The Orlov Diamond
The Orlov diamond, originally 300 carats, has a bluish green color with exceptional clarity. Its weight today is believed to be 189.62 carats and was cut in the shape of half an egg. There are many stories surrounding the Orlov diamond. At one time, it was believed to have been in the innermost shrine in a sacred temple in Sriangam, India where a person could only pass through four of the seven walls if he was Christian. One of the Hindu idols, Vishnu, in the hidden temple walls, contained two diamond eyes of unimaginable value. Of the two eyes, one was the Orlov diamond.
A French soldier who was Christian planned for years to take the two diamond eyes, but he first had to wholeheartedly accept the Hindu religion. After many years, on a stormy night, the soldier came to be the guardian of the Vishnu idol and decided to hurriedly steal one of the diamond eyes instead of both of them because he lost his courage to stay any longer. He fled into the jungle and later sold the diamond for 2000 pounds to an English sea captain who brought it to London and sold it to a Jewish merchant for 12,000 pounds. The story ends here but this is just one of several stories that followed the transfer of this diamond from one person to the next.
In another story more believeable, the Count Grigorievich Orlov (1723-83), a Russian nobleman, later met with the Grande Duke of Peter and Catherine the Great (1762-96) in Amsterdam when escorting a prisoner of war to St. Petersburg in 1759. After the accession of Catherine’s husband, Orlov and his brother dethroned and murdered him in favor of Catherine. He was taken with Catherine but sadly she was only interested in Grigori Potemkin as her lover. Orlov left Russia in 1775 and was the negotiator between Safras and Catherine to purchase the Amsterdam Diamond for 400,000 rubles. He had hoped that this diamond would remind Catherine of his help in bringing her to the throne. He wanted to be her favorite lover. She gave him a marble palace and had the Amsterdam diamond named after him. It became known as the Orlov diamond, also spelled Orloff. She set the Orlov diamond in the Imperial Sceptre but he did not become her lover.