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The Regent Diamond – The Cursed Diamond In Napoleon’s Sword Guard
The Regent Diamond has resided in the Louvre for many years now and was part of the French Royal collection. And even though when you think of the Regent, you think of France, the stone originated in India! It has a long and bloody history and some say that a curse has been laid upon it. If you’d like to find out more, read on and this article will show you:
The origins of the Regent Diamond
The Regent Diamond was discovered in 1698, in the Kollur Mines in India and it weighed an amazing 426 carats or 85.2 grams in its rough form, Understandably, it caught the attention of many of the most prominent merchants in India at the time.
The legend of the murdered discoverer
The story has it the stone was discovered by an unknown slave working in the mines. It is said the enslaved man had a wound on his leg which he used to hide the Regent in. The story tells the serf who fled in hopes of securing a safe passage to a different place and ultimately becoming a free man.
He spoke to an English sea captain and showed him the diamond. The captain was offered half of the stone’s value if he allowed the fugitive servant aboard his ship and smuggled him out of India. The captain accepted the terms. However, it turns out the man was a bit of a pirate given that he ended up cheating the slave out of all his worth.
Once the shipmaster had the diamond in his possession the slave was murdered and the stone stolen. Some say the captain kept the stone, others claim that he then sold the Regent Diamond to the prominent diamond merchant Jamchand. Either way, a few years later, the stone found itself in the hands of Thomas Pitt, who was the Governor of Fort St George in India.
The Cutting of the Regent Diamond
Thomas Pitt sent the gem to London to be cut, hidden in his son’s shoe heel. Not much is known about the diamond cutter who worked on the Regent Diamond except his name – Harris. Nevertheless, Harris’ work speaks for itself – the man worked on the stone for two years, producing a stunning 141-carat brilliant cushion cut diamond. Several smaller but no less beautiful rose-cut jewels were also produced from the cutting of the Regent and were purchased by Peter the Great of Russia.
The cushion cut has been described as being nearly round, shape-wise. The Regent Diamond is as thick as it is wide. It is white and very clear – it has only one blemish on it which is noticeable only by trained eyes. The Regent Diamond is today considered one of the finest and most brilliant gemstones of this size. It is often used for reference and as a comparative scale for newer diamonds of the same size.
The Modern Ownership History of the Regent Diamond
For years and years after this, the diamond was offered to different members of European royalty. However, nobody wanted it! For a gemstone with such a rich history and bloody start – the fact that it was unwanted is astonishing.
Thomas ‘Diamond’ Pitt earns his Nickname
It was offered up to people like Louis XIV, who was known for purchasing stones of a similar caliber, yet the possibility of an acquisition procured no interest from him. Eventually, Pitt struck gold when French Regent Philippe II, Duke of Orléans bought the diamond to add it to the French crown jewels. Allegedly, the stone was sold for around £135,000 (over 20 million nowadays). It was originally bought for around £20,000. The amazing markup earned Thomas Pitt his nickname – Thomas ‘Diamond Pitt, which in turn, made it so that the diamond became briefly known as the Pitt Diamond. Both names are forever intertwined in history.
The Regent Diamond becomes a Regal Diamond
After Louis XIV acquired the Regent Diamond it became a staple in the jewels of the French crown. It was known as ‘Le Régent’ and was passed down through several generations of French royalty. Louis XIV set it in a crown for the coronation of Louis XV and several years later the gem was moved and set in a crown for Louis XVI. The diamond then moved on and was put in a hat for Marie Antoinette. However, as is very visible in hindsight, the French people were not too satisfied with Marie Antoinette’s lavish lifestyle.
The Regent Diamond is stolen during the French Revolution
The French Revolution broke out, changing the way of life in France for many generations to come. During the revolutionary war, many of the crown jewels were taken. Supporters of the Revolution stormed the Royal Treasury (Garde Meuble) and stole nearly all the jewels in it – The Regent Diamond was taken, alongside the Sancy Diamond, the Royal French Blue Diamond, and many other treasures.
The Sancy Diamond turned up in the collection of a Russian oligarch named Vasily Rudanovsky years after its disappearance. The Royal French Blue Diamond was never seen again, although a lot of people believe it was recut to the jewel we now know as the Hope Diamond. Most of the treasure that was taken has been recovered but some pieces of the pre-revolution collection remain lost in history. The Regent Diamond was, thankfully, amongst those that were found. Our story’s protagonist never left France and it is rumored that its discovery was accidental. The Regent’s resurgence allegedly occurred in an abandoned Parisian attic after it was found concealed in a hole under some of the planks that made up the room.
Napoleon Bonaparte Reclaims the Regent Diamond
The Regent Diamond was passed around from hand to hand for some years after its reemergence. It was used as collateral by the French Directory several times. National expenditures were rising as the country was fighting for its democracy. The French Consulate later used it to finance their military expenses. It was pledged to several people after this – most notably a Berlin entrepreneur called Sigmund Otto Joseph von Treskow and an Amsterdam-based Dutch banker by the name of Vandenberg. The Regent truly helped the country through this hard period. Finally, the famous diamond was reclaimed by one of the biggest men to ever blaze history’s trail – the infamous Napoleon Bonaparte. He put an end to the stone’s heavy circulation. Bonaparte believed that the stone held a special place in France’s history and wanted to ensure it remained in the country’s possession. The Emperor had the Regent set in his sword guard. His sword was a work of art, designed by three goldsmiths – Marie-Etienne Nitot, Odiot, and Boutet. Nitot is the one who is usually credited with Bonaparte’s two-edged sword design where the Regent was featured.
The Final Setting of the Regent Diamond
The Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria, the second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte decided to save the Regent after her husband’s exile. She carried the impressive diamond back to Austria with her. Marie Louise’s father, however, decided that the stone had to be returned to its rightful place. He organized for the Regent to be returned to the French Crown Jewels. The diamond then adorned the crowns of Louis XVIII, Charles X, and Napoleon III. Its final spot was in a Greek diadem made for Empress Eugenie where it remains until this day.
The Technical Characteristics of the Regent Diamond
The Regent Diamond weighed 426 carats (85.2 grams) in its rough form. It was cut into a stellar 140.64 carat cushion-shaped stone. The diamond is internally flawless and has only one minor blemish. However, its color leaves nothing to be desired, with the colorless D grade. The Regent only has a slightly bluish tinge, which is characteristic of the gems from the Golconda mines. The tinge is caused by fluorescence, which is more prominent under bright daylight. D-color diamonds are chemically pure, structurally perfect, and very rare. The Regent is the seventh-largest diamond of this color grade in the world.
The Significance of the Regent Diamond
As we’ve seen, the Regent Diamond has a history of passing through many owners until it made its way into the French Royal collection, where it remained for most of its existence. Within the collection, the stone served the purpose to adorn the crowns of many French kings and the jewelry of many French female royals. However, most of the owners of the Regent were threatened and many of them have died horrible deaths, which is why some say the diamond is cursed.
The Curse of the Regent Diamond
Firstly, the Indian slave who took the diamond was deceived and killed. Furthermore, Thomas Pitt, who most assumed was the English captain of the legend knew he was under constant surveillance by unkind eyes in his years of holding the stone. Although he did not die because of his ownership of the stone, his family’s reputation was tarnished for generations to come. It is fair to say that bringing dishonor and blemishing the family name might be worse than death for some.
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were decapitated during the French Revolution. Following their demise, Louis XVIII was exiled twice and died without any successors. Charles X was forced to abdicate his throne and ended up contracting Cholera which brought a long and painful death to him. Lastly, Napoleon Bonaparte died in exile, haunted by the memories of his life. So, it is this trail of unfortunate events that may lead some to say the diamond is cursed.
The Legacy of the Regent Diamond
The Regent Diamond carries high historical importance. It is especially important to the people of France. This is why the Regent, along with other French crown jewels, is on display in the Louvre, where it can be seen in the Galerie d’Apollon. The only time it has been moved was during World War II for its protection.
We hope you enjoyed the read!
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