concerned, but what was found in the Hindoo treasury had best be told by the conqueror himself:[Pg 82]

"Sultan Sekandar had made Agra his residence during several years while he was endeavoring to reduce Gwalior. That stronghold was at length gained by capitulation in the reign of Ibrahim: Shemsabad being given in exchange to Bikermajet the Hindoo who was Rajah of Gwalior for more than a hundred years.[D] In the battle of Paniput he was sent to Hell. [Incisive Mohammedan expression which signifies the death of an unbeliever.] When Humayûn arrived (at Agra) Bikermajet's people attempted to escape, but were taken by the parties which Humayûn had placed upon the watch and put in custody. Humayûn did not permit them to be plundered. Of their own free will they presented to Humayûn a pesh kesh (tribute) consisting of a quantity of jewels and precious stones. Among these was one famous diamond which had been acquired by the Sultan Ala-ed-din."

We may reasonably doubt how much of free will there was in the gift from a defeated Hindoo prince to his Afghan conqueror. Let us question this as we may, there is little doubt as to what diamond it was, although Baber gives it no name. The Sultan Ala-ed-din, to whom the imperial memoir-writer here refers, flourished a couple of centuries previously, and it is generally believed that he obtained "the famous diamond" in 1304 when he conquered the Rajah of Malwa in whose family it had been for ages.

[Pg 83]


[Pg 84]

(186 carats.)

[Pg 85]

How it eventually came into the hands of Bikermajet is not explained. But in the wild whirl of revolution and insurrection, which form the main staple of Indian history, many things get hopelessly mixed, and a diamond might easily turn up unexpectedly and be quite unable to account for itself. Baber goes on to relate that the great diamond—we will antedate its name by two centuries and call it henceforward the Koh-i-nûr—was valued by a competent judge of diamonds "at half the daily expenditure of the whole world"—an expression which for grandiloquent vagueness can scarcely be surpassed. Fortunately the same competent judge had not the weighing[Pg 86] of the stone, or we should be befogged by some further Oriental hyperbole.

The emperor however says distinctly that the diamond weighed about eight mishkals, which being interpreted means about one hundred and eighty-six carats of our weight, or a little less than the Orloff and fifty carats more than the Regent. It is mainly on the evidence of the weight thus carefully recorded by Baber, that we identify the Koh-i-nûr, and can trace its subsequent career. On its arrival in England its exact weight was found to be one hundred and eighty-six and one-sixteenth carats, which agrees with the figure given by Baber as afterwards computed by dependable authorities. When we consider the extreme rarity of these great diamonds, coupled with the fact that no two stones are of exactly the same weight, we may feel pretty safe in concluding that Baber's "famous diamond" and our Koh-i nûr are one and the same stone, especially as henceforward its history is tolerably consecutive.[Pg 87]

This magnificent gem the emperor gave to his beloved son Humayûn, who had very dutifully offered it to his father as tribute. It is somewhat painful to learn that Humayûn rewarded this generosity by base ingratitude. The very next year we find Baber making this complaint:

"I received information that Humayûn had repaired to Delhi and had there opened several houses which contained the treasure and had taken possession by force of the contents. I certainly never expected such conduct from him, and, being extremely hurt, I wrote and sent to him some letters containing the severest reprehension."

It was surely not a comely action in the man who had received the Koh-i-nûr as a gift from the hands of his father, to plunder that father's treasure houses. Baber was at all events in full possession of his health and power and was abundantly able to enforce the obedience of his son. He again admitted Humayûn into favor, and four years later, namely in 1530, we find this fondly-cherished son languishing in mortal ill[Pg 88]ness. The father was in despair, and sent him down the Ganges one hundred miles to Agra in hopes of benefiting him, but apparently to no purpose. A man of great piety was appealed to for his opinion, and he declared that in such cases the Almighty sometimes deigned to receive a man's most valuable possession as a ransom for the life of his friend. Baber declared, that next to the life of Humayûn, his own was what he held most precious in the world, and that he would offer it up as a sacrifice. His courtiers, aghast at the purport of such a vow, begged him to offer up instead "that great diamond taken at Agra," and reputed to be the most valuable thing on earth.

But the Koh-i-nûr, almost priceless as it was, Baber esteemed at a lower figure than his own existence. The self-devoted emperor walked thrice around the bed of his son, saying aloud: "I have borne it away, I have borne it away." Immediately thereafter he was observed to sink into illness, while Humayûn as steadily regained[Pg 89] his health. So all Eastern historians of the time declare, devoutly believing in the miracle. Perhaps we, more sceptical, may account for it by suggesting that both men, father and son, were suffering from Indian fever, and that the elder died, while the younger was able to live through it.

Humayûn must have retained possession of the Koh-i-nûr during his adventurous life, for his son, the celebrated Akbar, appears to have bequeathed it in turn to his son and successor, Jehangir. This Jehangir was the most magnificent of all the Mogul emperors, or indeed it might be safely added of all the emperors of the world. He was a great admirer of diamonds of which he possessed a vast quantity. He must have inherited an immense number of jewels from his father Akbar, for in his memoirs he describes his crown, which he valued at a sum equivalent to ten millions of dollars, and which was composed exclusively of the diamonds and other jewels which Akbar had purchased.[Pg 90]

This seems to establish the fact that the Koh-i-nûr was not incorporated in the imperial crown. It may possibly have been one of those magnificent diamonds which he used so lavishly in the adornment of his renowned peacock throne, the value of which amounted, according to his own estimate, to the unheard-of figure of forty millions of dollars. Some writers indeed go so far as to assert that the Koh-i-nûr was one of the eyes of that stupendous peacock, which was entirely composed of precious stones, and whose out-spread tail overshadowed the throne of the Moguls. According to them, too, the Orloff diamond was the other eye. But this is clearly a mistake; we have already seen where the Orloff came from—a thousand miles and more from Delhi.

It seems most probable that the peerless stone was worn as a personal ornament. There is extant an interesting contemporary print, which represents Jehangir decked out with a profusion of large pearls, in addition to which he wears[Pg 91] around his neck a long string of various jewels. In the center of this chain hangs one stone of such exceptional size that it may well be the Koh-i-nûr. This however is only conjectural. Terry, the author of the print, chaplain to Sir Thomas Roe, who was sent on an embassy from James I. to the Grand Mogul, does not mention the Koh-i-nûr by name. He merely observes that the Emperor was in the habit of wearing around his neck "a string of all his best jewels," and since the Koh-i-nûr was undoubtedly the finest diamond then known, and was apparently in his possession, it is more than probable that it would figure in the necklace.

Jehangir's empress was the celebrated Nûr Jehan (Light of the World), a princess famous alike for her beauty and her wisdom. The emperor says in his autobiography that she had the entire management of his household and of his treasure, whether gold or jewels. He might have justly added that she had the entire management of himself also, for he was completely[Pg 92] under her influence. This beautiful Light of the World must have been uncommonly fond of jewels, as the emperor says that he had to give her thirty-five millions of dollars at their marriage to buy the needful jewels. Also Nûr Jehan is said to have invented the now world-famous perfume, attar of roses. Toward the end of Jehangir's life the Koh-i-nûr and all his other diamonds, we are told, ceased to charm, and he no longer desired to possess them. Even of diamonds, it appears, one may have a surfeit.

Shah Jehan, son of Jehangir, ascended the throne of India in 1627, and was if possible more addicted to jewels than his father. He caused basins of diamonds to be waved over his head in order to avert evil. This sort of incantation seems to have failed of its purpose in his case for he was dethroned and imprisoned by his rebellious son, Aurung-zeb, who kept him in confinement during the last seven years of his life. His diamonds and his daughter, Jiha[Pg 93]nira, were left with him to keep him company and amuse him during these tedious years.

Aurung-zeb, who, for an Eastern potentate, was rather short of jewels, sent one day to his father to get some of his diamonds in order to adorn his turban which could boast of but one great ruby. The imprisoned Shah Jehan exclaimed in his wrath that he would break all his gems to atoms sooner than let his undutiful son touch one of them. He further intimated that the hammers were kept in readiness for this purpose. His daughter prevailed upon him to spare his glittering pebbles, and so the Koh-i-nûr escaped an ignominious death.

The same princess offered a basin full of diamonds to Aurung-zeb when he came to see her in her palace prison after the demise of their father, and thus the Koh-i-nûr came to adorn the brow of another emperor. For nearly a century after the Koh-i-nûr dwelt tranquilly in Delhi, adding the lustre of its rays to the turbans of the Mogul empress until the year 1739.[Pg 94]

Mohammed Shah, a feeble irresolute man, was appointed by Fate to hold the sceptre of India at the moment when she was to meet her fiercest foe. Thamas Kouli Khan, better known as Nadir Shah, had raised himself to the throne of Persia and, like all usurpers, felt the need of strengthening himself at home by a successful foreign war. He accordingly invaded India, at the head of a small force of hardy fighters, who, in the words of Nadir's grandiloquent Persian biographer, "threw the shadow of their sabers across the existence of their foes." In short they killed all before them and entered the Punjaub early in the year 1739, by pretty much the same route as that followed by Baber, the ancestors of the Moguls. But the Moguls were changed since the days of Baber. Mohammed Shah was completely defeated the moment he encountered Nadir Shah.

However, booty, rather than territory, was the object of the invader, so he did not dethrone Mohammed, but only levied tribute from him.[Pg 95] The defeated Mogul gave an unheard-of quantity of jewels to Nadir Shah "who was at first reluctant to receive them, but at length consented to place the seal of his acceptance upon the mirror of his request." Such reluctance is very foreign to the generally rapacious and grasping character of Nadir Shah, and probably existed only in the flowery imagination of the writer of his life.

Having become aware that the Koh-i-nûr was not among the treasures he had already sealed with his acceptance, Nadir Shah set about hunting for it, and at last a traitor was found who betrayed the secret of its hiding-place. A woman from the harem told the Persian king that the coveted diamond lay hidden in the folds of Mohammed's turban, which he never took off. Nadir accordingly one day invited his helpless friend, Mohammed, to exchange turbans with him in sign of their everlasting friendship. As in the time of the first free-will offering to Baber two centuries before, the Koh-i-nûr was[Pg 96] once again to pass from the conquered to the conqueror, from the weak to the strong.

It is said that Nadir Shah, overjoyed at the beauty of the gem he had thus cleverly filched from his ally, called it "Koh-i-nûr" (i.e. the Rock of Light) the first time that he laid eyes upon it. If this is really a fact it is very singular. It is indeed strange that Jehangir, who was so fond of descriptive names compounded with Light, should have left it to the enemy of his race to endow one of his favorite diamonds with this poetical title. One would prefer to think that he had called his diamond the Rock of Light just as he had called his wife the Light of the World.

Upon the retreat of the conqueror the diamond was carried off with other booty. The Koh-i-nûr therefore went from Delhi into Persia, and eventually it descended to Shah Rokh, the hapless son of the mighty Nadir Shah. But he who would wear the great diamond in peace must himself be strong, and Shah Rokh was[Pg 97] weak. The wretched prince was unable to hold the throne, usurped by his father, against the usurpations of his own lieutenants. In 1751 he was dethroned and his eyes put out by Aga Mohammed, who endeavored by the most frightful tortures to force him to give up his diamonds and other treasures. Shah Rokh however, in spite of all, still retained the Koh-i-nûr and his tormentor thereupon devised for him a diadem of boiling pitch and oil which was placed on his unhappy head. But even this expedient failed to make him give up his priceless gem.

A powerful neighbor, the lord of Kandahar, an old friend of his father, now came to Shah Rokh's assistance, put his tormentor to death, and once more placed the forlorn prince upon his tottering throne. In reward for this timely service, the Persian gave to his deliver the Koh-i-nûr in whose rays his sightless eyes could no longer rejoice. Shortly afterwards he died from the effects of his injuries.

The Koh-i-nûr was now in Afghanistan, the[Pg 98] birthplace of Baber, while Baber's descendants on the throne of Delhi helplessly mourned its loss. It went from father to son safely enough for two generations in the land of the Afghans, and then its evil spell began to work once more.

In 1793, just after its rival, the Regent, had been lost and found in the midst of the French Revolution, the Koh-i-nûr passed by inheritance into the hands of Taimûr Shah, the king of Cabul. He left it along with his crown and his kingdom to Raman Shah, his eldest son. Raman had enjoyed the triple inheritance for only a few years when his brother rose in arms against him, and being successful, as most rebels are in Afghanistan, followed the old established etiquette of the Cabul royal family:—the messengers of Shah Shuja, the triumphant rebel, met their deposed sovereign on his way to the capital, and they put out his eyes by piercing the eyeballs repeatedly with a lancet.

This done, Shah Shuja sat himself down to enjoy the sweets of Asiatic power. The Koh[Pg 99]-i-nûr was not immediately his, however, for it was some time before it came to light, and then by the merest accident. An officer, happening to scratch his finger against something that protruded from the plaster in the walls of the prison of poor blinded Shah Raman, turned to examine the cause of the wound. To his amazement he discovered it to be the corner of the great diamond, which the unlucky prisoner fancied he had securely hidden away. Shah Shuja wore the Koh-i-nûr in a bracelet during the brief splendor of his reign, and it was on his arm when English eyes first saw it.

Mountstuart Elphinstone, the pioneer of the weary throng of Englishmen who have trod the road to Cabul, thus speaks of the Koh-i-nûr and its possessor to whom he was accredited as ambassador in 1812:

"At first we thought the Afghan was clad in an armour of jewels, but on closer inspection that appeared to be a mistake. His real dress consisted of a green tunic with large flowers in gold and precious stones over which were [Pg 100]a large breast-plate of diamonds shaped like two flattened fleurs-de-lis, and an ornament of the same kind on each thigh; large emerald bracelets on the arms above the elbows and many other jewels in different places. In one of the bracelets was the Koh-i-nûr, known to be one of the largest diamonds in the world. There were also some strings of very large pearls put on like cross belts, only looser."

Shah Shuja met with the fate he had meted out to his elder brother, and in his turn was blinded and dethroned by his younger brother, Shah Mahmûd. The two blinded Shahs, united by a common misfortune, escaped together over the border and were doubly welcome at the court of Runjeet Singh, the fierce ruler, who goes by the name of the Lion of Lahore. The unhappy brothers did not come empty handed. Shah Shuja had managed to bring away with him an immense amount of jewels; hence the joy of Runjeet Singh, who had a passion for diamonds.

On the second day after his entrance into Lahore, Shah Shuja was waited upon by an[Pg 101] emissary from Runjeet, who demanded the jewel in the name of his master. The fugitive monarch asked for time to consider the request, and hinted that after he had partaken of Runjeet's hospitality he might be disposed to listen to his demands.

But the Lion of Lahore was in too great a hurry to lay his hands upon Shuja's diamond to think of hospitality. On the contrary he treated the Shah as a prisoner, separated him from his wife, and acted with extreme harshness towards the latter. He even tried to starve the poor Begum into giving up her diamonds. He fancied that he had succeeded, and, in great delight, spread out before some knowing persons, the gems which his cruelty had extorted from the luckless queen, asking them which was the Koh-i-nûr. Great was Runjeet's disgust when he was told that the famous diamond was not among the lot.

Shah Shuja speaking of the final transaction says:[Pg 102]

"After a month passed in this manner confidential servants of Runjeet at length waited on us and asked again for the Koh-i-nûr, which we promised to deliver as soon as the treaty was agreed upon between us."

A couple of days after this interchange of preliminaries, Runjeet appeared in person, and was full of friendship and promises. He swore by all manner of things to maintain inviolable a treaty to the following effect:

"That he delivered over certain provinces to us and our heirs forever, also offering assistance in troops and treasure for the purpose of again recovering our throne. He then proposed himself that we should exchange turbans (ominous precedent!) which among the Sikhs is a pledge of eternal friendship, and we then gave up to him the Koh-i-nûr diamond."

After which, let it be remarked, Runjeet broke all his promises.

The actual ceremonial of the delivering up of the Koh-i-nûr is graphically described by an eye-witness of the scene, who says that the behavior of Shah Shuja throughout the entire proceeding was dignified and impressive.[Pg 103]

On the appointed day (namely, June 1, 1813) the Rajah accompanied by several experts—he was determined there should be no mistake this time—proceeded to Shadera where Shuja was residing. The two potentates sat in profound silence for one whole hour, neither being disposed to speak first. Runjeet Singh was consumed with impatient desire to see the Koh-i-nûr, so at length he hinted to an attendant, who in turn hinted to Shah Shuja the purpose for which they were all thus solemnly assembled. Shuja, silent still, nodded to a servant, who speedily placed upon the carpet a small casket. Then again a tremendous silence ensued which Runjeet bore as long as he could, and at last he nodded to a servant to open the casket. The Koh-i-nûr lay revealed, and was recognized by the experts as the true gem.

Runjeet, for the first time speaking, asked, "At what price do you value it?"

Shuja, answering from out of his woeful knowledge, said: "At good luck; for it has[Pg 104] ever been the associate of him who has vanquished his foes."

Shah Shuja seemed to imagine the diamond to be a bearer of blessings. This is the common belief in India with regard to large diamonds, which are supposed to possess magic virtues; but Edwin Arnold, than whom there exists no better authority about Indian legends, distinctly states that according to a Hindoo tradition "a baleful influence" was ascribed to the Koh-i-nûr. "The genii of the mines, as it declared, enviously persecuted with misfortunes the successive holders of this treasure." Rapidly glancing over the history which we know he draws the conclusion that the tradition sprang up after the event.

To Runjeet Singh, at any rate, the Koh-i-nûr brought no misfortune. He wore it as a bracelet and it glittered on the old king's arm at many a Sikh durbar.

On his deathbed, the Brahmans who surrounded Runjeet tried to induce him to offer up[Pg 105] the great diamond to the image of Juggernaut. The covetous priests were willing to run the risk of any amount of baleful influences, provided they could secure the Koh-i-nûr as a forehead jewel for their idol. Runjeet nodded his head, so the Brahmans averred; and on the strength of this dubious testamentary bequest they claimed the stone. The royal treasurer, however, less fearful of the wrath of the god than of that of the succeeding rajah, refused to give it up.

Kurruck Singh wore this symbol of royalty for a brief space and then died of poison to make way for a usurper, Shere Singh. This unlucky monarch was killed in a durbar as he sat on his throne in Lahore, and the Koh-i-nûr was flashing in his turban at the very moment when the assassin aimed the treacherous shot.

And now, last of all the Indian owners of the wonderful gem, we come to Dhuleep Singh, the infant son of Runjeet the Lion. It has been said that the Koh-i-nûr belonged ever to the[Pg 106] strong; it was scarcely probable therefore that it would remain for any length of time in the feeble grasp of this child. Indeed, his elevation upon the throne of Lahore was a signal for all sorts of intrigues and machinations on the part both of those who were in power and wished to keep it, and of those who were out of power but wished to acquire it.

In the midst of all this turmoil a new and hardier race appears upon the scene. Lord Dalhousie annexes Lahore, and the English flag floats for the first time over the Koh-i-nûr.

In March, 1849, the king of Lahore was formally deposed. The scene was short and business-like, very different from the stately Oriental silence between Runjeet Singh and Shah Shuja on the occasion of the last change of allegiance made by the fickle diamond. A crowd of natives, without arms or jewels, a few English officers, a man reading the proclamation in Hindustani, Persian and English, the boy-king affixing his seal to the paper with careless haste[Pg 107]—that was all. The ancient kingdom of the Five Rivers ceased to exist, and its last king became an English gentleman with a large income.

As a token of his submission, the deposed prince was to send the Koh-i-nûr to the Queen of England. This was accordingly done, and the imperial gem of India passed to the crown of England, thus once more vindicating its traditionary character. Again it has passed from the weak to the strong, from the conquered to the conqueror, but we may hope that it has left behind it in India all those baleful influences with which it has been credited.

When it came to England in 1850 the Koh-i-nûr was distinctly an Indian stone. It had a large flat top, irregular sides, and a multitude of tiny facets, besides which there were three distinct flaws. It was, moreover, lacking in light; being scarcely more brilliant than a piece of gray crystal.

Yet, notwithstanding all these defects, it was[Pg 108] a deplorable want of taste and of historic sympathy which dictated the re-cutting of this unique gem. Professor King, an unimpeachable authority on diamonds and the proper mode of treating them, says with reference to this stone:

"As a specimen of a gigantic diamond whose native weight and form had been as little as possible interfered with by art, it stood without rival, save the Orloff, in Europe. As it is, in the place of the most ancient gem in the history of the world, older even than the Tables of the Law, and the Breast Plate of Aaron, supposing them still to exist, we get a bad shaped, because unavoidably too shallow, modern brilliant; a mere lady's bauble of but second water, for it has a greyish tinge, and besides this, inferior in weight to several, being now reduced to one hundred and two and one half carats."

The operation of re-cutting the Koh-i-nûr was a very delicate and dangerous one. A special engine and mill had to be erected for it and a special workman, Mr. Woorsanger, was brought for it from Amsterdam. The work was executed in the atelier of the Crown Jewels and superintended by the Garrard brothers. Much interest[Pg 109] was excited by the process and many people of distinction visited the workshop. One of these visitors asked Mr. Garrard what he would do, supposing that the Koh-i-nûr should fly to pieces during the cutting—a contingency that some had feared likely. Mr. Garrard answered: "I would take my name-plate off the door and bolt."

The Prince Consort placed the diamond on the mill, and the Duke of Wellington gave a turn to the wheel. Thus launched, the work went on steadily, and at the end of thirty-eight days Mr. Woorsanger handed the new brilliant to his superiors.

The cutting of the Regent took two years by the old handmill process, and it had no deep flaws to eradicate, as was the case with the Koh-i-nûr. To grind out these flaws the wheel made no less than three thousand revolutions per minute.

The Koh-i-nûr still retains its Oriental name, though it has so unfortunately been forced to[Pg 110] abandon its Oriental shape. It is now set in a brooch which the Queen wears upon all state occasions. It is kept at Windsor, so as to be at hand when wanted, and considerable interest in high quarters is required to get a sight of it. An exact model of it reposes in the jewel case of the Tower, alongside of the Crown, in order to gratify the curiosity of Her Majesty's subjects.[Pg 111]



The diamond variously known as the "French Blue," or the "Tavernier Blue," has had a singular destiny.

Smaller by nearly eighty carats than the Orloff, and younger by three centuries than the Koh-i-nûr, it is in some ways as remarkable as either of those famous stones. So far as is known, it was never the worshiped orb of an idol, nor the hardly-less worshiped bauble of an Eastern prince. Wars were not waged for it, nor were murders committed to obtain its possession. Indeed, its quaint commercial début into history is somewhat tame, as is also its uneventful life of a century and a half in the treasure-chambers of the Crown of France. In fact, were it not for its strange color, its strange[Pg 112] loss and its yet stranger recovery, the French Blue would scarcely deserve a place among these "Stories about Famous Precious Stones."

Jean Baptiste Tavernier is a name familiar to everyone who has studied the history of precious stones. He was the son of an Antwerp geographer settled in Paris, and early in life he evinced an ardent love of travel. Born in 1605, he had at the age of twenty-two traveled over most of Europe, and was acquainted with most European languages. In his own account of his travels he speaks entertainingly of the various reasons which at different times prompted him to journey. Having entered the service of the Duke of Mantua as captain of a company of soldiers, he attended that prince during the siege of Mantua. He was struck by two bullets which, though inflicting a troublesome wound, failed to kill him—thanks to the excellent temper of his cuirass; whereupon he observes that "he found a longer stay at Mantua did not agree with his desire to travel." He made his[Pg 113] way to the East carrying with him a vast quantity of cinque-cento[E] enamel work and jewelry, which he sold to the Asiatic sovereigns, and bringing back a number of precious stones which he sold to the kings of Europe. Jean Baptiste Tavernier was, in fact, a sort of peddler among princes.

He made in all six journeys to India during the space of forty years, and amassed great wealth. Although a Protestant, he was ennobled by Louis XIV. on account of the services he had rendered to French commerce, and he thereupon bought the barony of Aubonne in Switzerland which he afterwards sold to Duquesne the great navigator.

Louis XIV. was one of his best customers and bought from him jewels and rich stuffs to the enormous amount of three millions of francs;[Pg 114] about six hundred thousand dollars. It was on his return from his last voyage, namely in 1668, that Tavernier sold the Blue Diamond to Louis XIV. Unfortunately he does not give any particulars of the purchase of this stone, which is singular as he was a very chatty writer and filled his book with a quantity of delightful little passages beginning "I remember once." He describes at great length the Eastern manner of buying and selling diamonds. Their methods seems greatly to have impressed him, accustomed as he was to the noisy bartering of European markets.

He says:

"'Tis very pleasant to see the young children of the merchants (at the diamond mines) from the age of ten to sixteen years, who seat themselves upon a tree that lies in an open space of the town (Raolconda, a diamond region near Golconda). Every one of them has his diamond-weight in a little bag hanging on one side and his purse with five or six hundred pagods in it. There they sit waiting for any one to come and sell them some diamonds. If any one brings them a stone they put it into the hand of the eldest boy among them who is, as it were, their[Pg 115] chief; who looks upon it and after that gives it to him that is next him, by which means it goes from hand to hand till it returns back to him again, none of the rest speaking a word. After that he demands the price so as to buy it if possible, but if he buy it too dear it is upon his own account. In the evening the children compute what they have laid out; then they look upon the stones and separate them according to their water, their weight and their clearness. Then they bring them to the large merchants who have generally great parcels to match, and the profit is divided among the children equally. Only the chief among them has four per cent. more than the rest."

It may have been from some such sedate children that Tavernier bought the Blue Diamond. At the same time he mentions the Coleroon mine as the only one which produces colored diamonds, from which we may infer that "the Blue" hails from that locality. As Tavernier was well-known as a diamond-buyer who gave good prices, it is probable that he would get many proffers of stones from private persons. With regard to another large diamond which he bought in India, he has given a minute account[Pg 116] of the transaction which may be taken as a fair sample of Asiatic bartering:

"One day towards evening a Banian badly dressed, who had nothing on but a cloth around his loins and a nasty kerchief on his head, saluted me civilly and came and sat down beside me. In that country (India) no heed is given to the clothes. A man with nothing but a dirty piece of calico around his body may all the same have a good lot of diamonds concealed. On my side, therefore, I was civil to the Banian and after he had been some time seated he asked me through my interpreter if I would buy some rubies. The interpreter said he must show them to me, whereupon he pulled a little rag from his waist-cloth in which were twenty ruby rings. I said they were too small a thing for me as I only sought for large stones. Nevertheless, remembering that I had a commission from a lady in Ispahan to buy her a ruby ring for a hundred crowns, I bought one for four hundred francs. I knew well that it was worth only three hundred, but I chanced the other hundred in the belief that he had not come to me for that alone. Judging from his manner that he would gladly be alone with me and my interpreter in order to show me something better, I sent away my four servants to fetch some bread from the fortress. Being thus alone with the Banian, after much ado he took off his turban and untwisted his hair which was coiled around his head. Then I saw come from beneath his hair a scrap of linen in[Pg 117] which was wrapped up a diamond weighing forty-eight and a half carats, of beautiful water, in form of a carbuchon,[F] two thirds of the stone clear except a small patch on one side which seemed to penetrate the stone. The fourth quarter was all cracks and red spots. As I was examining the stone the Banian, seeing my close attention, said: 'Don't amuse yourself with looking at it now. You will see it to-morrow alone at your leisure. When a quarter of the day is passed,' 'tis thus they speak, 'you will find me outside the town, and if you want the stone you will bring me the money.' And he told me the sum he wanted for it. I did not fail to go to him and bring him the required sum, with the exception of two hundred pagods which I put aside, but which after a dispute I had to give him also. At my return to Surat I sold the stone to a Dutch captain out of whom I had an honest profit."

This last remark suggests the reason why Tavernier did not mention the sum demanded by the Banian for his diamond. Possibly the long-headed peddler feared that had he stated the amounts his readers might not have deemed his profit quite so honest. Can this be the reason, moreover, of his total silence regarding the[Pg 118] purchase of the Blue Diamond? It seems the fate of this stone to come from out of the Unknown in a mysterious fashion. We shall meet it, appearing suddenly and without a history.


Tavernier gives three drawings of this Blue Diamond, which was, he said, clear and of a lovely violet hue, and its weight in the rough was one hundred and twelve and one quarter carats. There is no other example of a blue diamond of this deep tint known—a fact which went far to establish the identity of the Blue Diamond in aftertimes. Diamonds of all the colors which belong of right to other precious stones are occasionally found. Thus they are red, green, yellow, and blue. The first and last named tints being the rarest, while the yellow is de[Pg 119]cidedly common. The true diamond, however, no matter what may be its hue, has an iridescent brightness which no other gem can counterfeit. This iridescence, coupled with its hardness, forms the test of the diamond; and its absence never fails to reveal the nature of an impostor. If anything can scratch a stone, that stone is not a diamond. The writer, in common with all her schoolmates, once bestowed a great deal of admiration and no small portion of envy upon a young companion on the strength of that young companion's diamond, a lustrous gem of most remarkable size. Alas! our admiration was undeserved and our envy misplaced. That splendid diamond had upon its upper surface three deep scratches!


But to return. When Louis XIV. bought from Tavernier at, we will say, an "honest profit" to[Pg 120] the seller, that three millions' worth of precious stuffs and stones, he became possessed of the Blue Diamond. This was in 1668 when the king was in the full tide of his glory, and also of his extravagance, conquering provinces, building palaces and buying gems.

There seems to be no record of the first cutting of the Blue Diamond, if indeed it was cut at all during the reign of the "Grand Monarque." And what is still more strange, it seems to have attracted very little attention, its heaven-blue tint being perhaps somewhat dimmed by the more striking splendor of the Regent which ere long was to attract all eyes and absorb all attention.

In 1776, fourteen hundred and seventy-one diamonds belonging to the French crown were sold, and the money thus obtained was used in re-cutting the remainder besides adding sundry other jewels to the Regalia. In February, 1788, the Antwerp Gazette makes known to the world that there had just been completed in that city[Pg 121] a work of great magnitude. This was the re-cutting into brilliants of all the rose-diamonds belonging to the King of France. The reader will remember that "roses" are diamonds covered over with facets, such as the Orloff, while the brilliant properly so-called is a double pyramid, a highly refracting figure, of which the Regent and the Koh-i-nûr are examples.

Diamond cutting was a lost art in France; hence the reason of sending the gems to Antwerp. Cardinal Mazarin, a great diamond fancier, had endeavored to stimulate diamond-cutting in Paris. He had imported workmen and wheels and then had caused his own stones and those of the king to be cut. When this was done, and further diamonds not being forthcoming, in order to still encourage his pet industry he had the same stones cut a second time! Such expensive encouragement of the diamond-cutting trade has probably never been heard of before or since.

The Antwerp artists having accomplished[Pg 122] their task to the satisfaction of Louis XVI., "he rewarded with presents, magnificent and really worthy of a King of France, all those who had a hand in it." The Blue Diamond came forth from the hands of the cutter an irregularly-shaped brilliant of a drop form weighing sixty-seven and one half carats.

In 1791, it was entered in the inventory of the Crown Jewels, which was drawn up by order of the Constituent Assembly, at the high valuation of six hundred thousand dollars. It will be thus seen that it had enormously increased in value since its "rough" days, for then the Blue Diamond as well as all the other diamonds and precious stuffs were bought from Tavernier for that precise amount.


In the story of "the Regent" an account was given of the robbery of the Garde Meuble in September, 1792, when the French jewels were stolen. The Blue Diamond shared the fate of all the rest. It was stolen, but unfortunately it was not found in that mysterious Allée des [Pg 123]Veuves where the Regent lay hidden. In fact, Tavernier's Blue Diamond, weighing sixty-seven carats, never again re-appeared as such. Men had something else to think of in France besides diamonds during the forty years which followed the great robbery, so that the very existence of a blue diamond was pretty nearly forgotten. True that John Mane, a fairly reliable authority on diamonds, says that "There is at this time (1813) a superlatively fine blue diamond of above forty-four carats in the possession of an individual in London which may be considered as matchless and of course of arbitrary value." This is a most important statement, and in the light of subsequent investigations it would point almost conclusively to the fact that the French Blue, already metamorphosed, was in alien hands, except for the fact that the same writer a little further on makes the announcement of a Blue Diamond, weight sixty-seven carats, being[Pg 124] amongst the Crown Jewels of France at the same moment.

However this may be, suddenly, in 1830, the small world of diamond-worshipers was startled by the appearance in the market of a unique stone. A deep blue diamond, forty-four and one fourth carats, which Mr. Daniel Eliason had for sale and about which he could give no details. It sprang suddenly upon the world without a history, unless indeed it be the same as that mentioned by Mane some eighteen years before—and yet it was a cut and polished brilliant. Its form was irregular, for it had one very flat side. Mr. Henry Philip Hope bought it for ninety thousand dollars; and it henceforward became known as the "Hope Blue."

As a notable gem in a famous private collection the Hope Blue enjoyed for years a quiet distinction. It was set round about with pearls and white diamonds to enhance its azure and had a beautiful pearl-drop for pendant. Altogether it was a neat and delightful trinket; price[Pg 125] one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Little or nothing was thought about it until the death of the Duke of Brunswick, the mad diamond-miser who used to sleep surrounded with mechanical pistols which were warranted to go off with such fatal facility that it is a marvel they did not shoot his Grace in mistake for a burglar. In 1874, the Brunswick diamonds came to the hammer and amongst them a blue stone of six carats weight. Mr. Streeter, than whom there exists no better authority on diamonds, had this stone and the Hope Blue put into his hands together. He found that they were identical in color and quality, that the sides of cleavage matched as nearly as could be determined after the cutting, while the united weights plus the calculated less from re-cutting amounted to the weight of the French Blue. He immediately drew the very natural conclusion that both these stones were once united and formed the Blue Diamond brought from India by Tavernier. He, it will be remembered, called it of a "lovely[Pg 126] violet" and as only very few other blue diamonds are known to be in existence, and they are all of a pale blue tint, we must admit that the weight of evidence hangs strongly in favor of Mr. Streeter's reasoning.


The collection of the late Mr. Hope was a very large and valuable one. Of course the blue[Pg 127] diamond was its chief glory, but it contained other gems of value. A portion of these were recently offered for sale consisting of diamonds, sapphires, opals and pearls, set and unset, and of rings, crosses and bracelets, of all sorts of shapes and patterns. The display reminded one of a jeweller's show-case except for this remarkable difference. There were no two objects alike, and all showed the refined taste of an amateur rather than the massive showiness of the mere commercial jewel.

Mr. Hope engaged an eminent jeweller, Mr. Hertz, at an eminent fee (five thousand dollars) to catalogue his jewels. This gentleman performed his task with business-like succinctness, using no unnecessary words to describe the numerous precious objects. But when he reached the Blue Diamond he launches out into unbridled enthusiasm. He says:

"This matchless gem combines the beautiful color of the sapphire with the prismatic fire and brilliancy of the diamond, and on account of its extraordinary color, great[Pg 128] size and other fine qualities it certainly may be called unique, as we may presume there exists no cabinet nor any collection of crown jewels in the world which can boast of the possession of so curious and fine a gem as the one we are now describing, and we expect to be borne out in our opinion by our readers. There are extant historical records and treatises on the precious gems which give us descriptions of all the extraordinary diamonds in the possession of all the crowned heads of Europe as well as of the princes of the Eastern countries. But in vain do we search for any record of a gem which can in point of curiosity, beauty and perfection be compared with this blue brilliant, etc."

Mr. Hertz was no doubt a good jeweller and a clever expert, but he was not very learned in the history of precious stones or he could never have made this astonishing statement. He had only to search in the records of France to find the account of a wonderful blue diamond of even greater size.

With regard to the value of the diamond, he declares his inability to fix any sum, saying: "There being no precedent the value cannot be established by comparison. The price which[Pg 129] was once asked for this diamond was thirty thousand pounds (one hundred and fifty thousand dollars) but we must confess for the above stated reason that it might have been estimated at even a higher sum." There was a precedent for estimating its value; but of that Mr. Hertz was ignorant. The French Blue was valued at three millions of livres (six hundred thousand dollars) when it weighed sixty-seven carats. According to this calculation one hundred and fifty thousand dollars was not an excessive price to put upon the Hope Blue of forty-four carats.

The Hope Blue still remains in the possession of the family which has given it that name, while the other fraction of the dissevered French Blue is likewise in private hands. This is much to be regretted from the historian's point of view, for famous diamonds acquire a great deal of their value and all their interest from the persons who have owned them. For a gem which has graced the royal festivities of Versailles as the Blue Diamond has done, or enhanced the[Pg 130] stately ceremonials of the Escurial as was the case with the Pelegrina, to sink into obscurity in the collection of a wealthy Mr. Unknown or in the jewel casket of a Princess Nobody is a sad decadence. Jewels, from their value and indestructibleness, are among the few objects used by the illustrious dead which can and do remain unaltered in appearance, therefore it is contrary to our sense of the fitness of things for a historical gem to cease to be such by belonging to a person without a history.[Pg 131]



If the stone which is known by the name of the "Braganza," or the "Regent of Portugal," is a diamond, it is undoubtedly the largest that was ever found in either ancient or modern times. But then it is by no means certain that it is a diamond at all. It would be quite easy to establish the fact by submitting the stone to the examination of experts, but apparently the Royal House of Portugal holds that the Braganza, like Cæsar's wife, should be above suspicion. At all events the fact remains that this monster diamond has never been seen by any independent expert whose judgment would be accepted without appeal. When the learned are in doubt it would ill become us to decide; therefore, without offering an opinion, we shall,[Pg 132] provisionally at least, class the Braganza among the diamonds of this series; and when its true character is established beyond dispute we shall know whether to call it the Monarch of Diamonds or only a vulgar impostor.

The stated weight of the Braganza reaches the astounding figure of one thousand six hundred and eighty carats. Of course this is in its rough state, for the giant gem has refused to trust itself to the hands of any cutter however skillful. Yet this weight exceeds by more than double the weight, in the rough, of the next largest diamond known to history, namely, the Great Mogul. When we think of the price of the Regent—over six hundred thousand dollars, while weighing only four hundred and ten carats in the rough—and then turn to the Braganza with its sixteen hundred carats, the mind staggers before the money-value thus suggested.

All the other famous diamonds of which we have treated have been Asiatic; but the Braganza, like the Pelegrina Pearl, hails from the New[Pg 133] World. Consequently its history does not reach back into those misty past ages whither we went groping after the Orloff and the Koh-i-nûr. The Braganza is a diamond of yesterday, hence the account of its finding is clear, minute and accurate.

Here it is. The speaker is Joseph Mawe, a geologist, merchant and traveler who visited Brazil in the first decade of this century and whose book on the countries which he saw is our best authority on that part of South America.

"A few leagues to the north of the Rio Prata is a rivulet named Abaité, celebrated for having produced the largest diamond in the Prince's possession, which was found about twelve years ago (namely 1797). It may be allowed me in this place to relate the particulars as they were detailed to me during my stay at Tejuco. Three intelligent men having been found guilty of high crimes were banished into the interior, and ordered not to approach any of the capital towns or to remain in civilized society on pain of perpetual imprisonment. Driven by this hard sentence into the most unfrequented part of the country, they endeavored to explore new mines or new[Pg 134] productions in the hope that sooner or later they might have the good fortune to make some important discovery, which would obtain a reversal of their sentence and enable them to regain their station in society. They wandered about in this neighborhood, making frequent searches, in its various rivers, for more than six years, during which time they were exposed to a double risk, being continually liable to become the prey of the Anthropophagi, and in no less danger of being seized by the soldiers of the Government. At length by hazard they made some trials in the river Abaité at a time when its waters were so low, in consequence of a long season of drought, that a part of its bed was left exposed. Here while searching and washing for gold they had the good fortune to find a diamond nearly an ounce in weight.[G]

"Elated by this providential discovery which at first they could scarcely believe to be real, yet hesitating between a dread of the rigorous laws relating to diamonds and a hope of regaining their liberty, they consulted a clergyman, who advised them to trust to the mercy of the State, and accompanied them to Villa Rica where he procured them access to the Governor. They threw themselves at his feet and delivered to him the invaluable gem, on which their hopes rested, relating all the circumstances connected with it. The Governor astonished at its magnitude could not trust the evidence of his senses, but called the officers of the [Pg 135]establishment to decide whether it was a diamond, who set the matter beyond all doubt. Being thus by the most strange and unforeseen accident put in possession of the largest diamond ever found in America, he thought proper to suspend the sentence of the men as a reward for their having delivered it to him. The gem was sent to Rio de Janeiro, from whence a frigate was dispatched with it to Lisbon, whither the holy father was also sent to make the proper representations respecting it. The sovereign confirmed the pardon of the delinquents and bestowed some preferment on the worthy sacerdote."

Such was the finding of the Braganza about ninety years ago.

The Prince referred to in Mawe's account, was John VI., who, in 1792, was declared Regent owing to the mental derangement of the Queen Maria Isabella, his mother. He was a great diamond-collector, not so much from love of the glittering gems themselves as for the wealth they represented. As Brazil was rich in diamonds, and as all the proceeds from the mines were submitted to His Highness before being sent out of the country, he had ample opportunity of forming an extremely good collection. Accord[Pg 136]ing to Mawe it was the Regent's practice to retain for himself all the large stones, with the result that his treasure-chests contained the most splendid collection of diamonds known in modern times.

In 1809, Napoleon, by one of those pithy orders of the day which so delighted his armies, declared that "the house of Braganza had ceased to reign," and the house of Braganza forthwith proceeded to give truth to the declaration by withdrawing itself from Portugal. On November 9, John VI., the former regent, who had become king upon his afflicted mother's death, sailed for Rio Janeiro. And he remained there until 1821, when the clamors of his European subjects compelled him very reluctantly to come back to them.

It is probable that in this not over-valiant flight to safer climes King John carried the Braganza back to its native land. But whether in Lisbon or Rio Janeiro the Braganza was more a wonderful legend than an actual stone,[Pg 137] for it was always kept secluded in the strongest safe of the Treasure Chamber. The Prince showed some of his diamonds to Mawe, but the latter in an emphatic foot-note says "I did not see this diamond (the Braganza) when in Brazil." On gala days John wore the royal gem around his neck, and for the purpose of suspension it had a small hole drilled through the top. A large rough diamond nearly a pound in weight, hanging from the neck by a string of gold, would seem to our thinking to be rather a barbaric ornament for a civilized monarch to wear.

The diamond mines of Brazil, which were discovered in 1727, yielded an extraordinarily rich harvest during the first years of tillage. In 1732, no less than eleven thousand ounces of these precious stones were shipped from Rio to Lisbon. But this influx of diamonds created something like a panic among the merchants of Europe, and to save their precious goods from a disastrous fall in price they formed a league of defamation. All kinds of reports were cir[Pg 138]culated about the new comers—that they were defective, that they were ill-colored and finally that they were not diamonds at all. These reports gained belief, and purchasers refused to buy the Brazilian gems. The malicious libels of the European merchants were cleverly defeated by the crafty Portuguese. Since Europe would have none but Indian diamonds Brazil must needs furnish none other. The diamonds from Sierra do Frio were secretly conveyed to the Indo-Portuguese settlement of Goa; then they were sent inland, made up in the recognized Indian style as parcels of Oriental gems, and thus doctored they appeared in Paris and London. There a credulous public eagerly bought them up at the high prices due to undoubted Indian diamonds. Once the western gems were fairly accepted, the Portuguese threw off the mask, no doubt laughing heartily at the stupidity of the out-witted merchants, and Brazilians are now treated as fair and honorable diamonds. All that is to say except the tremen[Pg 139]dous Braganza which is persistently sneered at and doubted by many writers.

Mawe describes at great length the diamond diggings of his day, and as human nature varies little, it is probable that his picture would be recognized even now as a truthful likeness of those localities and their inhabitants. He says that, notwithstanding the rich produce of the ground the inhabitants are mostly poor and wretched. Many of them drag out their lives in misery and idleness in the hope, which is never realized, of one day finding a great diamond which shall make them rich and happy forever. The actual work is done by slaves under the eye of overseers, who are supposed to be of unimpeachable integrity and sleepless vigilance. The traveler gives some astonishing details by which the measure of the former quality may be taken. He observes that as the produce of the mines was all Government property and there being the severest laws against smuggling, he expected to see (at[Pg 140] the mining district) no gems except those in the official treasury. This expectation however was quickly dispelled, for he found diamonds to be the current coin of the place. Even the mere word grimpiero (smuggler) seemed to throw the inhabitants into a sort of fit; they writhed about, smote their breasts, called upon the Virgin and all the Saints to bear witness to their horror of this the greatest sin possible to a human being. Yet they all smuggled diamonds, from the slave at the washing-trough to the priest officiating at the altar. Mawe, who had considerable influence at court, was the first mere traveler who ever visited the mines, and it is probable that he was the only person who ever went there without smuggling. He remarks that he found it safer to see nothing of that which passed under his very nose.

In order to encourage honesty among the slaves, the finders of large diamonds were rewarded in different degrees according to the size of the stone. The finder of an octavo (seventeen and[Pg 141] one half carats) was crowned with a wreath of flowers and carried in procession to the administrator who gave him his freedom and two new suits of clothes. The fortunate negro, moreover, then received permission to work in the mines on his own account.

During Mawe's stay at Tejuco a negro found a very large diamond, which with much eagerness he took to be weighed.

"It was pleasing to see the anxious desire of the officers that it might prove heavy enough to entitle the poor negro to his freedom, and when on being delivered and weighed it proved only one carat short of the requisite weight all seemed to sympathize in his disappointment."

Even now after all these years one cannot help feeling regret for the high hopes of that humble slave so sadly blighted. But those who build their fortunes on diamonds are sometimes bitterly disappointed. Harken to this anecdote from the pen of the same traveler in Brazil. He was waiting for an escort to the mines and had meditated taking a couple of soldiers, when[Pg 142] a singular occurrence furnished him with two miners who were appointed to attend him, and whose conduct he pleasantly says deserved every commendation. A free negro from Villa do Principe, some mine hundred miles from Rio Janeiro, wrote to the Prince Regent that he had in his possession an amazingly large diamond which had been bequeathed to him by a friend. The negro was desirous of personally offering it to the Prince whose fondness for diamonds was pretty well known. The Prince commanded the negro to come to the capital immediately, and as the recognized owner of an immense diamond must not travel meanly, he had a carriage and escort given to him. After twenty-eight days of traveling, during which time he was the envied of all beholders, he arrived at Rio Janeiro and was straightway brought to the palace and speedily thereafter into the presence of the Regent. His Highness, well accustomed to large gems, since he used to wear the Braganza around his neck,[Pg 143] was nevertheless astonished at the size of this new diamond. Everybody stood with bated breath to hear what he would say, while a few clever ones estimated its value in unheard-of millions. A round diamond was of itself an almost miraculous thing, nobody having ever heard of the like before.

However, it was sent under guard to the treasury, and the next day Mawe was invited to inspect the great novelty and to give his opinion upon it as a geologist. Armed with letters and permits the distinguished stranger went to the treasury and was solemnly introduced into its innermost recesses. He was politely received by the treasurer who explained everything to him, showing him the jewel-chests each fitted with three locks, the three keys of which were held by three different officials.

"One of these chests being unlocked an elegant little cabinet was taken out from which the treasurer took the gem and in great form presented it to me. Its value sunk at the first sight, for before I touched it I was con[Pg 144]vinced that it was a rounded piece of crystal. It was about an inch and a half in diameter. On examining it I told the governor it was not a diamond, and to convince him I took a diamond of five or six carats and with it cut a very deep nick in the stone. This was proof positive. A certificate was accordingly made out stating that it was an inferior substance of little or no value, which I signed."

Then the geologist went home and wrote a letter setting forth this unwelcome fact as delicately as he could, for he knew that his letter would be shown to His Highness, and it is at all times an uncomfortable task to tell disagreeable news to a king. However the Prince Regent was high-minded enough not to be angry with him. But great was the disappointment of the unlucky negro. For years he had been building hopes upon that round diamond, and now to see them vanish before the geologist's "deep nick" was trying indeed. Instead of being fêted and feasted and loaded with rewards, he returned home unescorted and empty-handed to be possibly laughed at by those very persons who had formerly envied him.[Pg 145]

As a set-off to the deep disappointment suffered on account of this supposed diamond we may mention the finding of another South American stone which was attended with far different results. A negress working at the mines of Minas-Geraes in 1853 picked up in her trough a stone two hundred and fifty-four and one half carats in weight, which proving to be an undoubted diamond obtained freedom for the woman, and afterwards a life-pension. Her master sold the diamond for fifteen thousand dollars, and the buyer immediately obtained one hundred and fifty thousand dollars for it. After being cut by Voorsanger, the same workman who manipulated the Koh-i-nûr, it proved to be a white stone of uncommon beauty and lustre. Under the name of the Estrella do Sud[H] (Star of the South) it attracted much attention from amateurs and was eventually bought by an Indian rajah for one hundred and forty thousand dollars.

[Pg 146]

Notwithstanding the lofty attitude of judicial impartiality which we endeavored to assume at the beginning of this article, a lurking suspicion remains in our mind that had the Braganza, like the round stone before described, been subjected to the keen scrutiny of Mawe's scientific eyes, it would no longer be classed among the most remarkable diamonds of Europe.

Considerable difference of opinion exists as to the fate of the Braganza after King John's death. Did he give it to Don Miguel his second son? or was it a crown jewel and as such did it devolve upon Don Pedro the eldest along with[Pg 147] the kingdom of Portugal? Don Pedro preferred the young empire of Brazil to the old kingdom of Portugal, which he gave to his little daughter Donna Maria da Gloria for whom he contracted that unnatural marriage with his own brother. The house of Braganza was divided against itself for many years during the first quarter of this century and very nearly came to destruction thereby. The diamond which goes by the family name did not meddle in these politics, but lived in modest retirement, wherein it differs remarkably from the other diamonds with which we have already become acquainted.

Indeed the Braganza stone leads so secluded a life that its very form is not distinctly known, but is said to be octahedral, a type of crystallization frequently met with in diamonds and topazes. Its color is likewise subject to variation; some writers declare it to be white, and others again aver that it is deep yellow. As to its valuation—that is mere guess-work under the circumstances of ignorance in which we all[Pg 148] flounder. Romé Delisle raises his estimate to the enormous figure of fifteen hundreds of millions of dollars, while Jeffries lowers his to the more modest sum of twenty-five millions. Even this latter amount is a good deal to be locked up in so small an article as a stone eleven ounces in weight.[Pg 149]



To give a full account of this precious stone would almost involve the writing of the history of England from the reign of Edward III. down to the present time. We shall therefore limit ourselves to a few of the most striking scenes in which the Ruby figured.

Though differing much in appearance—the one being red and the other blue—the ruby and the sapphire are, chemically speaking, the same, viz. pure alumina. The perfect ruby is very rare and more valuable, size for size, than the diamond. It is tested in a curious manner. If it exactly agrees in tint with the fresh blood of a pigeon dropped upon the same sheet of white paper on which it lies, it is pronounced perfect. A stone of such beauty and rarity was[Pg 150] of course supposed to be endowed with miraculous powers and affinities by the ancients; as, for instance, "the Osculan," dedicated by the Lady Hildegarde to St. Adelbert of Egmund. Of this stone, says a sixteenth-century writer:

"In the night-time it so lighted up the entire chapel on all sides that it served instead of lamps for the reading of the Hours late at night, and would have served the same purpose to the present day, had not the hope of gain caused it to be stolen by a runaway Benedictine monk, the most greedy creature that ever went on two legs."

The Black Prince's Ruby is only by courtesy called a ruby. It is in reality a "spinel," a stone of inferior hardness and less intense color and brilliancy than the true ruby. All the large historic stones which are called rubies are declared by Mr. King to be undoubted spinels. There is yet another class of rubies of an inferior type known as "balais," a name probably derived from the place in India whence they came. The inferior ruby is found in all parts of the world;[Pg 151] but Burmah is the home of the true ruby, a region that has just been added to the widely-spreading empire of the British Queen.

In the middle of the fourteenth century Spain was ruled by a number of petty kings whose wars, assassinations and executions leave a general impression of bloodiness upon the mind by which all distinct detail is engulfed. It is essential however to remember that Granada was ruled by a Moorish prince, Mohammed by name, and Castile owned for Lord Don Pedro, the Cruel by title. The Moorish Mohammed, an easy-going personage, was dethroned by his brother-in-law Abu Said. Flying for his life, he escaped to Seville and threw himself upon the mercy of this Pedro the Cruel. This monarch espoused the cause of his kingly neighbor, and after several defeats the usurper thought it best to come to Seville and arrange a peace with his foe. Abu Said accordingly repaired to the capital of Don Pedro accompanied by a numerous and most magnificent suite. He was politely[Pg 152] received, but the next day, by Don Pedro's order, Abu Said and all his attendants were set upon and murdered. This was done for the sake of the Moorish prince's jewels which were many and valuable. Among the treasures thus evilly acquired was the Ruby now set in the crown of England.

Though enriched by this spoil, Don Pedro soon felt the instability of human greatness, and in his turn had to fly for his life. His adversary was his own brother, Henry, the son of the beautiful and unfortunate Leonora de Guzman. This Henry raised a goodly army for himself composed for the most part of Gascon mercenaries, and he had for counselor and captain the famous French knight, Bertrand Duguesclin. Against such a foe Don Pedro could make no stand, so he hurried to Bordeaux, where the Black Prince along with his wife Joan, called the Fair Maid of Kent, was keeping his Christmas in right royal style. This was in 1366. Don Pedro promised untold treas[Pg 153]ures to the Black Prince if he would come to his aid. Tempted by such bait, the Black Prince led his troops into Spain, fought for Don Pedro and conquered Henry for him at the battle of Najera on April 3, 1367.

This was the first, but unhappily not the last, battle-field on which English and French slaughtered each other for the sake of a Spanish tyrant.

Overjoyed at this success Don Pedro presented to his deliverer then and there the splendid Ruby in order to get which he had murdered Abu Said. Immediately afterwards he went off to Seville to collect the rest of the promised treasure. So he said at least, but the treasure never came, and the Black Prince, after losing half his army from sickness, was obliged to quit Spain without other payment than the Ruby. He wore the gem in his hat, as an original and contemporaneous picture of him which Walpole saw testifies. It is said that in the fever-stricken plains of the Peninsula the Black Prince inhaled the germs of the disease which a few years after[Pg 154]wards carried him to the grave. The Ruby, large and splendid though it be, was dearly bought at such a price. Don Pedro was stabbed to the heart a few years afterwards by his victorious brother Henry, as he knelt before him praying for mercy. Here the curtain falls upon the first scene in the drama of our Ruby.

It rises again on the field of Agincourt, October 25, 1415. Henry V. of England, with his army reduced to fifteen thousand men, was falling back upon Calais from Harfleur when at Agincourt he encountered the French king and his nobility followed by an army of nearly fifty thousand men. The night before the battle Henry spent in disposing his forces to the best advantage, and on the morning he arrayed himself with a gorgeousness which has been commented upon by all contemporary writers. It was the fashion for kings to go splendidly into battle, and for a handsome young king of twenty-five like Henry it was only natural that he should follow such a fashion to the fullest. His armor was gilt-[Pg 155]embossed, but his helmet was the theme of especial praise. The useful iron head-piece was surmounted by a rich crown garnished with rubies, sapphires and pearls valued then at six hundred and seventy-five pounds.[I] In this glittering ornament the Black Prince's Ruby was a conspicuous feature. During the fight the king and his shining crown were to be seen in all parts of the field where the battle raged hottest. He fought like a lion for his life, unlike the kings of modern times who, if present at all, sit afar off and view the battle-field safely through telescopes.

Henry's crown and stout iron casque did him good service on that eventful day, for it is related how the French Prince, the Duke of Alençon, struck it a heavy blow with his battle-axe, which came near finishing Henry's career on the spot. Again several Frenchmen, excited by the blood-red glitter of the Ruby perhaps, swore to strike [Pg 156]Henry's crown from his head or perish in the attempt. They accordingly rushed upon him in a body, and one of them knocked off a part of the crown, but the king defended himself bravely until supported by some of his own knights.

The sequel of this broken fragment of the crown is not so picturesque or heroic. One of the prisoners taken in the fight, a person named Gaucourt, declared after he was brought to England that he knew where the jewels were which had been struck from the crown. On promise of his liberty without ransom if he restored them, he went to France and got the lost gems, returning with them to London. It is a sorry thing to have to record of the hero of Agincourt that he appears to have taken the recovered jewels and then neglected to liberate Gaucourt.

The identical helmet worn by Henry, now shorn of all its jewels and only decked with the dust of four centuries, hangs high aloft in[Pg 157] Westminster Abbey where it is never seen without causing interest in the mind of even the most unimaginative visitor. The two deep marks, one made by the battle-axe of the Duke of Alençon and the other by the sword of the nameless Frenchman, are plainly visible, enduring evidence of the fierceness of the fighting on the stricken field of Agincourt.

Henry VI. followed his father's example in carrying his crown to the battle-field, but further than that the parallel cannot lie, for instead of winning a kingdom the luckless Henry lost his crown at Hexam (1464) and only saved his life by the fleetness of his horse. The crown which probably mounted our Ruby, was borne by a page who was killed, and the regal bauble was instantly carried off to Edward IV. who had himself forthwith crowned with it at York.

In that long and bloody struggle the honors of which are somewhat concealed in its graceful and poetic name, the Wars of the Roses, the Ruby adhered to the winning side. When Lan[Pg 158]caster was bowed in the dust, it gleamed on the head of York, and so we bring it down to the youthful days of bluff King Hal. At his coronation Henry VIII. is thus described by a contemporary:

"He wore a robe of crimson velvet furred with ermine, his jacket of raised gold, the placard (tabard?) embroidered with diamonds, rubies, emeralds and great pearls, and other rich stones, a great Bauderike (collar) about his neck of great Balasses, while as for his beautiful features, amiable visage and princely countenance, with the noble qualities of his royal state, they are too well known by everybody to need mention by me."

From which comment we must perceive that the estimate entertained of Henry VIII. has altered decidedly for the worse. This Bauderike, or collar of rubies, was a famous jewel and one which appeared at all the great pageants of the pleasure-loving king. It was entirely broken up by Charles I. and sold to raise funds for his army. We are disposed to conjecture that it included our Ruby either as pendant or other[Pg 159] portion of the collar. It was worn at the Field of the Cloth of Gold where Henry and Francis I. outdid each other in splendor. Notwithstanding all this display of gold and jewels, they were but half civilized at the court of Henry, as the following quaint incident proves. At a certain splendid pageant the King and some of his nobles attired themselves in fanciful costumes upon which their chosen names such as "True-Love," "Good Cheer" and the like were written in large letters of bullion. After the mask the King intimated that the court-ladies might take for keep-sakes those gold letters, and they, delighted, proceeded instantly to snatch them from the dress of the King and his courtiers. The crowd which was witnessing this show from afar rushed in to share the spoil, and in a twinkling had stripped the King to his jerkin and hose; they then attacked the Queen and her ladies and "worse would have befallen" if the royal guards had not opportunely arrived and driven off these grabbing subjects.[Pg 160]

Henry's daughter, Elizabeth, was even more extravagantly fond of jewels than he was himself. The numerous well-known pictures of the queen are more especially portraitures of Her Highness's dresses and jewels than anything else. Elizabeth did not set the Ruby away in her state-crown but kept it by her, no doubt for the frequent bedecking of her royal person.

She showed it upon one occasion to the Scotch envoy, Sir James Melville, under circumstances of peculiar interest. It was in 1564 when Elizabeth and Mary Stuart were both young women, the one comely, the other beautiful, and both were eagerly sought by every unmarried prince in Europe. Elizabeth had rejected all her offers. Mary had done the same. The English queen was lavishing honors upon her handsome Master of the Horse, Robert Dudley, and was generally understood to be preparing him for a seat on the throne beside herself. At this juncture she astonished the world by announcing that she had found a husband for Mary Stuart. This[Pg 161] husband was Robert Dudley. The Scottish queen was considerably amazed at this proposal, and not a little annoyed at being offered for her consort a subject of such mean descent as the handsome Robert. However she did not say nay, and Melville was sent to London to negotiate the marriage. He stayed nine days at the court of Elizabeth and has given most vivid pictures of that great Queen. He found her intensely jealous of Mary's superior personal attractions and pressed the envoy hard to say which had the most beautiful hair. She also resorted to a childish trick to show him how well she could play on the virginals. She likewise danced for him, detaining him two whole days for the purpose, and his comment upon this performance is historic: "I said, 'My queen danced not so high or disposedly as she did.'" All this and much more the canny Scotsman tells us about what he saw and said and did during his nine days visit.

One evening the Queen took him into her[Pg 162] bed-chamber to show him some of her most precious belongings. She first opened a lettroun (cabinet) where he beheld a number of little pictures wrapped up in paper, with its name on each one written by her own royal hand. The first one was thus labelled: "My Lord's Picture." It was Leicester's portrait, and Melville holding the candle begged to see it, but Elizabeth made difficulties about it; then the envoy pressed her to let him carry it back with him to show to his own queen, thinking apparently that the sight of the handsome face would move her to the marriage more than all political considerations. Elizabeth declared that she could not give it up as she had but that one, upon which Melville retorted that she had the original. "She shewed me a fair ruby, great like a racket-ball. I desired she would either send it to my queen or the Earl of Leicester's picture. She replied 'If Queen Mary would follow her counsels she would get them both in time and all she had, but she would send a diamond as a token by me.'" It[Pg 163] was the Black Prince's Ruby for which the envoy begged, but the poor Queen of Scots was fated never to get either the jewel or the earl.

This ruby was pierced at the top with a small hole to enable it to be worn suspended from the neck, a frequent occurrence with oriental gems which are worn without setting. The hole is now filled up by a small ruby, but this fact proves it to have been among the jewels with which James I. adorned his state-crown. The Earl of Dorset made a careful inventory of the royal treasures, which is signed by the King himself. The description of the imperial crown, after reciting a bewildering number of diamonds, pearls, rubies and sapphires, winds up thus: "and uppon the topp a very greate ballace perced." This is manifestly the ruby in whose fate we are concerned.

Charles I. seems to have used his father's crown at his own coronation in 1626, a ceremony which was marked by two incidents afterwards found to have been ominous. There[Pg 164] being no purple velvet in London Charles was robed in white velvet, which is an unlucky color it seems, and the Queen, Henrietta Maria, a silly and obstinate girl, refused to be crowned with him, owing to their religious differences. Fortunately the great Ruby was not left in the jewel-house at the time of Charles' execution, for had it been there we should have heard no more of it. Every thing which was found there was either melted down or sold by order of the Commonwealth. Amongst other things thus treated was the gold filigree crown of Edward the Confessor, which was broken up and sold for its weight of bullion. Such vandalism is almost enough to make one a Jacobite.

With the return of the Stuarts the Ruby came back and ascended once more to its proper place in the Crown of England. All the appliances of a coronation had to be made anew for Charles II., so that the ceremony was in consequence somewhat shorn of its impressiveness. Charles' crown was, according to an old writer, "especially praise[Pg 165]worthy" for an enormous emerald seven inches in circumference, a large pearl and a ruby set in the middle of one of the crosses. This ruby although not particularized is sure to be the one we have traced thus far. It is so very much larger than any other ruby belonging to the Crown of England that whenever we find a pre-eminently large one mentioned in English history we may safely take it to be the Black Prince's Ruby. It could be mistaken for no other stone by any one who had ever seen it. A shining ball of blood-red fire slightly irregular in shape, "great like a racket-ball," is not so common an object that it could pass unnoticed by writers who take it upon them to describe crowns and other royal ornaments.

During the reign of Charles II. the Crown of England had a narrow escape of being stolen. This singular adventure happened as follows:

The Regalia then as now was kept in the Tower and was shown to visitors as still is the case. The person in charge was an old[Pg 166] man named Edwards who was in the habit of locking himself in with his visitors when showing the treasure. One day a gentleman, apparently a parson, and a lady, apparently his wife, called and saw the crown which they particularly admired, of course. The parson was Colonel Blood, a notorious Irish desperado. The lady became suddenly faint and was accommodated with a chair and other restoratives in the keeper's sitting-room where quite a friendship was struck up. The soi-disant parson cultivated the friendship assiduously, and finally proposed to cement it by a marriage between his nephew, apparently a soldier, and the daughter of the keeper. Blood came with the nephew who it is needless to say was merely an accomplice, and another friend. They asked to see the regalia and the unsuspecting old man led them into the strong room and locked himself in as usual. The moment he had done so he was set upon by the three ruffians, beaten, thrown down, gagged, stabbed in the body and left for[Pg 167] dead. Then they managed to force open the case containing the Crown Jewels. Blood hid the crown under his cloak, the other two took the scepter and the globe, and then they opened the door intending to steal away. Just as they did so, young Edwards, a soldier, who by a singular chance arrived at that moment from Flanders, entered. In a moment after the Tower rang with the cry of "Treason! treason! the crown is stolen!"

The young man gave chase, aided by the guard at the gate, and eventually they succeeded in capturing Blood after a "robustious struggle" during which some pearls and diamonds were knocked out of the crown.

"It was a gallant attempt for a crown," observed Blood, as they led him to prison. He was condemned, but Charles pardoned him, and even admitted him to favor, though Blood was a known ruffian who had nearly succeeded in hanging the Duke of Ormonde on the public highway not long before. It is suggested that[Pg 168] he terrified the king into liking him owing to the boast that he had five hundred friends who would do anything to avenge his death. Blood was constantly seen at court and eventually he obtained a pension of five hundred pounds a year, while poor old Edwards was never recompensed and died in the greatest want and misery. Truly the ways of princes are inscrutable!

James II. gave his whole soul to the glories of his coronation, reviving ancient ceremonies and doing every thing with exactness, much in the same way as did Charles X. of France, and they both succeeded in losing the crowns thus elaborately set upon their heads. James used the crown made for his brother Charles whose head was somewhat larger. The result was what might have been expected—the crown did not fit, and was with difficulty kept in its place. Indeed, it wabbled so much that Henry Sidney put forth his hand to steady it saying: "This is not the first time, Your Majesty, that my family have supported the crown."[Pg 169]

James fled and the Ruby remained to greet William and Mary at their double coronation, and then it descended peacefully to the House of Brunswick, in whose service it has ever since remained.

The coronation of George IV. on July 19, 1821, was probably one of the most gorgeous pageants of this century. The King spent an immense sum upon his adornment ($1,190,000), and not only that, but he gave close attention to the fashion of his clothes, spending days and weeks in anxious consultation over the length, size, shape, and material of all the garments that he was to wear.

At last, having got all ready to his perfect contentment, the trappings were all brought to the palace, and the King dressed up one of his servants in his own royal clothes and then put him through the paces of a coronation while he looked critically on.

Public feeling was very much excited at the time over the divorce proceeding between George IV.[Pg 170] and his Queen, Caroline of Brunswick. When, therefore, it became known that the Queen was not to be crowned along with him, her partisans were very indignant. The King was in the Abbey in the middle of the gorgeous ceremony when amid the frantic cheers of the multitude Queen Caroline drove up to the entrance attended by Lord Hood. The doorkeeper however refused her admittance, and after a long parley the Queen was obliged to turn away. Meanwhile George IV. was going through the fatiguing fooleries which he had insisted upon reviving for his own glorification.

Six long hours the ceremony lasted, and as the day was very hot and the King very fat, he spent most of the time wiping his streaming face with dozens of pocket handkerchiefs which were constantly passed along to him for that purpose.

[Pg 171]


[Pg 172]

(By kind permission of Messrs. Cassell & Co.)

[Pg 173]

The crown for this occasion was large, costly and very heavy. It weighed nearly seven pounds and was made by Messrs. Rundell & Bridge. It was a mass of precious stones. At the back of the lower band was a large sapphire, one of the Stuart relics, and in front gleamed the fire-red stone which had looked down in Agincourt from the helmet of Henry V.

The last coronation although it occurred half a century ago is familiar to us owing to the revivifying process of the Queen's Jubilee. The crown, which was also made by Messrs. Rundell & Bridge, is less heavy than that of George IV. by three pounds and more. We will not enumerate its thousands of diamonds, its hundreds of pearls, and its scores of rubies and sapphires. The ornaments consist of fleur-de-lys and Maltese crosses done in diamonds. In the center of the lower band of the crown is placed the large sapphire already mentioned and just above it, in the middle of a superb cross composed of seventy-five diamonds, gleams the famous Ruby. It stands out in bold relief and the red flash of its rays gives the needful touch of color to the sparkling mass of diamonds. The French say[Pg 174] that the crown is heavy and without elegance, being in short altogether in the English taste. The criticism may be just, for it is difficult to see how $5,638,000 worth of precious stones, exclusive of the Ruby, could be packed on to the gear for the small head of a small woman with any great attempt at elegance.

The Queen was crowned on June 25, 1838, and Dean Stanley tells of a sudden ray of sunlight which streamed down upon the youthful sovereign as she sat in the Coronation Chair with the crown upon her head, producing an effect which was beautiful in the extreme. A Queen has always been popular with the English, and we can well imagine the enthusiasm which Victoria's girlish gracefulness must have aroused in people who contrasted her with the heavy uninteresting kings who had preceded her. This was the last great occasion upon which the Black Prince's Ruby appeared before the nation whose sovereigns it had so long adorned; and viewing the beneficent reign of the gracious[Pg 175] lady whose coronation it then attended we can only say we hope it may long continue its uneventful existence at the top of the glittering pile in the Wakefield Tower.

In October, 1841, the crown, and all that therein is, had a narrow escape of perishing unromantically by fire. The Tower being then used as a military storehouse the fire rapidly spread, and it was thought advisable to remove the crown. The keys of the strong case where the regalia is kept are in the hands of three different officials, all at a distance. There was no time to be lost, as the place was getting very hot, so police inspector Pierse with a crowbar burst through the iron bars, forced himself in and handed out the precious articles whose value is estimated at five millions of dollars. Soldiers and policemen ran with the coronation baubles to a place of safety, and everything was eventually saved, though not before Inspector Pierse had been well-nigh roasted.

This is the last adventure that the Black[Pg 176] Prince's Ruby has met with, and when we last looked upon it peacefully glistening in the sunlight it seemed hard to imagine that it had passed through so many dangers by fire and sword and had looked down on so many great scenes of royal splendor.[Pg 177]



The diamond which is known as "the Sanci," or, as it is sometimes written, "Sancy," has been not inaptly termed a Sphinx among stones. Until recently writers have been accustomed to begin the story of this diamond with Charles the Bold Duke of Burgundy and, with numerous variations of detail, to derive it from him.

Now Charles the Bold had three diamonds which were famous throughout Europe as well for their size as for the fact that they were cut by a European lapidary. Louis de Berquen, who flourished in the fifteenth century, discovered by chance the true principle of diamond-cutting. He rubbed two diamonds together and found that one would bite upon the other, and[Pg 178] that a high polish could thus be effected. The Duke confided his three great diamonds to the hands of this cutter and was so delighted with the result that he rewarded the clever lapidary with three thousand ducats. Of the diamonds thus cut, one was presented to Pope Sixtus IV. and another to Louis XI. of France. This latter diamond was set heart-shaped in a ring between clasped hands, a symbol of truth and faithfulness, and as such was a singularly inappropriate gift to one of the most perfidious monarchs who ever sat on a throne.

The third stone the Duke kept for himself and wore it on his finger. This is the one writers have been pleased to call the Sanci, but they agree in no other detail of its history. The description of the Sanci—an almond-shaped stone covered all over with facets—does not agree with the description of the Duke's diamond; but this awkward fact has been easily got over by not mentioning it. Still on making the Sanci belong to Charles the[Pg 179] Bold a history had to be furnished for it. Accordingly we learn that it was lost at the battle of Morat in 1476—and also at Nancy in the following year; that it was found by a Swiss soldier under a cart—and that it was taken from the frozen finger of the corpse of Charles; that it was sold for two francs to a priest—and that it was sold to a French nobleman; and so on through a maze of absurdity and contradiction.

The diamond known as the Sanci and once an ornament of the crown of France never belonged to Charles the Bold. It is an Indian-cut diamond, and it was first brought to Western Europe in the reign of Henry III. of France by his ambassador at Constantinople, the Seigneur de Sanci. This person deserves a word or two.

Nicholas Harlay de Sanci was born in 1546 and filled many posts of importance during the reigns of Henry III. and Henry IV. He was a Huguenot, but being immensely wealthy he was held in favor even by the son of Catherine de[Pg 180] Medici. His magnificence and his jewels were the admiration and envy of his contemporaries. He changed his religion backward and forward three or four times and finally under Henry IV. settled into Catholicism. For this reason, if for none other, he was hated most cordially by Sully who mentions him with dislike in his Memoirs. According to Sully he was clever but arrogant; not very clear-headed for business, yet sometimes hit upon expedients which would escape more phlegmatic minds. We shall see further on how this estimate was borne out.

Henry III. in a state of chronic war and equally chronic poverty turned in his distress to his wealthy subject, and de Sanci responded as a wealthy and loyal subject should. The King needed troops to enable him to cope with the League. They must be faithful—therefore they must be Swiss, who would only come upon certain payment of their wages. In order to raise the money for these troops de Sanci of[Pg 181]fered to pledge a great diamond, worth twenty thousand crowns, which he had bought from the Portuguese Pretender, Dom Antonio, who on flying from Lisbon had carried off the crown jewels. The King gratefully accepted the offer and the diamond was sent for. A trusty valet was the person deputed to carry the precious freight, but the valet was waylaid and murdered.

Dismayed at the probable consequences of this disaster, the King roundly abused de Sanci for having trusted his diamond to a servant, but the latter persistently declared his belief that the diamond was not irretrievably lost. After much difficulty and a considerable lapse of time the body of the murdered valet was found, upon which de Sanci ordered it to be dissected, when the missing diamond was discovered in the body. This must have been one of those happy expedients which de Sanci's ready wit enabled him to hit upon. Few "phlegmatic" people would have thought of looking for a diamond in such[Pg 182] a concealment in the days when de Sanci lived.

In our enlightened times diamond-swallowing is largely practised by the thieves who infest the mining regions of South Africa. The police accordingly are supplied with emetics and purgatives as well as rifles and ball cartridges. Quite recently a notorious thief was captured and put under medical treatment. The first day's doctoring produced three diamonds, the second brought to light eight more, and the third day gave fourteen; and after all the debilitated patient triumphantly declared, "There's plenty more to come, Baas."

It has been thought advisable to give in detail the story of de Sanci's valet and the diamond because the adventure is usually attributed to the diamond which forms the subject of this article. Upon careful examination it has appeared to us probable that it really happened to the diamond bought from Dom Antonio and that this diamond was a distinct stone from the[Pg 183] Sanci proper. Both gems however seem to have had the same fortunes and their histories for a century and a half run in parallel lines.


De Sanci, whose extravagance was unbounded, gradually became embarrassed and from time to time no doubt disposed of his gems in order to raise money. The date of the purchase of the Sanci is fixed about 1595, when Elizabeth who was inordinately fond of jewels added it to the Crown of England. In 1605, Sully received an order from Henry IV. to buy up all the jewels of Monsieur de Sanci, whose affairs had come to a crisis. Neither the Sanci nor the Portuguese diamond were among these valuables thus bought in for Henry.[Pg 184]

In the reign of James I. of England there appears amongst his Majesty's personal jewels one of particular note called the "Portugal" whose name does not appear in previous inventories of the English jewels, and this we are inclined to believe was the diamond which de Sanci purchased from Dom Antonio, and which had so many adventures. In the absence of direct proof however this identification should be accepted only provisionally. Shortly after his accession James caused a number of jewels to be reset, and one ornament, known as the "Mirror of Great Britain," was considered to be the master-piece.

It is thus described in the official inventory of 1605:

"A greate and riche jewell of golde, called the Myrror of Greate Brytagne, contayninge one verie fayre table diamonde, one verie fayre table rubye, twoe other lardge dyamondes cut lozengewyse, the one of them called the stone of the letter H of Scotlande garnyshed wyth small dyamondes, twoe rounde perles fixed, and one fayre dyamonde cutt in fawcettes bought of Sancey."

[Pg 185]

That this was the diamond subsequently known as the Sanci there can be no doubt. The description "cut in facets" almost establishes the fact without the mention of the name of its recent owner.

The diamond called the "Stone of the letter H" belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots, and was greatly valued by her. It was a present from Henry VIII. to his sister Margaret on her marriage with James IV. of Scotland. In her will the Queen of Scots bequeaths it to the Crown, declaring that it should belong to the Queen's successors, but should not be alienated.

When in 1623 Charles, the Prince of Wales, went on his love-trip to Madrid along with Buckingham to woo the Infanta, he had an enormous amount of jewels sent out to him in order to make friends for himself at court. As was already mentioned in the paper about the Pelegrina, these magnificent gifts were valued at no less a figure than one and a half millions of dollars. Buckingham, who did not lack for[Pg 186] audacity, had the impudence to write to King James asking for the "Portugal" itself; but the over-indulgent monarch, though he scarcely ever refused anything to his beloved favorite, did not comply with this request. The Spanish marriage fell through, and Charles and Buckingham returned to England.

A couple of years afterwards, Charles being King, the stately Duke was sent to Paris to bring back the king's bride, Henrietta. On this occasion Buckingham seems to have exceeded himself in splendor. He was provided, says Madame de Motteville, with all the diamonds of the Crown and used them to deck himself. Possibly this may be merely an expression to indicate the profusion of Buckingham's jewels, and diamonds should not be read literally. Be this as it may, it is a fact that the Duke appeared at a ball at the Louvre in a suit of uncut white velvet, sewn all over with diamonds. These diamonds moreover, were sewn on very loosely, so that whenever the wearer[Pg 187] passed a group of ladies he particularly wished to honor, he shook himself, and a few of the diamonds fell off. This senseless extravagance was resorted to in rivalry of the Duke of Chevreuse, the most profuse of the French nobles, who at the ceremony of the betrothal had appeared in a suit embroidered with pearls and diamonds, it being contrary to a sumptuary law to embroider with gold or silver.

Charles did not long enjoy the tranquil possession of his diamonds. By the time he and Henrietta had ceased to quarrel he and his Parliament had begun to do so. The Queen pledged a large number of the crown jewels in Holland in order to raise funds for her husband, but these consisted mostly of pearls and did not include either the Sanci or the Portugal whose connection with the Crown of England was not yet to be severed.

In 1669 the court jeweler of France, Robert de Berquen, whose writings have already been alluded to, says:[Pg 188]

"The present Queen of England has the diamond which the late Monsieur de Sanci brought back from the Levant. It is almond-shaped, cut in facets on both sides, perfectly white and clean, and it weighs fifty-four carats."

Berquen was likely to be well-informed both from his profession and from his position. His book is highly interesting and contains some very quaint passages. Thus, when writing of diamonds he assumes a critical attitude in surveying past writers and their deductions, and rejects with scorn and as utterly unworthy of belief the statement that a lady, having two large diamonds, put them away in a box and found, on again examining the box, that they had produced several young ones.

The expression "the present Queen of England" has considerably puzzled many writers, since at that date there were two queens of England, namely the dowager Henrietta and the consort of Charles II., Catherine of Braganza. It seems most probable that the expression refers to the latter, for some years previous[Pg 189] to the Restoration we find Henrietta disposing of the diamond to the Earl of Worcester. The following letter is in her hand:

"We Henrietta Moria of Bourbon, Queen of Great Britain, have by command of our much honored lord and master the King caused to be handed to our dear and well-beloved cousin Edward Somerset, Count and Earl of Worcester, a ruby necklace containing ten large rubies, and one hundred and sixty pearls set and strung together in gold. Among the said rubies are also two large diamonds called the 'Sanci' and the 'Portugal,'" etc.

After the Restoration Charles II. made strenuous endeavors to collect the scattered jewels of his Crown. How or when he recovered the Sanci and the Portugal we cannot now tell. It would be very like the devoted Worcester who ruined himself for the Stuarts to have given them back to Charles without stipulation, and it would be very like a Stuart to have accepted them and never to have paid for them. Worcester died in 1677 and two years later, as we have seen, the Sanci was in the hands of the "present Queen of England."[Pg 190]

Along with the Crown, the Sanci descended to James II., and no doubt figured at the extraordinarily fine coronation which inaugurated his disastrous reign. The Queen had a million's worth of jewels on her gown alone, and "shone like an angel," says a contemporary, who was so dazzled by her splendor that he could scarcely look at her. When James lost his crown he managed to keep hold of the Sanci and also, presumably, of the Portugal. Indeed the jewels of England for a long time served to keep the famished court of the Stuarts around James and his son. Gradually they were sold to meet the exigencies of the various Pretenders till nothing of value was left for the last Stuart, the Cardinal of York, to bequeath to the English King. Among the first to go was the Sanci which James II. sold to Louis XIV. for twenty-five thousand pounds about the year 1695.

From this date for one hundred years the Sanci ranked third among the French jewels,[Pg 191] being valued at one million of francs ($200,000). The first and second on the list were respectively the Regent, valued at twelve millions, and the Blue, at three millions.

At the coronation of Louis XV. in 1723, the Sanci bore a distinguished part.

The little King, aged thirteen years and a half, was crowned at Rheims with all the splendor and tediousness of ceremonial for which the French court had become renowned. Louis, previous to the imposition of the Crown, was dressed in a long petticoat garment of silver brocade which reached to his shoes, also of silver. On his head he wore a black velvet cap surmounted on one side by a stately plume of white ostrich feathers crested with black heron's feathers. This nodding head-dress was confined at the base by an aigrette of diamonds, among which the Sanci was chief.

At the coronation of Louis XVI. in 1775, the Sanci had the honor of surmounting the royal Crown in a fleur-de-lis, which was united to the[Pg 192] rest of the diadem by eight gold branches. Just beneath the Sanci blazed the royal Regent with the Portugal, the Sanci's old companion and fellow diamond. Pity that a head once so gorgeously bonneted should roll in the bloody sawdust of the guillotine!

The Sanci shared the fate of the Regent in being stolen in 1792, but it did not share its luck in being found again. As early as February in that eventful year rumors began to circulate of the intention of the royalists to lay violent hands upon the Crown Jewels, but the commissioners ordered to make the inventory for the National Assembly declared such rumors devoid of truth. The fact remains however that all the diamonds were stolen, and all, except the Regent, disappeared completely for many years.

In 1828 the Sanci comes to light once more. A respectable French merchant sold it in that year to Prince Demidoff, Grand Huntsman to the Czar, for a large sum, apparently one hun[Pg 193]dred and eighty thousand dollars. One would like to know where the above respectable merchant got the diamond, but unfortunately he seems not to have furnished any history with it—perhaps because it might have made him appear less respectable.

Four years later the Sanci went to law. Prince Demidoff, it seems, agreed to sell it to a Monsieur Levrat, director of Forges and Mines in the Grisons, for one hundred and twenty thousand dollars, and Monsieur Levrat agreed to pay the price. Afterwards he contended that the diamond had been spoiled by being re-cut, which was very likely, and that it was worth only twenty-five thousand dollars. To this remarkable reduction in price Prince Demidoff seems to have assented, and he delivered over the stone to Monsieur Levrat who was to pay by instalments. Instead of paying, he pawned the stone, and the defrauded Prince sued him, won his case, and got back the diamond. This was all the more lucky for the Demidoffs, since[Pg 194] in 1865 they were able to sell it for one hundred thousand dollars.

While in the hands of Prince Demidoff the Sanci is reported to have had some strange adventures of which the following is an example:

It was in the shawl of the Princess one day, when, finding it hot, she handed the shawl to a friend to carry for her. The friend was a very absent-minded scientific personage; he put the Sanci pin into his waistcoat pocket for safety and forgot all about it when returning the shawl to the Princess. She forgot the pin also (a likely incident this). Next day the Sanci was missing. Consternation! Scientific friend hurriedly interviewed. He remembered the incident. Where was the waistcoat? Gone to the wash (of course). O, horror! Washerwoman frantically sought. Where was the waistcoat?—in the tub? Was there anything found in the pocket? Yes; a glass pin. Where was it? Had given it to her little boy to play with (of course). Where was the boy? Playing in the[Pg 195] gutter! Despair! The little fable ends nicely, as a little fable should, and there is joy all around.

The person who gave the Demidoffs one hundred thousand dollars for the Sanci was Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy the great Bombay merchant and millionaire. And thus after many wanderings the Sanci at length returned to the Orient whence, to judge from its cutting, it had originally come. However its stay in India was but brief. It came back to Paris for the Exhibition of 1867, where it found itself once more beneath the same roof as the Regent. It was nevertheless not in the same show-case as that imperial exhibit, for it belonged to Messrs. Bapst who were willing to sell it for the sum of one million of francs, the exact amount at which it had been valued previous to the Revolution.

Some one rich enough to buy it and fond enough of diamonds to spend such a sum on a jewel was found again in India. This time it[Pg 196] was a Prince. The Maharajah of Puttiala became its owner. When on the first of January, 1876, the Prince of Wales held a Grand Chapter of the Star of India at Calcutta, he beheld, in the turban of one of the Rajahs, the diamond of his ancestors. The Maharajah, says the London Times correspondent, wore five hundred thousand dollars worth of the Empress Eugénie's diamonds on his white turban, and the Great Sanci as pendant. These were supplemented by emeralds, pearls and rubies on his neck and breast.

Of all the diamonds whose history we have followed this one certainly carries off the palm for the variety of its adventures. The Koh-i-Nûr is an older stone and has belonged to many kings, but the different countries in Asia are, to our minds at least, much less clearly distinguished from one another than our European states. For a diamond to pass from the hands of an Afghan chief to a Persian Shah seems less of a change than for it to go from the[Pg 197] treasure-room of the Tower of London to the Garde Meable of Paris.

Now that the Sanci has been found and is so widely known it is to be hoped that it will be kept always in view. Diamonds and heads are often unaccountably lost in the seraglios of Asiatic princes, but we must only hope that oriental potentates are now sufficiently enlightened to understand that we, of the Western World, wish to be informed of everything that happens, whether it be the fall of a dynasty, or the sale of a diamond.[Pg 198]



If the Sanci be the Sphinx of diamonds the Great Mogul may not inaptly be called the Meteor among them. Like those brilliant visitants in the skies, it flashes suddenly upon us in all its splendor and as suddenly disappears in total darkness leaving not a trace behind. So utterly has it vanished from our ken that some writers deny its independent existence. And this they do in the face of the minute description of the greatest diamond-merchant and expert of his century, who actually held the stone in his hand! The hard-headed practical Tavernier was not likely to have dreamed that he saw the Great Mogul, nor is it likely that a diamond-merchant of his experience could have made any gross mistake as to its weight or its charac[Pg 199]ter—for some go so far as to suggest that the Great Mogul was a white topaz! The fact that we now cannot find the diamond is no sufficient reason for denying its former existence.

In the account of Queen Victoria's diamond, the Koh-i-nûr, we made acquaintance with the court of Delhi; to its complicated records we must return for the Great Mogul. It is scarcely needful to state this name is a fanciful one bestowed on the lost gem by European writers; Tavernier gives it no distinct name in his description.

Shah Jehan (Lord of the World) who reigned in the middle of the seventeenth century was, as we have already seen, the husband of the beautiful Nûr Jehan (Light of the World) who bore him four sons and two daughters.

As the King grew older his sons grew stronger, and fearing that they would not be able to dwell together in amity at Delhi the old monarch gave distant governments to three of his sons, in order to keep the young men apart from one another, and at a safe distance from himself. In[Pg 200] this way he vainly hoped to escape the destiny of Indian emperors—jealousies and mutinies during his life and fratricides after his death. But his plan failed. Shah Jehan saw one son put a brother to death and he himself lived for seven years as the captive of the murderer.

A contemporary of Shah Jehan was Emir Jemla, or Mirgimola, as Tavernier calls him. He was a man of great ability and singular fortunes, being, so to speak, the Cardinal Wolsey of his king Abdullah Kutb Shah, lord of Golconda. Proud, ambitious, skillful and rich, he at length aroused the suspicions of his sovereign, as was the case with regard to Wolsey. Emir Jemla was not, however, a priest, but a soldier, and commanded the King's armies. A Persian by birth and of mean origin, he had raised himself to be general-in-chief by means of his military talents and his vast wealth. Emir Jemla sent ships into many countries, says Tavernier, and worked diamond-mines under an assumed name, so that people discoursed of nothing but[Pg 201] of the riches of Emir Jemla. His diamonds, moreover, he counted by the sackful.

In the year 1656, being sent by the King to bring certain rebellious rajahs to reason, he left as hostages in his master's hands his wife and children, according to the usual practice among the suspicious and not over-faithful Asiatics. While he was absent upon this expedition the King's mind was poisoned against the powerful favorite by the courtiers jealous of his success. Having only daughters, the King was made to believe that Emir Jemla intended to raise his own son to the throne, and the unruly, ill-mannered behavior of this son lent color to the tale. The King took fright at the idea and laid hands upon the hostages using them sharply. The son sent word to his father, Emir Jemla, and the latter enraged at the indignity resolved to avenge himself. He invoked the aid of the imperial suzerain, Shah Jehan. Uncertain of his success at headquarters, he applied in the meantime to two of the Emperor's sons who were nearer at hand[Pg 202] than far-off Delhi, for they were then at the head of their respective governments to the north and west of Golconda. One of them refused Emir Jemla's offer of adding his master's dominions to the empire of Shah Jehan in return for the loan of an army, but the other accepted the proposition. The name of him who accepted was Aurungzeb, third son of Shah Jehan, and the most perfidious prince within the four corners of India.

The allied chiefs did not waste time, but arrived before Golconda so unexpectedly that Abdullah had barely time to save himself by retiring to his not far-distant hill-fortress. Indeed the King himself threw open his gates to the enemy, for Aurungzeb gave out that he came as ambassador from the emperor Shah Jehan, and the King was within a hair-breadth of falling into the hands of the treacherous ambassador when he received timely warning and saved himself by flight. With a courtesy which Tavernier finds passing graceful the fugitive King[Pg 203] sent back to his rebel vassal the wife and children whom he had held as hostages. Notwithstanding their war there remained a good deal of kindly feeling between Emir Jemla and the King, his master. For example: one day his Majesty being straitly besieged in his fortress was informed by his Dutch cannonier that Emir Jemla was riding within range. "Shall I take off his head for your Highness?" asked the Dutchman. The King, very wroth, replied: "No; learn that not so lightly is esteemed the life of a prince." The cannonier, not to be balked of his artillery practice, cut in twain the body of a general who was riding not far from Emir Jemla.

On his side also Emir Jemla was anxious not to reduce the King to extremities and refused to prosecute the siege to the uttermost, which much disgusted his ally Aurungzeb. Rather he would treat with his ancient master, who gladly accepted the chance of deliverance, appealing to Shah Jehan himself against his son. The emperor[Pg 204] was easy on his former ally, and eventually a family alliance was arranged between a daughter of King Abdullah and a son of Aurungzeb. Emir Jemla set off to Delhi to confer with Shah Jehan upon the subject.

It is an axiom of Asiatic etiquette that no one ever comes before a king without laying a gift at his feet. Emir Jemla, anxious to obtain the favor of Shah Jehan, took care not to stand before him empty-handed, but presented him with "that celebrated diamond which has been generally deemed unparalleled in size and beauty." So says Franzois Bernier, a Frenchman, physician to Aurungzeb, who lived many years in Delhi and whose familiarity with the court enabled him to speak accurately of recent occurrences.

After Emir Jemla had presented his matchless diamond to Shah Jehan, who was a man of taste in gems, he gave the Emperor to understand that the diamonds of Golconda were quite other things from "those rocks of Kandahar," which[Pg 205] he had seen hitherto. This was a rather contemptuous phrase to use to an emperor who already possessed the Koh-i-nûr. However, the stone which Emir Jemla gave to Shah Jehan so far exceeded everything that had been hitherto dreamed of in the way of diamonds that he might be excused if he exaggerated somewhat.

It will be well here to quote Tavernier's account of the Great Mogul diamond, even though something out of the chronological order. The occasion is Tavernier's departure from Delhi on his sixth and last return from India to Europe.

"The first of November, 1665, I was at the Palace to take leave of the King (Aurungzeb) but he said I must not go without seeing his jewels since I had seen the magnificence of his fête. Next morning very early five or six officers came from the king and others from the Nabob Jafer Khan, to say the king was waiting for me. As soon as I arrived the two courtiers who had charge of the jewels accompanied me to his Majesty, and after the customary salutations they took me into a small chamber situated at the end of the hall where the king was sitting on his throne, and whence he could see us. I found in[Pg 206] this chamber Akel Khan, the chief keeper of the jewels, who as soon as he saw me commanded the four eunuchs of the king to go and fetch the jewels which were brought on two wooden trays lacquered with gold-leaf, and covered with cloths made on purpose, one of red velvet and one of green velvet embroidered. After they were uncovered and had been counted, each piece two or three times, a list was drawn up by the three scribes present. Indians do all things with much care and deliberation, and when they see any one acting with precipitation or getting angry they look upon it as a thing to laugh at.

"The first piece which Akel Khan put into my hands was the great diamond which is a round rose, cut very high on one side. On the lower edge there is a slight crack and a little flaw in it. Its water is beautiful and it weighs 319 1-2 ratis which make 280 of our carats, the ratis being 7-8 of our carat. When Mergimola (i.e. Emir Jemla) who betrayed the king of Golconda, his master, made present of this stone to Shah Jehan to whose court he retired, it was rough, and weighed then 900 ratis which make 787 1-2 carats, and there were several flaws in it. If this stone had been in Europe it would have been differently treated, for several good slices would have been taken off, and it would have remained heavier instead of which it has been entirely ground down. It was Hortenzio Borgis, a Venetian, who cut it, for which he was sufficiently badly recompensed, for when it was seen, he was reproached with having ruined the stone, which should have remained heavier, and instead of paying him[Pg 207] for his work, the king fined him ten thousand rupees and would have taken more if he had possessed it. If Sieur Hortenzio had understood his business well he would have been able to get several good pieces from this stone without doing any wrong to the King, and without having the trouble of grinding it down, but he was an unskillful diamond-cutter."

Tavernier held this great stone in his hand for some time and contemplated it at his leisure. It must have been a great day for him, the connoisseur, to see and examine the finest diamond in existence. It is well he looked long and keenly at it, for it was never again to be seen by European eyes. On this second of November, 1665, the Great Mogul was seen for the first, last and only time by one able to tell us anything about it. This was its meteor-flash into history and fame. It was seen by the man best able to appreciate it and then never seen again. The accompanying illustration is taken from Tavernier's drawing of the Great Mogul.

Incidentally we learn something more of the monster diamond from the pen of the same[Pg 208] writer. Speaking of the Coulour or Gani diamond-mine, Tavernier says:

"There are still found there large stones, larger than elsewhere, from ten to forty carats and sometimes larger, among them the great diamond which weighed nine hundred carats (an evident slip for ratis) before being cut, which Mirgimola presented to Aurungzeb (another slip for Shah Jehan) as I have said before."


To explain these slips of Tavernier's pen it will be well to state that the great Frenchman, though speaking all European and many Asiatic languages, was yet unable to write in any, not even in his own. He therefore borrowed the pen of two different persons to write his delightful travels which give us such a living picture of Indian life two centuries ago. The Coulour mine, here spoken of, was discovered about a century before Tavernier's time, in a very singular manner. A peasant when preparing the ground to sow millet, unearthed a sparkling pebble which excited his attention. Golconda was near enough for him to have heard of dia[Pg 209]monds, so he brought his prize to a merchant at the latter place. The merchant was amazed to see in the peasant's pebble a very large diamond. The fame of Coulour quickly spread, and it soon became a great mining center, employing thousands of workmen. Tavernier objects that the mine yielded stones of impure water. The gems, he declares, seemed to partake of the nature of the soil and tended to a greenish, a reddish, or a yellowish hue as the case might be.

This defect was not apparent in the Great Mogul which was, he distinctly says, perfect, of good water and of good form, having but one little flaw on the lowest edge. Taking this flaw into consideration, the value of the diamond, according to Tavernier's scale of estimation, was 11,723,278 livres which being reduced to[Pg 210] present coinage yields the goodly sum of $2,344,655. Being permitted to weigh it, he found the exact weight to be 279 9-16 carats.

Then after looking at the diamond as long as he wanted, for Akel Khan did in no wise hurry him, Tavernier was shown a multitude of other gems of lesser note, and among them a pearl perfectly round, weighing thirty-six and one half ratis of beautiful luster, white, and perfect in every way.

"This is the only jewel which Aurungzeb who reigns now has bought on account of its beauty, for all the others came to him in part from Dara, his eldest brother, to whose belongings he succeeded after having cut off his head, and in part from presents from his nobles."

This slight remark opens to our view one of the saddest chapters of the gloomy family history of Shah Jehan's sons. And as Dara was once the possessor of the Great Mogul, we may be allowed to give his pitiful story in a few words.

Prince Dara (David) the eldest son of Shah Jehan and the Light of the World, was destined[Pg 211] by his father to succeed him on the throne of Delhi. Having, as we have already seen, disposed of his other three sons in the furthest corners of India, the old king thought he was safe. But one of those sons, Aurungzeb, was a man of restless ambition. Not content with his appointed province of the Deccan, Aurungzeb pretended to the imperial crown itself. In 1657 Shah Jehan fell sick, and Aurungzeb, attended by a large army, which included a contingent under Emir Jemla's command, hastened toward Delhi. The aged emperor, dreading the filial solicitude which arrayed itself in so formidable a manner, sent orders to his son to return to his province. Aurungzeb not only did not return, but persuaded another brother to come up from his province, likewise attended by an army, and together they marched upon their father's capital. The course of Asiatic intrigue is too complicated and subtle for any but the merest antiquary to track it. Suffice it to say that after much lying and many protestations of obedience,[Pg 212] matters came to a crisis, and Dara was sent by Shah Jehan to oppose Aurungzeb by force.

Dara was overthrown and returned humiliated to his father's palace. Recollecting that his own path to the throne lay through the blood of his nearest relatives, Shah Jehan, no longer able to defend his eldest son against the undutiful Aurungzeb, gave him two elephant-loads of gold and jewels, and bade him escape. The Great Mogul diamond was apparently among the jewels thus despairingly bestowed upon his son by the enfeebled old king. At all events Dara escaped and fled from friend to friend for the space of one year, and it was during this time that he was seen by Bernier, the famous French surgeon, who was afterwards attached to the service of Aurungzeb.

Meantime that successful traitor dethroned and then imprisoned his father, whose grandiloquent title of Shah Jehan (Lord of the World) became a bitter mockery when designating the prisoner of Agra, and then he awaited the treach[Pg 213]ery of some of Dara's so-called friends. In the course of a twelvemonth, his patience was rewarded. The chief of Jun, who had reason to be grateful for many favors from Dara, gained an infamous notoriety by delivering the fugitive prince over to his usurping brother.

Aurungzeb caused Prince Dara to be publicly paraded through the streets of Delhi with his little seven-year-old grandson by his side, while the executioner stood ominously behind him. This pitiful spectacle was witnessed by all Delhi, and many tears were shed over the fall of Dara, but "no one raised a hand to aid him," remarks Bernier, who was one of the spectators. After a mock trial the unhappy prince was sentenced to death, and a slave with several satellites was sent to the prison of Gevalior to dispatch him. Dara was engaged in cooking some lentils for himself and his little grandson, for this was the only food he would touch, lest they should be secretly poisoned. The moment the slaves entered, he cried out, "Behold, my[Pg 214] son, those who are come to slay us!" and snatching up a small knife he tried to defend himself and the child. It was an unequal fight which could but end in one way. The boy was quickly made an end of, and Dara being thrown down was held by the legs while one of the slaves cut off his head. The head was then immediately brought to Aurungzeb, as a certificate that his orders had been duly executed. The king desired the face to be washed and wiped in his presence and then, when he saw that it was the veritable head of Dara, his brother, he fell a-weeping and cried aloud: "O, Dara! O, unhappy man! Take it away! Bury it in the tomb of Humaiyun."

Such was the fate of Dara, the second owner of the Great Mogul.

In conclusion Tavernier says of the treasures belonging to Aurungzeb:

"These then are the jewels of the Grand Mogul which he showed to me by a particular grace granted to no other foreigner, and I held them all in my hand and considered[Pg 215] them with so much attention and leisure that I can assure the reader that the description which I have given is very exact and faithful, as also of the stones which I had time enough to contemplate."

Here absolutely ends the history of this magnificent gem. What became of it no one knows. Whether it was lost in the sack of Delhi, or carried off by Nadir Shah along with the Koh-i-nûr, it is impossible to say, or even to conjecture with any degree of plausibility. No account of this grand diamond, however, would be complete without some reference to the extraordinary myths which have gathered around it. There is scarcely another large diamond of no matter what size, or what color, or what shape, that has not sometime, or by somebody, been declared to be the Great Mogul. Its subsequent history seems to be the happy hunting-ground of the foolish theories of writers on precious stones. Men who write carefully enough about other diamonds, launch out into the wildest conjectures about the Great Mogul. They apparently[Pg 216] cannot bear the thought of losing so precious a gem and therefore they find it somewhere, no matter to what inconsistency and absurdity they may be reduced in the process of identification.

Take a few examples.

It has been maintained that the Great Mogul is the Orloff; that it is the Koh-i-nûr; that it is both together; that it is the Orloff, the Koh-i-nûr and a third beside, now lost, which Hortenzio Borgis obtained by cleavage—the precise thing which Tavernier distinctly says he did not do, preferring to grind it down; that it was not a diamond at all, but a white topaz—as if Tavernier, the greatest expert of his times, would not have detected that fact. Even Mr. Streeter, in general a most reliable authority on diamonds, is dazzled into inconsistency when he comes to treat of the Great Mogul. In his work, Precious Stones and Gems, published in 1877, he says under the head of celebrated diamonds: "The diamond known as the Great Mogul has received an amount of attention beyond any other. Un[Pg 217]der the name of the Koh-i-nûr (Mountain of Light) it played an important part in the Exhibition of 1851," etc., etc. Now harken to Mr. Streeter writing in 1882: "If this description (Tavernier's) be compared with the models both of the Koh-i-nûr and of the Great Mogul itself in our possession, all doubts will be at once removed as to the essentially different character of the two crystals." Again: "The two differ absolutely in their origin, history, size and form!" The Mr. Streeter of 1882 is wisely ignorant of the lucubrations of the Mr. Streeter of 1877.

Unable to offer the slightest hint as to the fate of the Great Mogul we can only hope that some future day may reveal it, and until then we must put up with our ignorance as best we may. It came and went in a flash of glory, the Meteor of Diamonds.[Pg 218]



The subject of this article is, as its name sets forth, a diamond of a yellow hue. After the Orloff it is the largest cut diamond in Europe, weighing one hundred and thirty-nine and a half carats. Tavernier, who first mentions it, says "it has a tinge of yellow which is a pity." King declares, "on the highest authority," which he does not further particularize, that this tinge is a very strong one, almost destroying its brilliancy.

Yellow diamonds are not necessarily devoid of brilliancy, as we can bear witness from personal knowledge. There was recently offered for sale at a public auction in London a very large specimen known as the Orange Diamond, of one hundred and ten carats weight, which we[Pg 219] carefully examined. The circumstances were decidedly adverse to the beauty of a diamond, for it was in the half-light of a London fog that we saw it, yet the stone seemed literally to shoot tongues of yellow fire from its facets. It was a round brilliant, and being set in a circle of about a score of white diamonds its tawny complexion was shown to admirable advantage. The jewel was supported on a delicate spring which vibrated with each step upon the floor, so that there was a constant coruscation of light around it.

It is difficult to establish the early history of the Austrian Yellow. Tavernier saw it in Florence somewhere about 1642, but he does not say whence it came. Its appearance proves it to be an Indian-cut rose, but that does not help us much with regard to its private wanderings in Europe. A good authority on diamonds, de Laet, who flourished shortly before Tavernier's time, declared that the largest diamond then known weighed seventy carats, which would clearly indicate that he knew nothing about the[Pg 220] much larger yellow diamond. Tradition relates that it was bought for a few pence in the market at Florence, under the impression that it was a piece of glass! If this is so, one would be glad of some particulars of the moment when the happy possessor found out his mistake.


Tavernier says that "the Grand Duke (of Tuscany) did him the honor to show him the diamond several times." He made a drawing of it, as he did of nearly all the large diamonds he saw, and his estimation of its value is two millions of livres (about four hundred thousand dollars)—a low price considering the size of the stone; but no doubt its yellow tinge had something to[Pg 221] say to it. The Grand Duke of Tavernier's time was Ferdinand II., who reigned from 1621 to 1670—a man of considerable enlightenment, a protector of Galileo and an encourager of literature.

If there is any truth in the popular belief to which we shall presently allude, that diamonds promote the mutual affection of husband and wife, then indeed the great yellow stone had need of its charm in the case of Ferdinand's son and successor, Cosimo III. This luckless prince was married to Marguerite Louise d'Orleans, niece of Louis XIV., a young lady of flighty fancies and obstinate willfulness. Being deeply attached to her cousin of Lorraine, she was only induced to give her hand to the heir of Tuscany on the threat of imprisonment in a convent. She was married in 1660 and made her state entry into Florence amid unparalleled splendor. Immediately afterwards the courts of Europe rang with the quarrels of the newly-wedded pair. The Pope of Rome, the King of France, mother, sisters, aunts, ambassadors,[Pg 222] bishops, cardinals, lady's maids, each in turn interfered with the object of restoring harmony, and each in turn ignominiously failed. Here surely was work for the diamond had it been possessed of its reputed power.

During this time and for many years afterwards, the diamond about which we write was known as the "Florentine" or "Grand Tuscan." It was the chief jewel in the treasure-house of the Medici, and no doubt filled a conspicuous place in the pageants of the grand-ducal court. The Florentine sovereigns were not wealthy, but upon state occasions they made extraordinary displays which sometimes deceived foreigners visiting among them into a false idea of their affluence. A wedding was always a favorite occasion upon which to show off their finery. For example, at the marriage of Violante de Bavière with the son of Cosimo III., a magnificence was displayed such as was never before seen even in Florence. The bride sat on a car studded with gems. Her father-in-law with his[Pg 223] crown, no doubt containing the great diamond, upon his head, met her at the gate of San Gallo and escorted her to the palace.

This princess dying childless, the throne was occupied by Giovan-Gaston, another son of Cosimo III. and the flighty Marguerite. He likewise left no heirs, so with his death in 1737 terminated the great house of Medici. Giovan-Gaston was succeeded on the grand-ducal throne by Francis Stephen of Lorraine, who was forced much against his inclination to change his paternal duchy of Lorraine for that of Tuscany. He was married to Maria Theresa, archduchess of Austria, afterwards so famous as the Empress-queen who fought valiantly against Frederick the Great. By the will of Giovan-Gaston dei Medici all the statues, books, pictures and jewels of his palace were "to remain forever at Florence as public property for the benefit of the people and the attraction of foreign visitors," and none were to be removed from out of the Grand Duchy.[Pg 224]

Francis Stephen and Maria Theresa entered their new capital, remained there four months, and then departing carried away with them the great Tuscan diamond. So much for the respect paid to the wills of dead princes! Henceforward the yellow diamond became known as the Austrian Yellow in recognition, we suppose, of the royal thief who carried it off from Florence.

At the coronation of Francis Stephen as emperor of Germany at Frankfort-on-the-Main, on the fourth of October, 1745, the pilfered diamond was used to decorate his Majesty's imperial diadem. Maria Theresa had been extremely anxious for her husband to be emperor, both because she was fondly attached to him, and because she wanted him to hold a title equal at least to her own as Queen of Hungary. She stood on a balcony at the ceremony and was the first to salute him with the cry of "Long live the Emperor!" when the crown had been placed upon his head. Our readers will of course be[Pg 225] aware that the imperial dignity was an elective one. It remained, it is true, in the Hapsburg family, still it did not descend from father to son like the other crowns of Europe, and the ceremony of a fresh election was gone through at the death of each emperor.

Napoleon, who upset most things in Europe, failed not to upset the throne of Charlemagne. The Holy Roman Empire ceased to exist in 1806, and Francis I., the elected emperor, abdicated the old German throne to mount the brand-new one of Austria.

We return to our diamond.

Francis Stephen, although emperor and reputed owner of the yellow diamond, was quite overshadowed by the fame and splendor of his wife Maria Theresa. It is on record that one day being present at some high ceremony, he left the circle around the throne and went to sit in a corner beside a couple of ladies. They rose respectfully at his approach.

"Oh! don't mind me," he said, "I am only[Pg 226] going to sit here and watch the crowd until the court is gone."

"As long as your Imperial Majesty is present the court will be here," replied the ladies.

"Not at all," said Francis Stephen. "The court is my wife and children. I'm nobody."

And such indubitably was the fact The Empress adored him, but he was nobody and has left but little trace in history. He was very fond of money and sometimes resorted to singular means in order to turn an honest penny. When his wife was engaged in that long struggle with the King of Prussia which goes in history by the name of the Seven Years' War, he made a good sum by supplying the enemy's cavalry with forage. Another strange though somewhat less crooked means of augmenting his riches is related concerning his diamonds. He employed himself for a considerable time in a series of experiments which had for their object the melting down of small diamonds with the view of making a large one. No doubt[Pg 227] Francis Stephen would have been very pleased to smelt up a good number of diamonds if he could thereby have produced a match for his great yellow gem; but it is easier to burn diamonds than to fuse them.

The storms and revolutions which nearly shook the house of Austria to the ground have left its diamond untouched. It was carefully preserved in the hasty flights from Vienna which occurred during the effervescing period of 1848 when all Europe was in an uproar. And now it reposes peacefully as a hat-button for the Emperor Francis II. In appearance the diamond is a nine-rayed star, and is all covered with facets, according to the true Indian fashion. It may possibly interest the reader to hear what the Austrians themselves think of their diamond. The following extract is made from the official account furnished to Mr. Streeter:

"This jewel was once the property of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who according to the custom of the day carried all his valuables in the battlefield, first to[Pg 228] have them always in sight, and secondly on account of the mysterious power then attributed to precious stones. Charles lost this diamond at the battle of Morat, on the twenty-second of June, 1476. Tradition relates that it was picked up by a peasant who took it for a piece of glass and sold it for a florin. The new owner, Bartholomew May, a citizen of Berne, sold it to the Genoese, who sold it in turn to Ludovico Moro Sforza. By the intercession of the Fuggers it came into the Medici treasury at Florence. When Francis Stephen of Lorraine exchanged this duchy against the grand-duchy of Tuscany he became owner of the Florentine diamond."

Of this extraordinary tale the concluding sentence alone is the only one worthy of the slightest attention; all the rest is mere legend. Contemporary accounts show that Charles the Bold had no diamond at all similar to the Austrian Yellow either in size or shape; two very important factors in establishing the identity of a diamond.

We have now reached the last great diamond which it is our purpose to chronicle, and it is hoped that the reader has become sufficiently[Pg 229] interested in these sparkling pebbles to bear with equanimity a few technical details concerning their nature and the processes which they undergo before becoming ornaments for the crowns of kings or the brooches of queens.


That the diamond depends for its beauty almost entirely upon the labor of man is sufficiently known. The rough diamond is seldom a beautiful object, being usually coated with a greenish film which gives it the look of an ordinary pebble. It requires the eye of an adept to recognize any potentiality of sparkle in so dull a lump. The ordinary rock-crystal is in[Pg 230]finitely more beautiful until the royal gem has been transformed by human skill. But after the touch of the magic wheel there is no substance which can compare with the diamond for luster, brilliancy and iridescence.

Certain Indian diamonds finished by the hand of Nature and known as "Naifes," are an exception to the rule that rough diamonds are dull looking. They are seldom or never found now, but were greatly prized by the natives in olden times and considered superior to the artificially polished stone. They were octahedral in form, with polished facets. The primary crystalline form of the diamond is the octahedron, or a figure of eight sides; but it by no means confines itself to this form alone. It sometimes assumes twelve-sided shapes, or is merely a cube, or yet again variations of these figures.

The atoms composing the diamond tend to place themselves in layers, and the discovery of this fact facilitated the cutting of the stone, as by finding the grain a skillful manipulator[Pg 231] was able to cleave off protuberances at a blow.

The accompanying diagrams represent a certain large diamond both in the rough and after it was cut into a brilliant, and they will help to explain the process of diamond-cutting, which is briefly as follows: The first process is to make lead models of the stone in its actual state and also in the ideal, namely, after it is cut. By this means is found out the most economical way to shape it. The next step is to cleave it toward that shape as far as possible. Cleaving is performed in two ways; by a steel saw strung on a whalebone and coated with diamond dust which saws off the required amount; or by scratching a nick with a diamond point in the direction of the grain and splitting it off with one blow. This latter process, observes an old writer, requires great strength of mind as well as dexterity of hand, for by an unlucky blow a valuable stone may be utterly ruined. Supposing however that the cleavage has been [Pg 232]safely performed, the diamond is next fixed into a handle and is so imbedded in a soft cement as to leave exposed only that portion which is to be ground. By means of another diamond similarly imbedded in a handle it is worked down to the requisite shape. The dust from the two grinding diamonds is carefully saved and is used for polishing them. This process is effected by means of a disk of soft iron about a foot in diameter, coated with the diamond dust [Pg 233]mixed with olive oil, and made to revolve very rapidly in a horizontal position. The portion of the diamond to be polished is then pressed against the revolving wheel and a high state of polish is thus attained. The grinding of the facets is entirely governed by eye, and such is the dexterity and accuracy attained by good manipulators that perfect roses are cut so small that fifteen hundred of them go to the carat; and when we remember that one hundred and fifty carats go to an ounce we shall have some faint idea of the minuteness of the work.[J]


In Europe the brilliant is the usual form to give to the diamond, and the one most admired. The invention of this particular method of cutting is due to Vincenzo Peruzzi, a Venetian, who seems to have introduced the fashion in the latter half of the eighteenth century. He discovered that the utmost light and fire could be[Pg 234] obtained by reducing the diamond to the shape of a pair of truncated cones, united at the base with thirty-two facets above and twenty-four below the girdle or largest circumference.

Reference to the illustrations will explain the following technical terms: a, the upper surface, is called the table; b, its sloping edge, the beasil; c, the girdle; d, the lower pointed portion, is called the pavilion, and the bottom plane, the collet. Of the thirty-two top facets only those are called star-facets which touch the table; all the rest, as well as those below the girdle, are called skill-facets.

The old "table diamonds," once so highly prized, may be described as having the table and collet greatly enlarged at the expense of the beasil and pavilion. The rose diamond is covered with equal facets, either twelve or twenty-four in number, the base of the stone being flat. This rule holds only for European roses; the Orientals covered their diamonds with irregular facets following exactly the shape of the stone,[Pg 235] as with them the one object was to preserve the weight of the stone as far as possible.

Chemically speaking, the diamond is almost pure carbon, and may be said to be first cousin to ordinary coal and half-brother to the smoke of an oil lamp. If the lordly gem should refuse to acknowledge such mean relations it can always be confronted with the "black diamond," which though an undoubted diamond, looks so very like a piece of coal that the kinship is evident. The present writer once saw a very costly parure belonging to the Countess of Dudley, composed entirely of black diamonds set heavily in gold. Being a very little girl she considered it a great waste of the precious metal to employ it to set such ugly stones. She is of the same opinion still.

In ancient times the diamond was credited with a vast number of occult virtues. Thus it was said by the Romans to baffle poison, keep off insanity and dispel vain fears. The Italians believed that it maintained love between man and wife, but we have already seen one notable[Pg 236] instance in which it signally failed to render this useful service. One is at a loss to imagine how such a belief became common, seeing the number of diamonds which belonged to royal personages, and the state of affairs prevalent in their domestic life. In England, at the same period, diamonds were looked upon as deadly poisons. The murder of Sir Thomas Overbury in the Tower of London during the reign of James I. was said to have been attempted by means of these gems ground to powder. Overbury certainly died, and presumably by foul means, but modern science has acquitted diamonds of having any share in the crime.

There is a certain rule for estimating the price of a diamond, and singular to say it is the old Indian rule by which Tavernier was guided in his purchases, and which modern commerce has been content to let stand. The current market price of a good cut diamond, one carat in weight being ascertained, the square of the weight of the diamond to be valued is multiplied[Pg 237] by that figure. The present selling price in London of a clear and faultless cut diamond one carat in weight is one hundred dollars, one of three carats therefore would be worth 3×3×100=$900.

Were our advice asked with regard to the purchase of these valuable pebbles whose history has so long occupied our attention, we should refer our interlocutor to that Chinese philosopher who on being asked why he kept bowing and saying, "Thank you, thank you," to the gem-bedecked mandarin, replied:

"I am thanking him for buying all those diamonds and undertaking the trouble and anxiety of keeping them safe that I, undisturbed, may look at them and admire them at my leisure."[Pg 238]



That the human neck is a suitable pillar to hang ornaments upon is so obvious a fact that it must have presented itself to the most rudimentary savage; and that it did thus occur to the early human mind we have abundant evidence. The prehistoric graves of Europe give up a greater quantity of necklaces to the antiquarian searcher than almost any other article, with the exception of implements of war. These necklaces are differently composed of beads of glass and of amber, colored pebbles and small gold plaques, while the white teeth of various animals and sea-shells seem to have been as general favorites with the prehistoric as with the contemporary savage.

It is not our intention to give an account of[Pg 239] the many types of necklaces which have found favor in the eyes of humanity. To do so would be quite beyond the scope of these stories. We propose on the contrary to select but one—one especially notable amid the necklaces of the past. We may mention that the first diamond necklace ever known in Europe was one composed of rough stones which was given by Charles VII. of France to Agnes Sorel. The fair lady's soft neck was so irritated by the sharp corners of the necklace that she said it was her pillory (carcan), hence the term carcanet which means a diamond necklace. The term fell into disuse about the time of the Revolution, and the proper name in France for a string of diamonds at that period was rivière. Nowadays they have restored the carcanet and kept the rivière as well, both terms being in common use.

Of all the necklaces in all countries and all times, incomparably the most famous was that one with which Marie Antoinette's name was[Pg 240] so unhappily associated. This trinket is still disputed about even in our own times. It has a literature of its own and it is emphatically The Necklace of History. We will endeavor to make clear its singular career and ultimate fate.

In 1772, Louis XV. in the full tide of his infatuation for the worthless Madame Dubarry determined to make her a present that should be unique. It was to be a diamond necklace the like of which had never been seen before and which was to cost two millions of livres. Accordingly in the November of the same year he gave the order to his jewelers, Messrs. Böhmer & Bassenge, who set about the job with glee. But it took both time and money to get together such a lot of diamonds. Of time there seemed enough, for the king was healthy and not old, and as for money friends were ready to supply it in ample store upon such fair security as the beauty and influence of Madame Dubarry. But Fate in the guise of small-pox intervened and upset all these calculations. In May, 1774,[Pg 241] Louis XV. died and Louis XVI. reigned in his stead. By this time the necklace was complete, and what it was in its completeness let the pen of Carlyle tell us:

"A row of seventeen glorious diamonds as large almost as filberts encircle not too tightly the neck a first time. Looser gracefully fastened thrice to these a three-wreathed festoon and pendants enough (simple pear-shaped multiple star-shaped or clustering amorphous) encirle it, enwreathe it a second time. Loosest of all, softly flowing round from behind in priceless catenary rush down two broad threefold rows, seem to knot themselves round a very queen of diamonds on the bosom, then rush on again separated as if there were length in plenty. The very tassels of them were a fortune for some men. And now lastly two other inexpressible threefold rows also with their tassels will when the necklace is on and clasped unite themselves behind into a doubly inexpressible sixfold row, and so stream down together or asunder over the hind neck—we may fancy like a lambent zodiacal or Aurora Borealis fire."

Such being the doubly inexpressible description of this marvelous jewel we are not surprised that an awful difficulty should now arise to confound the luckless jewelers.[Pg 242]

Who would buy it?

Not the young queen Marie Antoinette, who when offered it answered that being on the eve of war with England they needed frigates more than diamonds. Besides she had just bought, and not yet been able to pay for, two expensive diamond ear-rings.

This disappointed jeweler traveled all through Europe offering his trinket to the different queens and princesses, but none were rich enough to tie four hundred thousand dollars in a glittering string around their necks, so he returned to Paris with bankruptcy staring him in the face.

[Pg 243]

(Less than one fourth the natural size. By permission of Mr. Henry Vizetelly.)

In 1781, when Marie Antoinette's first son was born, the jeweler very nearly succeeded in selling it to Louis XVI., who wanted to make his wife a fine present upon so auspicious an occasion. The Queen, however, refused to touch the jewel when the king handed it to her as she lay in bed, and being very weak and ill, so that the least thing excited her dangerously, the doctor forbade mention to be made of this truly fatal necklace. The little dauphin, happily for himself, died while still a royal baby in his father's palace, and was succeeded by another boy less fortunate in his destiny. The luckless [Pg 244]jeweler, who became almost a monomaniac on the subject of selling his necklace to Marie Antoinette, used always to attend with the glittering jewel at each happy event, so that the witty courtiers used to say whenever he appeared at Versailles:

"Oh! here's Böhmer. There must be another baby born!"

One day after about ten years of fruitless solicitation he threw himself at the Queen's feet and declared that utter ruin was come upon him through the necklace, that he would drown himself if she did not buy it, and that his death would be upon her head. Her Majesty, much incensed, replied that she had not ordered the necklace and was therefore not bound to buy it, and ended by commanding him to leave her presence and never more let her hear about the jewel again. She thought the matter was finally ended. Poor Marie Antoinette! She was destined to be haunted through life by those terrible diamonds and to be asked about them[Pg 245] at her trial and to be taunted with the theft of them by the mocking crowds who surrounded her scaffold. Such being the state of the case in 1784, we shall leave the Queen and the jeweler to follow the fortunes of two other persons who were made famous and infamous by the necklace.

The first was Louis de Rohan, cardinal grand-almoner of France and a prince in his own right. This person had been ambassador at Vienna where he had ridiculed Maria Theresa, Marie Antoinette's mother, and afterward a courtier at Versailles where he had criticised the Dauphiness, Marie Antoinette herself. By these double deeds he was cordially detested by the Queen who, like young people generally, was extreme in her likes and dislikes and vehement in the expression of her sentiments. Since the accession of Louis XVI. the cardinal had been in disgrace, and as royal favor is as the breath of life to the nostrils of a courtier, he was morbidly anxious to re-establish himself in the Queen's good graces. So much for the cardinal.[Pg 246]

The fourth and by far the most important character is yet to appear on the stage. This is the Countess de la Motte. This individual was of the vampire type of idle good-for-nothings, who lived at the French court, and whose rapacity eventually caused such havoc in the most exalted circles. Madame de la Motte pretended to royal descent through a natural son of Henry II. Accordingly she added de Valois to her name, that being the family name of the reigning house which immediately preceded the Bourbons. She had been a roadside beggar when a child, but her great plausibility of manner, which later on became so fatal, had won for her the good graces of a lady about court who befriended her and had her educated. She grew up, was married to the Count de la Motte, and henceforward used all her talents to push the fortunes of her family. A small pension only excited her appetite for more. She made the acquaintance of the Cardinal de Rohan. The cardinal, a man of about fifty[Pg 247] years of age, seems to have been perfectly infatuated with the countess who, though not beautiful, was witty and very taking in her manners.

At length Madame de la Motte began to throw out hints about her acquaintance with the Queen and to suggest that she might be the means of restoring the cardinal to the royal favor. The cardinal believed implicitly in her intimacy with Marie Antoinette and built high hopes upon it, and not only the cardinal but many others likewise believed in it, and besought the adventuress's favor at the hands of Her Majesty. This may appear strange, seeing that the Queen and countess never exchanged a word in their lives; but at court where nothing is ever known exactly, but all things are possible, it is not easy to learn the precise facts about anything. An adventuress in the days of Madame de Maintenon is said to have made her fortune by walking through that lady's open door into the empty drawing-room and appearing for a few moments[Pg 248] at the balcony. The courtiers saw her there, immediately concluded that she must be in favor with the unacknowledged wife of Louis XIV., and flocked about her with presents and flattery, hoping in return to profit by her influence.

By an equally simple device Madame de la Motte obtained the reputation of intimacy and influence with Marie Antoinette. She made the acquaintance of the gate-keeper of the Trianon and was frequently seen stealing away with ostentatious secrecy from the favorite haunt of the Queen. It was enough. People believed in her favor, and she was a great woman.

Then she took another step. She confided to the Cardinal de Rohan that the Queen longed for the diamond necklace, but had not the money to buy it, and feared to ask the King for it. Here was a chance for a courtier in disgrace. The cardinal, acting upon the hint, offered to conduct the negotiation about the necklace and to lend the Queen some of the money for its purchase. The Queen apparently[Pg 249] accepted his offer, and wrote to him little gilt-edged missives mysteriously worded and of loving import. The cardinal was exalted with joy. To be not only redeemed from disgrace, but to be in possession of the haughty Queen's affections was beyond his wildest hopes or aspirations.

Still acting upon the suggestions of the countess the cardinal bought the necklace, and, for the satisfaction of the jewelers, drew up a promissory note, which was intended to be submitted to Her Majesty and was in fact returned, approved and signed, Marie Antoinette de France. This letter came through the hands of Madame de la Motte in the same mysterious fashion in which the correspondence had hitherto been conducted. The cardinal thereupon brought the necklace to Madame de la Motte's house at Versailles, delivered it over to the supposed lackeys of the Queen, and went away rejoicing. Madame herself was feasted sumptuously by the grateful jewelers, who were[Pg 250] profuse in their thanks for her aid. They even pressed her to accept a diamond ornament as a slight token of their gratitude! Madame de la Motte dining with her dupes, graciously receiving their thanks and magnanimously declining their presents, was certainly a spectacle for gods and men.

The cardinal, not content with his billets-deaux from the Queen, was to be further gratified by a midnight interview with Her Majesty in the gardens of the Trianon. A lady dressed in the simple shepherdess costume affected by Marie Antoinette did indeed meet him in a dark-shadowed alley of the garden, and as he was ecstatically pressing the hem of her garment to his lips she did present to him a rose which he clasped to his breast in speechless rapture. The lady of this scene and the Queen of the cardinal's fancy was a common girl off the streets, who bore a striking resemblance to Marie Antoinette. She was dressed up by the clever countess and was told to act according[Pg 251] to certain instructions, but strange as it may seem she did not in the least suspect who it was she was representing—so skillfully was it all arranged by the astute Madame de la Motte who never let one tool know what another was doing for fear of spoiling her web of iniquity. The cardinal was totally ignorant of the imposture, and this although he knew the Queen well; but the night was dark and Madame de la Motte executed a sudden surprise by means of her husband, so that the pair were separated before the superstitious Queen had occasion to use her voice, the sound of which might have aroused the suspicions of even the blinded cardinal.

In possession of four hundred thousand dollars worth of diamonds, Madame de la Motte's next difficulty was to sell them. This appeared to be impossible in Paris, for when she commissioned her friend Villette to sell a dozen or so, he was at once arrested as a suspicious person, and anxious inquiries were made as to whether[Pg 252] there had been any diamond robbery of late. But no—there had been nothing of the kind. Nobody complained of having been robbed; court jewelers and cardinal were still in the happy anticipation of coming favors. The man Villette was the writer of the Queen's letters to the cardinal, he was also the lackey who had taken charge of the necklace for the writer of those letters. He was a very useful friend to Madame de la Motte until at last he turned king's evidence and explained the whole fraud.

The Count de la Motte next proceeded to London and there sold several hundreds of diamonds. Some stones he disposed of to Mr. Eliason the dealer who in after years it will be remembered had the Blue diamond in his possession. Upon the proceeds of these sales the la Mottes lived in Oriental splendor both in Paris and at their country seat at Bar-sur-Aube. This was in the spring of 1785, and until the first installment, due in July, became payable they seemed to live on absolutely oblivious of[Pg 253] the danger ahead. "Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad," is the classic proverb which must be resorted to in this case. On no other supposition can their remaining in Paris be explained. Madame used diamonds for her pocket money and tendered them for everything she wanted, exchanging one for a couple of pots of pomade.

The first payment not having been made, and the Queen having never addressed the cardinal in public nor ever worn the necklace, both prelate and jeweler began to be surprised. The latter wrote to the Queen an humble but mysterious letter expressive of his willingness to await Her Majesty's convenience if she could not pay up punctually. Marie Antoinette read the letter, but not understanding it, twisted it up into a taper and lighted it at her candle. She then bade Madame Campan find out what "madman Böhmer" wanted. Madame Campan saw the jeweler, heard his explanation, told him the Queen never had had the necklace at all,[Pg 254] and that it was some dreadful mistake, and then in the greatest distress besought her royal mistress to inquire carefully into the story, as she greatly feared some scandal was being effected in the Queen's name.

Hearing a rumor of trouble Madame de la Motte visited the jewelers, warned them to be on their guard (as she feared they were being imposed upon!) and then inexplicably remained in Paris, instead of escaping beyond the reach of the Bastile. The cardinal heard the rumor also; he was disturbed, but relied though with dawning doubt upon these letters from the Queen signed Marie Antoinette de France.

The fifteenth of August was and is a great day in all Catholic countries. It is the feast of the Assumption, an occasion upon which prelates don their most splendid robes and appear in all their dignity. During the reign of Louis XVI. it was an especially honored day, being besides a religious festival also the name day of the Queen. On this day in 1785 at Ver[Pg 255]sailles, Cardinal de Rohan in his purple and scarlet vestments was suddenly placed under arrest, and thus humiliated was conducted from the King's cabinet through the crowd of amazed courtiers who thronged the Œil de Bœuf into the guard-room. The scene in the King's cabinet had been brief. The cardinal, summoned to the royal presence, found Louis, Marie Antoinette, and the first Minister of State awaiting him, all in evident agitation.

"You have lately bought a diamond necklace," said the King abruptly. "What have you done with it?"

The cardinal glanced imploringly at the Queen who turned upon him eyes blazing with anger.

"Sire, I have been deceived," cried the cardinal, becoming suddenly pale, "I will pay for the necklace myself."

More angry questions from the King, more faltering confused answers from the cardinal, and meanwhile the stern implacable face of the incensed Queen turned towards him. The door[Pg 256] opens, a captain of the guard enters: "In the King's name follow me!" says the officer, and grand-almoner of France, the cardinal-prince of Rohan is led off under arrest.

Thus far the action of every one concerned is comprehensible enough, but after this it becomes so extraordinary that it is no wonder if the enemies of the Queen pretended there was a dark mystery behind which had yet to be revealed. The unrelenting hatred of Marie Antoinette, which made her demand the cardinal's head in vengeance for his audacity in aiming at her affections, seems to have blinded her to every other consideration but that of ruining her enemy. Madame de la Motte was, it is true, arrested and thrown into the Bastile, but so bent were the royal party upon destroying the cardinal that they held out hopes of acquittal to the adventuress herself if she would accuse the cardinal. Nay, more, they offered to pay for the hateful jewel if Böhmer would give damaging evidence against the cardinal. Hav[Pg 257]ing thus completely put themselves in the wrong the case came on for trial before a bench of judges, who seem to have acted with perfect uprightness and impartiality. And this, too, when public feeling was running very high in Paris and the Reign of Terror only five years off.

All the perpetrators of the crime, except Madame de la Motte, confessed to their share in it; so the whole series of gigantic cheats and trickeries was exposed. The forger confessed to his forgery, and the girl confessed to the scene she had acted in the gardens of the Trianon. At length the cardinal had to admit to himself that the woman la Motte, who had bewitched his senses to the detriment of his fair fame, had also cheated his purse to an almost fabulous extent and had involved him in the crime of high treason which in days of more absolute power would undoubtedly have cost him his head. The cardinal was acquitted of the capital crime, but was condemned to lose[Pg 258] his post of grand-almoner, to retire into the country during the King's pleasure, and to beg their Majesties' most humble pardon—a sufficiently severe sentence one would suppose for having been made a fool of by a designing woman. Marie Antoinette heard of the cardinal's "acquittal," as she called it, with a burst of tearful rage which transpires through her letters to her sisters at the time. She laments in them the pass to which the world had come when she could do nothing but weep over her wrongs and was powerless to avenge them.

The rest of those concerned were variously dealt with. The Count de la Motte was condemned to the galleys for life, but he had already escaped to London, so the sentence did not much matter in his case. The forger Villette was banished. In his case the decree of the court was carried out in the old-fashioned way: he was led to the prison gate with a halter round his neck, where the executioner gave him a loaf of bread and a kick and bade him[Pg 259] begone forever. The sentence on Madame de la Motte was sufficiently rigorous. She was to be whipped at the cart's tail, branded, and then imprisoned for life. The whipping was but slightly administered, but a large V (voleuse-thief) was marked with a red-hot iron on her shoulder: a fact which caused the jocose to say that she was marked with her own royal initial, V standing for Valois as well as for voleuse.

After a couple of years in prison the authorities connived at her escape, in pursuance it was believed of orders from Versailles. Marie Antoinette's unpopularity was, if possible, increased by the affair of the necklace, and the cardinal became a hero for a short time until others more conspicuous arose to overshadow him. Even yet, however, the unhappy necklace continued to work for evil towards the Queen. Safe in England Madame de la Motte wrote her Memoirs, which are nothing but a mass of libels and a tissue of falsehood all directed against the Queen. For private politi[Pg 260]cal purposes it suited the Duke of Orleans to spread them as much as possible, for the great aim of his life was to discredit the Queen.

Madame de la Motte died miserably in London from the effects of a jump from a second story window which she took to escape from bailiffs who were arresting her for debt. All the money she obtained from the diamond necklace was not able to save her from want and misery. She was only thirty-four years old at the time of her death. The Count de la Motte lived on into the reign of Charles X. and begging to the last also died in want. The Cardinal de Rohan became an émigré after his brief hour of Parisian popularity and died in exile. The jewelers became bankrupt and the firm sank into oblivion.

And Marie Antoinette?

Ah well, she had nothing to say to the direful necklace. She never probably so much as touched it with a finger-tip during the whole course of her life, but she was taxed with its theft on her way to the scaffold, and a genera[Pg 261]tion ago her memory was again loaded with the crime by M. Louis Blanc. Marie Antoinette has had every possible and impossible crime cast upon her by writers who sought in her person to degrade the idea of a monarchy, but slowly history is removing this dirt from the garment of her reputation. She was silly and headstrong in her youth and did harm by her thoughtlessness, but she was neither so silly nor so headstrong as many of the queens, her predecessors, nor did she do one tithe of the mischief that some of them attempted. She chanced, however, upon troublous times, and therefore everything she did was reckoned a crime, as also many things which she did not do, such as the stealing of the Diamond Necklace.[Pg 262]



The two jewels which it is now our intention to describe differ essentially from all those with which we have made acquaintance. They are not enriched with stones of any great value, but the setting of such pebbles as have been used is of a kind to render them unique. The most careful illustration conveys but a poor idea of the splendor and delicacy of the metal-work which literally covers these masterpieces of the goldsmith's art. We have nowadays a firm and in the main a well-founded conviction of our superiority in all things over the men of primitive ages. But in the presence of the Tara Brooch the most skillful jeweler of modern times is obliged to admit his inferiority. With[Pg 263] all our skill it is impossible to imitate the delicacy of the workmanship and the wonderful grace and variety of the design displayed upon this truly royal gem.

Its history is of the meagerest. It was found in the month of August, 1850, on the strand at Drogheda, washed up from the deep by some especially generous tide, and left there for two little boys to pick up. The mother of the children carried their find to a dealer in old iron, but he refused to buy so small and insignificant an object. She then tried a watchmaker, who gave her eighteen pence (thirty six cents) for the brooch. The watchmaker cleaned it up and then beheld what he conceived to be a jewel of silver covered with gold filagree. He thereupon proceeded to Dublin and sold it to Messrs. Waterhouse, the jewelers, for twelve pounds (sixty dollars), which it must be admitted was a very fair profit upon his original outlay.

Messrs. Waterhouse exhibited far and wide this jewel which was by them called the Royal[Pg 264] Tara Brooch—a name which serves well enough to distinguish it from other brooches, but which cannot be said to have any historical appropriateness. Whatever truth there may be in the legendary magnificence of "Tara's Halls," there is no reason to suppose that this brooch was ever displayed within its walls. These walls, whatever their nature, were represented by green mounds and grassy rath-circles, such as may be seen to-day, when the so-called Tara Brooch left the hands of the craftsman who made it.

After a time the Tara Brooch was sold to the Royal Irish Academy for two hundred pounds (one thousand dollars) which, though by no means an exorbitant price, was again a very fair profit for Messrs. Waterhouse.

[Pg 265]


[Pg 266]


The form and workmanship of the Brooch are of an early Celtic type, and it is believed by competent authorities to be extremely ancient, dating probably from before the eighth century. At any rate, it may with confidence [Pg 267] be placed before the eleventh century, for a certain design known as the divergent-spiral or trumpet-pattern, which though common before disappeared from Irish art about that period, is to be seen among its intricate ornamentation. The groundwork of the jewel is not silver, as was at first supposed, but white metal, a compound of tin and copper. It is however the beautiful gold tracery laid upon this white metal which renders it so famous. No description can give an idea of what it is. The Tara Brooch must be seen to be understood.

If the Tara Brooch appeals to our imagination by reason of the mystery of its past, Saint Patrick's Bell has a contrary but even stronger hold upon us. It seems really to be an authentic relic of the Saint to whom it is ascribed, and at any rate it can be shown to have undergone a long and varied career. In the course of these narratives we have met with many kings and queens; it is now our intention to introduce the reader to a saint. As it seems to be decreed[Pg 268] by inscrutable destiny that no statement concerning Ireland shall ever be made without its being at once contradicted, we shall endeavor to shelter ourselves behind the wisdom of competent authorities. As Saint Patrick was an Irish saint it would be in the usual course of things for his very existence to be vehemently denied. It is thus denied by some writers who have been at pains to indite learned books upon the subject.

The following details concerning him are taken in the main from Dr. Todd's Life of Saint Patrick, and from the Saint's own works as edited and translated by the Reverend George Stokes, Professor of Ecclesiastical History in Dublin. Not being learned in Irish nor yet in Latin, we accept the translations of these able scholars.

As in the case of many great men the honor of being the birthplace of Saint Patrick is claimed on behalf of several places in England, Ireland, Scotland and France. The reader[Pg 269] may choose which country he likes and he will find clever and ingenious arguments to support his theory. The Saint himself says that his father's name was Calpornius and that he dwelt in the village of Bannaven Tabernia, and the learned, if agreed upon no other point, are at least at one upon this—that they don't know where that village was. Saint Patrick's father had a small farm and seems to have been of noble birth, but the Saint invariably speaks of himself as the rudest of men, and deplores his want of learning. "I, Patrick a sinner, the rudest and the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to very many," is the beginning of his Confession, a work written by himself and containing most of the few facts known about his life.

At the age of sixteen he was taken captive, whether from Armorica in Brittany, or from Dumbarton on the Clyde, it is impossible to say, and carried "along with many thousands of others" into barbarous Ireland. This evidently[Pg 270] occurred in one of those predatory expeditions of the Irish, or Scots as they were then called, which under the chieftainship of Niall of the Nine Hostages extended to all the neighboring coasts. Dumbarton suffered repeatedly in this manner, a fact evidenced by the numbers of Roman coins found all along the coast of Antrim in Ireland. Dumbarton, an important military position, was the western limit of the Roman Wall constructed by Agricola, A. D. 80, to cut off the ravaging Picts from the rest of Britain, but the Romans, although so near, never set foot in Ireland.

Having been thus carried off to Ireland Saint Patrick became the slave of Milchu who dwelt in Dalaradia in a place now identified with the valley of the Braid, in the very heart of the county Antrim. As a slave the Saint's duty was to tend sheep, and six years he spent in this humble occupation. The fervent zeal and burning piety which were destined to exalt him among men began to show themselves even in his youth. He used to pray both day and night,[Pg 271] he tells us, even in the frost and snow never feeling any laziness.

At the end of six years he escaped, made his way to the seacoast, and finding a vessel ready to start was at length suffered to embark. They sailed for three days and then wandered twenty days in a desert. This item does not help us as to the locality, for the coasts either of Brittany or Scotland, suffering as they did from the frequent visits of the Irish, were likely enough to be deserts. Patrick's first converts seem to have been the crew of this ship, for being on the point of starvation they appealed to the Christian to help them, and the Saint prayed, whereupon a drove of swine appeared, the grateful sailors "gave great thanks to God, and I" [Patrick writes] "was honored in their eyes."

After a brief stay with his parents the young man impelled by his zeal set out again for Ireland, determined to bring its pagan inhabitants into the light of Christianity. There is some variety of opinion as to the date of the Saint's ar[Pg 272]rival in the home of his choice, but 432 is the date commonly received, at which time he appears to have been something under twenty-five years of age. He first went to the north with the intention of seeking out Milchu his master. But this individual burnt up both himself and his house on the approach of the Saint in order not to be converted. So at least ancient annals declare. It must be confessed that this paganism was of the most robust type.

Having failed in this quarter he then proceeded to the Boyne. This is one of the most picturesque of rivers winding about among its wooded banks. Both sides of the river are now dotted with handsome and carefully-kept parks where ornamental trees and cows stand in pleasing and picturesque groups, while the smoothly-mown grass rolls like green velvet down to the water's edge. The water itself is limpid and clear as crystal, and in the deep pools the silvery salmon leap high into the air after heedless flies who come within reach. It[Pg 273] looks very different from the days when Saint Patrick paddled up in his wicker and bull's-hide canoe. Probably the holy man himself would not recognize it; nothing is the same except the salmon, the flies, the limpid, clear water.

At Slane, a hill on the riverside about eight miles from its mouth, Saint Patrick built a beacon-fire. He was in consequence of this immediately summoned to appear before King Laoghaire who held his court on the neighboring height of Tara to answer how he dared light a fire, when according to ancient custom as well as by royal mandate all fires were to be extinguished. The interview between the Saint and the King ended if not in the latter's conversion at least in his tolerating the new comer, and eventually this occasioned the change in the religion of the whole tribe.

Thus began the apostleship of Saint Patrick, who in the course of his long ministry traversed most parts of Ireland undeterred by the dread of starvation or the fear of murder. He bap[Pg 274]tized many thousands of the natives, planted churches in numerous places, founded schools and established monasteries.

His most famous foundation is undoubtedly that of Armagh, the legend about which is preserved in a celebrated old Irish manuscript known as the Book of Armagh. The Saint begged of a certain rich man some high land upon which to build him a church, but the rich man refused him the hill, offering in its stead a lower piece of ground near Ardd-Machæ, and "there Saint Patrick dwelt with his followers."

Upon all the churches which he founded Saint Patrick is said to have bestowed bells, several of which under distinctive names have become famous in history. One of these venerable relics, a small hand-bell made of two iron plates, something over seven inches high and three pounds ten ounces in weight, is known especially as the Bell of the Will of Saint Patrick. It is with this small rude object, not unlike the sheep-bell of to-day, that we have to deal.[Pg 275]

Sixty years after the death of Saint Patrick another Irish saint, Columkill, obtained this bell from the tomb of the former where it had ever since lain on the Saint's breast, and by Columkill it was bestowed on Armagh as a most precious relic. This bell is mentioned under the date 552 by the compiler of the Annals of Ulster. A poem of a later date, though still far back in the Dark Ages, speaks fondly of the bell, saying "there shall be red gold round its borders," and many shall be the kings who will treasure it, while woe is to be the portion of the person or house or tribe that hides it away.

Armagh suffered much and frequently from fires, as was indeed natural in a village built entirely of wood as seems to have been the case during the first centuries of its existence. In 1020 it was burnt to the ground, all except the library alone. The steeple or round tower was burned with its bells. And again in 1074, on the Tuesday after May Day, it was burnt[Pg 276] with all its churches and all its bells. But among these bells was not the Clog-Phadriug (the Bell of Saint Patrick). That was confided to the custody of a maer (keeper) whose honor and emolument depended upon the safety of the trust reposed in him. The keeper of the Bell was the head of the O'Maelchallans. The ancient poem already quoted refers thus to the elected keepers:

"I command for the safe keeping of my bell
Eight who shall be noble illustrious:
A priest and a deacon among them,
That my bell may not deteriorate."

The Bell of Saint Patrick was regarded as more and more holy as the centuries rolled on, and by the middle of the eleventh century any profanation of its sanctity was visited with the severest penalties. Under the date 1044 there stands this emphatic entry in the Annals of Ulster:

"A predatory expedition of Niull son of Maelsechlainn, king of Ailech, against Ui-Meith and against[Pg 277] Cuailgne in which he carried off twelve hundred cows and a multitude of captives in revenge for the violation of the Bell of the Will."

Besides the extraordinary high price set upon the bell as evidenced by the number of cattle taken in revenge for the slight offered it, the record is interesting as showing the relative values of cows and men. It will be remarked that the horned cattle are carefully numbered as being precious, while the human cattle are roughly lumped together as a "multitude." This raid was followed later on by another in which "cattle-spoil and prisoners" were carried off in revenge for another violation.

During the episcopacy of Donell MacAulay who occupied the see of Armagh from 1091 to 1105, the sacred bell was inclosed in the gorgeous shrine which, though mutilated, still excites our admiration and envy. An inscription runs around the shrine; it has been managed with such skill that the letters seem to form an ornamentation rather than a break in the gen[Pg 278]eral design. The illustration which we offer our readers is that of the front of the shrine, showing also a portion of the side. The framework is of bronze fastened at the corners with copper fluting, and the gold and silver work is fixed to this foundation by means of rivets. The front is divided into thirty-one compartments, several of which have lost their ornamentations. A central decoration comprises an oval crystal while a little lower down appears another and a larger crystal. This latter object has been unaccountably introduced by some ignorant person, for it is manifestly out of place. It occurred to the present writer when inspecting the shrine last summer that it belonged to the center of a neighboring shrine with which its setting agrees, and where its shape would enable it to fit exactly. On the side, below the knot and ring by which it is suspended, there are eight of those quaint Irish serpents, whose elegant tails curve and infold each other so intricately that it is almost as difficult to make [Pg 279]out each particular snake as if they were in very truth alive and wriggling. Their eyes are of blue glass. The stones which still remain in their setting are of little or no value; glass, crystal and amber appear to have been the only objects used.


[Pg 280]


[Pg 281]

But the beauty of the gold tracery is beyond expression. The photograph but poorly represents it, and the engraving falls still further below the original. It must be seen to be understood, and as the shrine may be examined in its case at the Royal Irish Academy any day, we can only hope that no visitor will ever leave Dublin without seeing it, no matter what else he may leave unseen.

We return now to the history of the shrine.

The inscription according to the general usage of Irish inscriptions begs a prayer first for Domhnall O'Lachlainn, lord of Ailech (King of Ulster), secondly, for Domhnall the Bishop of Armagh, and thirdly for Chathalan O'Maelchallan the keeper of the shrine, and finally a[Pg 282] prayer is also asked for Cudulig O'Inmauien the artificer who did the work. As long as the shrine lasts and as human beings possess a love of the beautiful the request of Cudulig will be answered in the admiration which all beholders will freely give to the work of his hands.

Domhnall the King is famous in the Annals as being "the most distinguished of the Irish for personal form, family, sense, prowess, prosperity and happiness, for bestowing of jewels and food upon the mighty and the needy." He died after a reign of twenty-seven years—a splendid personage evidently, and one who might have caused the beautiful shrine to be made.

The O'Maelchallans appear to have kept their trust for generations; but from some reason now undiscoverable in 1356 the Bell of Saint Patrick was kept by Solomon O'Mellan after whose death it again reverted to the former keepers. These enjoyed certain lands by right of their charge which were situate in the county of Tyrone near Stewartstown and were called[Pg 283] Ballyelog, i.e., the town of the Bell. In 1365 the O'Mulchallans were exempted from an interdict laid upon their diocese by the Primate, and this was done out of veneration for the sacred bell of which they were the custodians. Once more the bell migrated into the family of the O'Mellans and once again came back to the O'Mulchallans, whose name was undergoing a softening process, it will be observed.

In 1455 the keepers having become powerful and wealthy began naturally to be arrogant. They usurped the "firstlings of flocks," and got into trouble with the Primate in consequence. And now there comes a great gap in the history of the bell. From 1466 to 1758 there are no annals in Ireland which deal with it. Perhaps the inhabitants were too busy with their newly-arrived English neighbors and all their advent entailed to remember the bell. It continued, however, during all those generations in the same family of keepers whose name had become further toned down and was now Mulhollan.[Pg 284] In 1758 Bernard Mulhollan died and Edmond his son kept the bell in his stead. His son Henry was destined for the priesthood but became a schoolmaster instead. His school at Edenduffcarrick was attended by Adam MacClean, a boy for whom he felt a great tenderness, and who returned his affection with gratitude. In the disastrous rebellion of 1798 Henry Mulhollan became implicated, and when that rising was put down he would have suffered for his rashness had it not been for the interference of his former pupil now become a wealthy Belfast merchant. All through life Mr. MacClean showed kindness and gave assistance to his old schoolmaster. When the latter came to die he accordingly left to his benefactor what he held most precious in the world. We give Mr. MacClean's own account of what Henry Mulhollan said to him on his death-bed:

"My dear friend, you were an old and valued scholar of mine: on one occasion you were the means of saving my life, and on many subsequent occasions of providing for[Pg 285] its comforts. I am now going to die. I have no child to whom I might leave the little I possess, nor have I any near of kin who might prefer any claim to it; in either case the treasure I possess and which I hold dear as life should not have left the family of Mulholland, in which it has been for ages and generations handed down. But I am the last of my race and you are the best friend I have. I therefore give it to you, and when I am gone, dig in the garden at a certain spot, and you will find a box there: take it up and treasure its contents for my sake."

Mr. MacClean dug in the place indicated and found an oak box within which lay the bell and its shrine and beside them a worn copy of Bedell's quarto Irish Bible. Mr. MacClean had the precious relic in his possession for a number of years, but unhappily he did not at first keep it under lock and key. The result was what might have been foretold by any one acquainted with the depredations committed by the enlightened vermin known as "relic-hunters." Priceless bits of gold tracery were stolen by the servants and visitors until the cruelly denuded panels aroused Mr. MacClean to a sense of his danger. He then locked up the shrine.[Pg 286]

Mr. MacClean willed the bell and its shrine to Dr. Todd, the great Irish authority on Saint Patrick, and by him in turn it was bequeathed back to the nation at large, who leave it to the care of the Royal Irish Academy as its keepers.

We have now traced the history of this bell back through the long vista of fourteen centuries. During most of that time it was venerated as a relic of great sanctity and the humanizing influence of this feeling must have helped these poor benighted savages of Ireland whom Saint Patrick came to teach and save. The religious sanctity of the bell is gone, but its mission is not thereby ended. The worship of the beautiful has also its humanizing and elevating influence.


[A] Evidently a mistake on Baba's part, as the Regent was pawned to a banker in Berlin.

[B] It was shown to the world at large in the two French exhibitions, where, in 1867, the present writer had the gratification of beholding it.

[C] The pearl was doubtless "incomparable" as de la Vega says, but at the same time it must not be supposed that such is the correct rendering of the word Peregrina or Pelegrina which means, originally stranger, hence our word "pilgrim."

[D] Baber's meaning is obscure; probably he should have said "whose family were rajahs, etc."

[E] During the visit of the Prince of Wales to India a few years ago it was observed that some curious old jewels of Italian make appeared at the gorgeous pageants which the native princes ordered for the benefit of their future Emperor. It is thought that these were heirlooms dating from Tavernier's time.

[F] This is probably a misuse of the word, as "carbuchons," namely polished globules, are never made of diamonds; a rose is what was meant and one of Tavernier's editors made a mistake.

[G] "This is either a misprint or a gross mistake. For as there are one hundred and fifty carats to the ounce it would be more correct to say 'nearly a pound in weight.'"

[H] The naming of diamonds is an art wherein there may lie fitness as well as unfitness. Historic stones frequently bear the name of their first well-known owner, as for example the "Regent," the "Orloff," the "Braganza," and many others. Again they may bear names indicative of their character as "Austrian Yellow," "Dresden Green," "French Blue," or yet again their names may be purely fanciful. Of this latter class there are numerous examples. The above "Estrella do Sud" is one, the "Koh-i-nûr" is another. When fanciful names are given we hold emphatically that they should always be in the language of the person who bestows it. As a historian we protest against needlessly confusing the already intricate annals of diamonds by giving to American gems fine names fetched from Persia. The largest diamond found in the United States weighed in the rough twenty-three and three fourths carats and rejoices in the appellation of Oninoor (Sea of Light.)

[I] It must be remembered that the money value of the pound sterling in Henry's time was three or four times what it is now.

[J] The carat is the seed of a kind of vetch common in India, and is of such uniform weight that it naturally suggested itself as a standard measure, just as in our country the barley grain was taken as the unit.

TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: Images have been moved from the middle of a paragraph to the closest paragraph break. Also, footnotes have been renumbered and moved to the end of the text.

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