G. J. (George John) Younghusband.

The jewel house : an account of the many romances connected with the royal regalia together with Sir Gilbert Talbot's account of Colonel Blood's plot here reproduced for the first time online

. (page 9 of 15)
Online LibraryG. J. (George John) YounghusbandThe jewel house : an account of the many romances connected with the royal regalia together with Sir Gilbert Talbot's account of Colonel Blood's plot here reproduced for the first time → online text (page 9 of 15)
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chose a more courteous but equally effective means
of gaining possession of the diamond. He gave
orders that a banquet should be prepared, and as
the guest of honour invited Mahomed Shah. Again
Nadir Shah did not mix ground glass with his
guest's food, nor did he poison his wine : two
obvious methods ; nor did he make him drunk
and then steal the jewel. Neither was the gor-
geous menial who waved a fan behind the royal
diners instructed to thrust a dagger between the
shoulder-blades of Mahomed Shah. The acquisition
was much more diplomatically achieved.

In the East if one prince or potentate, or even a
person of lower degree, wishes to pay a marked
compliment to another, he after extolling the
extreme elegance and richness of the other's turban,
whilst deprecating the value of his own, proposes
as a mark of friendship and regard that they shall
exchange turbans. In the more sordid West there
might be some economic souls who would not wear
their best head-gear when such interchanges of
courtesies were imminent, but in the East the turban



154 THE JEWEL HOUSE

is a social insignia, and the higher a person's degree
the more magnificent his turban. Consequently,
when two kings meet each other at dinner or other
State occasions, it may safely be conjectured that
they will wear their most magnificent turbans, each
trusting that his own will outvie that of the other.
Even an exchange which might entail a sensible
loss would not be without its compensations, for all
the courtiers on the other side would extol the
magnificence and richness of the late possessor.

Mahomed Shah very naturally did not for a
moment foresee that so great a compliment would
be paid him by the conqueror, or he would assuredly
have left the Koh-i-Nur at home that night. To
his horror and surprise, during the course of the
dinner Nadir Shah made him a most polite speech,
extolled his valour and wisdom, swore eternal
friendship, and as a sign and token of the same
suggested that they should exchange turbans !
To the luckless Mahomed Shah no course was open
but to accept the compliment with the best grace
he could muster. It is not surprising to learn that
during the rest of the feast Nadir Shah was in
excellent spirits, whilst Mahomed Shah appears to
have lost his appetite.

Thus passed the great diamond to the King of
Persia, who when he returned to his own land, took
it with him. But it brought him no good fortune,
for he was in due course murdered, and the



THE ROMANCE OF THE GREAT GEMS 155

Koh-i-Nur was taken by one of his bodyguard,
an Afghan named Ahmed Shah. This soldier
of fortune escaped to Afghanistan with the
diamond, and there eventually became Amir or
King of that country and founder of the Durani
dynasty. In 1772 Ahmed Shad died and was
succeeded by his son Taimur Shah, to whom also
passed the Koh-i-Nur. Shah Suja, the next occu-
pant of the throne at Kabul, succeeded also to the
possession of the famous diamond, but it brought
him no good fortune, for he was deposed and fled
for his life to Lahore, taking the stone with him.
There he found asylum with the Maharajah Runjeet
Singh, the Lion of the Punjab, but as he soon found,
only on condition that he handed over the Koh-i-
Nur to his host.

In Lahore the celebrated stone was seen by
Lord Auckland's sister, the Hon. Emily Eden, in
1838-39. Ten years later the threatening attitude
of the Sikhs, combined with repeated and overt
acts of hostility, compelled the East India Company
to settle once and for all with this turbulent neigh-
bour. With slender forces Lord Gough advanced
to subjugate the Sikhs, and in the three great and
hard-fought battles of the Sutlej, Goojerat, and
Chillianwalla, laid in the dust the vaunted power of
this military race. The Punjab was annexed to the
territories administered by the East India Com-
pany, the Maharajah Runjeet Singh ceased to



156 THE JEWEL HOUSE

reign, and the Koh-i-Nur passed to the British
Army as part of the spoils of war.

During the transition stage the Punjab was
administered by a board of five British officers,
amongst whom were the brothers Sir John l and
Sir Henry Lawrence. At one of the meetings of
the Board the question was raised as to what was to
be done with the treasure taken, amongst which
was the Koh-i-Nur, there lying on the table. The
Board decided to ascertain the wishes of the Directors
of the East India Company, and asked Sir John
Lawrence meanwhile to take charge of it. Sir John,
who had many and great matters on his mind,
beside which a diamond was of small import,
wrapped the stone up in a piece of paper, put it into
his pocket, and forgot all about it !

About six weeks after, at another meeting of the
Board, a letter was read from the Governor-General,
in which it was stated that it had been decided that
the Koh-i-Nur should be presented by the Army of
the Punjab to Queen Victoria. Sir John Lawrence
listened to this pronouncement without much
interest, till one of the Board mentioned incidentally
that the diamond was in Sir John's safe custody !

Sir John, not being an emotional man, never
turned a hah*, but after hearing the debate through
mounted his horse and galloped off to his bunga-
low. There he summoned his bearer, or valet, and

1 Afterwards Lord Lawrence and Viceroy of India.



THE ROMANCE OF THE GREAT GEMS 157

said: " About six weeks ago I brought home in my
pocket a piece of glass wrapped in a bit of paper.
What did you do with it ? "

" Cherisher of the poor, I placed that piece of
glass wrapped in paper on the top of your honour's
office box, and " opening the box " here it is ! "
Being an unemotional person Sir John did not fall
on his servant's neck and shed tears of gratitude ;
on the contrary, he merely said, " Very good," put
the diamond again in his pocket and rode off to
deposit it with someone who had nothing else to
think about, and a guard of soldiers to help him
do so.

From Lahore to England the Koh-i-Nur was sent
under special precautions in charge of Major Mache-
son, and on arrival was presented to Queen Victoria
as a loyal tribute from the Army which had by its
gallant deeds added the Punjab to the Empire.

It was on view to the public at the Great Exhibi-
tion of 1851, and when that was closed returned to
the safe keeping of Queen Victoria. The size and
weight of the Koh-i-Nur when first found is not
accurately known, but it is conjectured that after
its first cutting it weighed about 1000 carats. It
is, however, known that when in the possession of
Shah Jehan it had, by unskilful cutting, been reduced
to 800 carats. By the orders of that Emperor an
endeavour was made to get a better result, the
further cutting being entrusted to a Venetian



158 THE JEWEL HOUSE

named Ortensio Borgio. His effort was not deemed
satisfactory, and Borgio was fined 1000, and may
be considered lucky not to have lost his head as
well. When presented to Queen Victoria the
diamond weighed only i86J carats. Under the
superintendence of the Prince Consort it was again
cut by Coster of Amsterdam into the form of a
regular brilliant. By this last cutting the stone was
reduced to io6J carats, but curiously enough looks
larger and is superficially larger than it was before.
This result was achieved by cutting transversely
the original cone-shaped stone, this diameter being
greater than the base. Queen Victoria wore the
Koh-i-Nur set as a brooch, but it is now perhaps
more appropriately placed in front of the State
Crown of Queen Mary. The diamond can, however,
be removed at pleasure and worn as a brooch.

It might be thought that so historic a stone
should be set in the King's Crown, but a curious
tradition regarding it is thus upheld. From very
ancient days, and no doubt due to its bloody history,
the Koh-i-Nur is supposed to bring misfortune to
any man who may wear it, but that it brings no
harm to a woman. Certainly it has brought no
harm to Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra, or
Queen Mary, all of whom have worn it constantly.

When presented to Queen Victoria the Koh-i-Nur
was valued at 140,000, but indeed such stones as
this are from their historic association practically



THE ROMANCE OF THE GREAT GEMS 159

priceless. The Koh-i-Nur cannot be bought with
money, and he who wishes to take it by force must
first defeat the British Empire.

One of the oldest as well as one of the most
valuable gems in the Jewel House is the sapphire
which belonged to Edward the Confessor, and was
worn by him in his Coronation ring. It would thus
be considerably older than the Tower of London
itself, for the Confessor came to the throne many
years before the Conqueror landed in England and
built the Tower. As was not an unusual custom,
the ring with the sapphire was buried with Edward
the Confessor probably on his finger, in his shrine at
Westminster, but in the year 1101 the shrine was
broken open and this and other jewels taken out.

This was the ring which appears in the legend
regarding Edward the Confessor and St. John the
Evangelist. According to this legend St. John on
one occasion appeared before the King in the guise
of a pilgrim. To him the King of his bounty gave
the ring off his finger. Some little time after the
ring was returned to the King with a message in-
forming him privily of the exact day of his death.
Doubtless St. John meant this for a kindly warning,
so that the King might be absolutely at the height
of his holiness when the call came. Most people,
however, would have heartily cursed St. John for
his ofnciousness, for few care to live with a guillotine



160 THE JEWEL HOUSE

hanging over their heads and a clock facing them
ticking off the hours and minutes.

The stone has manifestly been recut, for it is at
present a " rose," and that form of cutting was
unknown in ancient days. Probably this was done
in the reign of Charles II. It is a remarkably
beautiful gem, of good colour and without flaw, and
is intrinsically worth a very high sum. In the days
of Edward the Confessor it was reputed to have
the miraculous power of curing what was known
collectively as the cramp, that is rheumatism,
sciatica, and the like, but we have not heard of any
later monarch testing its efficiency. The sapphire
is now set in the centre of cross pate on top of the
King's State Crown.

In the band at the back of the King's State Crown
may be seen a very large sapphire, known as the
Stuart sapphire, which has seen many adventures.
What its early history was is not known, but at
one end is drilled a longitudinal hole evidently
made for some attachment so that the stone might
be worn as a pendant. It first came into recogni-
tion in the reign of Charles II, who wore it in his
crown, but whether he received it from Charles I or
acquired it in his wanderings is not quite clear.
At his death the sapphire passed to James II, who
when he was dethroned and fled to France took it
with him. James II left the sapphire to his son,



THE ROMANCE OF THE GREAT GEMS 161

Charles Edward, the Old Pretender, who in his
turn left it to his son, Henry Bentinck, known as
Cardinal Yorke, by whom it was bequeathed, with
other Stuart relics, to George III. George IV and
William IV in turn owned it, and then it came to
Queen Victoria, who very greatly prized it and had
it set in the band of her State Crown, in the front
and just below the Black Prince's ruby. This
pride of place the Stuart sapphire resigned in favour
of the Star of Africa, a portion of which Edward VII
placed in the crown, symbolising the entry of the
Union of South Africa into the brotherhood of the
British Empire.

The Stuart sapphire is of great size, being about
ij inches in length by i in. in breadth, and is oval
in shape. It is without serious flaw and of good
colour, though paler than some of the best sapphires
to be found in other portions of the regalia. The
stone is set in a gold brooch, and can be removed
and worn as a personal ornament.

As gems the two greater portions of the Star
of Africa eclipse in size and brilliancy all others
in the Jewel House. Though the stone may
have taken a million years to form in the womb
of mother earth, it only saw the light of day
in 1904. In the rough when found it measured
4 in. in length, 2j in. in width, and 2j in. in depth,
and weighed roughly ij Ib. But even this huge



162 THE JEWEL HOUSE

block, as large as half a Roman brick, it was con-
cluded was only a part of some even more gigantic
diamond, for its base was clean cut as with a knife,
showing that a portion perhaps as large, perhaps
even larger, in some remote age, by a great con-
vulsion of nature, had been split off. For fourteen
years diligent search was made for the missing
portion, for any block or spadeful of blue rock
might contain it. Yet strangely enough, when by
chance it was found, it came to an untimely end.
A telegram from Johannesburg, dated October i8th,
1919, made this brief announcement : "A large
diamond has been found on the Premier Mine. It
is estimated to have weighed 1500 carats, but un-
fortunately had been crushed by the crusher. It is
believed to be part of the other half of the Cullinan
diamond."

The diamond was first known as the " Cullinan
Diamond," Mr. T. M. Cullinan being at the time
manager of the Premier Mine, near Pretoria, where
it was found, and it is still very generally known
by its first name. It was insured for the sum of
1,500,000. The Union Government of South
Africa eventually became the purchasers, inspired
with the happy sentiment that this magnificent
diamond would be a graceful emblem of the entry
of South Africa into the British Empire.

When this monster stone was presented to
Edward VII it looked like a block of rock salt, as



THE ROMANCE OF THE GREAT GEMS 163

may be judged from the exact model of it now to
be seen in the Jewel House. When the experts were
called in they declared that it was impossible to cut
a stone of this size and shape into one brilliant ;
they therefore recommended that following the
natural cleavages it should be broken up into four
parts, two of which would be very great brilliants,
and two of lesser size. King Edward following this
advice, and with the full consent of the donors,
called in the celebrated diamond-cutters of Amster-
dam, the Messrs. Coster, and put the work hi hand.
One can imagine the enormous anxiety and the
extraordinary coolness, steadiness of hand, and skill
of the man who with one tremor of the mallet or
chisel might mar the greatest stone of all ages.
The chisel and the steel mallet with which this
delicate operation was performed are preserved at
the Tower, and it is noticeable that there are only
two or three dents in the chisel, showing how true
and clean the strokes must have been.

Thus split up, the largest portion was cut into a
pear-shaped brilliant, and set at the head of the
King's Sceptre. The next largest portion was cut
into a cushion-shaped brilliant, and placed in the
band of the King's State Crown, just below the
Black Prince's ruby. Both of these brilliants are
larger and finer stones than any others, including
the Koh-i-Nur. The two remaining large portions
are set, one in the band, and the other in the cross



164 THE JEWEL HOUSE

pate of Queen Mary's Crown. It may be of interest
to record the exact weight and sizes of these four
great brilliants which collectively are called the
Stars of South Africa. The largest portion, that in
the King's Sceptre, weighs 516^ carats, and measures
2f in. in length and Hf in. at its broadest part.
The next largest portion, that in the band of the
King's State Crown, weighs 309^ carats, and
measures i}f in. in length, and i}* inches in breadth.
The third portion, that in the band of Queen Mary's
Crown, weighs 96 carats, and the fourth portion,
which is drop shaped and is in the cross pate on the
top of Queen Mary's Crown, weighs 64 carats.
Thus it will be noticed that a rough stone weighing
3025 carats cuts down into four brilliants weighing
in the aggregate under 986 carats.

The question is often asked: " What is the value
of the Stars of South Africa ? ' And it is a very
difficult one to answer, for curiously enough stones
above a certain size lose their commercial value,
for few have the money or inclination to buy gems
of enormous size, and fewer still would be bold
enough to wear them. Nobody but a King or a
Queen, for instance, could wear a diamond which on
an ordinary person would look and certainly be taken
for the lustre from a candelabra. Thus the market
becomes strictly limited, as was definitely brought
home to the owners of the Premier Mine. It was
thus that the Union Government were enabled to



THE ROMANCE OF THE GREAT GEMS 165

buy a stone valued at 1,500,000 for 150,000, a
stone which even when split into four is still of an
aggregate value difficult to compute. Let us elude
the difficulty and say they are worth a million and
a half, and leave it at that.

It is interesting to compare the Cullinan with
other well-known diamonds of size and historic
value, though curiously enough even the present
existence of these stones is not in all cases certain.
Those, for instance, which formed part of the regalia
of the late Tsar of Russia are for very obvious
reasons at present in hiding. The largest of these
is the Orloff, which weighs 194 carats. This great
stone came from India, and was reputed to be a
cleavage from the still greater stone, the Koh-i-Nur.
It was stolen by a French grenadier from the eye-
socket of an idol in a Hindu temple. He deserted
the army and sold the stone to the captain of an
English merchant ship for 2000. By him it was
conveyed to Holland, where a Jew named Khojeh
Raphael gave 12,000 for it ; and at once resold
it to Orloff for Catherine the Great for 90,000
and an annuity of 4000 ! Since that time this
great stone has remained one of the Russian Crown
Jewels, and when last seen was set at the head of
the sceptre of the late Tsar. Where it is now or
what its fate the future may perhaps reveal.

Another large diamond, named the Shah, of very
curious shape, also was amongst the Russian



166 THE JEWEL HOUSE

Crown Jewels. It is flat and rectangular in shape,
with a Persian inscription engraved upon it and a
groove cut round. It weighs 86 carats and was
given by the Shah of Persia to the Emperor
Nicholas I. The stone is an exceptionally fine one,
but owing to its peculiar shape its value can only be
conjectured. The Polar Star is another very fine
diamond which formed part of the Russian regalia.
It was bought by the Russians in London about
seventy years ago, and is described as of remarkable
purity and brilliancy. It weighs 40 carats, but the
price paid for it and its present value is not known.
Nor its whereabouts.

The Sanci diamond has a very ancient and inter-
esting history, and has been through many adven-
tures. It is first heard of as belonging to Charles
the Bold of Burgundy on the day he was disastrously
defeated by the Swiss at the battle of Granson.
According to tradition a Swiss soldier picked it up,
and having no value for a piece of glass, sold it for a
florin or the price of a drink. Eventually it found
its way to Constantinople, and was there bought by
the French Ambassador in 1570, and became hence-
forth known as the Great Sanci diamond. Henry III
and Henry IV, both of France, were the next posses-
sors, and whilst owned by the latter King it had
a curious adventure. One of the King's followers,
who had charge of the diamond, was attacked by
robbers, and the faithful fellow, to save his master's



THE ROMANCE OF THE GREAT GEMS 167

treasure, swallowed it. The robbers after a stiff
fight slew the servant, and not finding the stone
pulled the corpse into the thicket and left it. In
due course of nature, when decomposition had
done its work, the brilliant was found again and
was restored to the French King. The Sanci then,
by sale or gift, passed into the possession of Queen
Elizabeth, and remained one of the Crown Jewels of
England through several reigns, and escaped the
depredations of the Commonwealth. In 1669 it
was still in the possession of Henrietta Maria,
widow of Charles I, and was by her entrusted to the
Earl of Somerset, who handed it over to James II.
When that monarch fled to France he took the
Sanci with him and sold it to Lousi XIV for 25,000.
It long remained amongst the French Crown Jewels,
and in 1791 was valued at 40,000. In the year
1835 the diamond passed to Russia, being purchased
by Prince Demidoff for 75,000. Then in 1865 the
Sanci returned to India, whence it probably originally
came, being sold by the Demidoffs to Sir Jamsetjee
Jeejeebhoy, a rich Parsee of Bombay. From him
it was bought by the Maharajah of Patiala, at what
price is not known, and is still in that prince's
possession, and may be seen on the front of his
turban on State occasions.

The Great Moghul originally weighed 787 carats,
but when seen in the treasury of the Emperor
Aurungzebe in 1665 by Ta vernier it had been cut



168 THE JEWEL HOUSE

down to an estimated weight of 280 carats. It
appears to have been given to the Emperor Shah
Jehan by the Amir Jumba. It is by some supposed
to be a portion cleaved off the Koh-i-Nur by some
great convulsion of nature in remote ages long
before either were discovered. The diamond is
believed to be at present in the possession of the
Shah of Persia.

The Regent or Pitt diamond was found either in
Borneo or India, and weighed then 410 carats. It
was bought by Mr. Pitt, Governor of Madras, for
20,400, and was subsequently sold in 1717 to the
Due d'Orleans, Regent of France, for 80,000.
In the process of cutting the diamond was reduced
to 136}^ carats, and was amongst the French
Crown Jewels stolen during the Revolution. Later
it was recovered, and is still believed to be in
France.

The Hope diamond is a beautiful blue brilliant
weighing 44J carats, and is one of those stones which
is reputed to bring bad luck to its owner. It formed
part of the collection of Mr. H. T. Hope, who
bought it for 18,000, and after whom it is named.
The stone was last heard of in the possession of an
American, and quite recently the newspapers gave
an account of a small child being killed in a street
accident, the child being the only son of the owner
of the Hope diamond.



THE ROMANCE OF THE GREAT GEMS 169

Pearls are not like diamonds or other hard stones,
which, having gone through periods of thousands of
years under enormous pressure deep down in the
earth, can now last for thousands more with un-
diminished lustre set hi a ring or a crown, exposed
to the free air of this terrestrial globe. The pearl is
really only a sort of disease, or perhaps to put it
more mildly a distemper, or milder still a pastime,
on the part of the pearl oyster. A large pearl
naturally takes many years to form inside the
oyster's shell, whilst small ones take so many
years less. Even in one or two years a foreign
substance, say a small shot, will, if placed in a pearl
oyster, become to all appearance a pearl of high
price. Even minute effigies of elephants and
Bhuddhas when introduced will, in the course of a
few months, be thinly but completely coated with
pearl lustre. The true and valuable pearl also had
a nucleus, probably a grain of sand, and this year
after year has been covered with thin coatings of
pearl lustre, so that small or large it is practically
solid, so solid that it cannot be broken if trodden
upon. But even so it is merely the product of
decades, and has not the lasting-power of diamonds,
or rubies, or sapphires, or emeralds.

A marked example of the comparatively short
life of pearls is furnished by a very celebrated one
known as the Pearl of Portugal. This pearl was as
large as a pigeon's egg and of that shape, and



170 THE JEWEL HOUSE

naturally at its zenith was of enormous value. Seen
a few years ago by an expert, he described it as having
deteriorated into nothing more valuable than a piece
of chalk of the same size and shape. Owners of
valuable pearls will immediately exclaim : " Oh !
but that is because it was not constantly worn
next the skin." There are hundreds, perhaps
thousands, of women who religiously wear their
pearls next their skins all day, and some even at
night, under the impression that they are so pre-
served. One of the highest experts in pearls and
precious stones, however, puts this custom on a
much lower plane. He says that the wearing of
pearls next the skin is no doubt good as a burnisher,
likening, from a purely commercial point of view, a


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Online LibraryG. J. (George John) YounghusbandThe jewel house : an account of the many romances connected with the royal regalia together with Sir Gilbert Talbot's account of Colonel Blood's plot here reproduced for the first time → online text (page 9 of 15)