The surprising history of the Orloff diamond
The Orloff diamond which is currently on display at the Diamond Foundation of the Kremlin is mounted on the imperial sceptre of Russia. It weighs 193 carats and has the shape and proportions of half a hen’s egg.
For a long time, some historians and gemmologists claimed that this diamond was part of the Great Mogul, that disappeared after the plunder of Delhi in 1739. However, today it is clear that these two diamonds have very distinct origins.
SThe story began in India where a French grenadier, who had deserted to make a fortune, arrived in the city of Srinagar. He learned that the statue of the local goddess had two large diamonds for eyes. His “conversion” to Hinduism was almost immediate. He quickly won the confidence of the other followers. This enabled him to enter the temple, where he replaced the diamond.
He then fled to Madras where he sold the stone to a ship’s captain. The diamond was finally sold to a Persian merchant who desperately tried to get rid of it up until the day that he met the Prince Grigori Grigorievich Orlov, the tsarina Catherine of Russia’s favourite. It is said he bought the diamond for 400,000 florins (450,000$).
He offered her the stone in the hope of regaining her favour following several affairs, but in vain. Catherine did however like the diamond and had it set on the imperial sceptre.
The jewel can still be seen in Moscow.