Monday Mystery Part 3: The Delhi Purple Sapphire

Oct 08, 2012

While the allure of the Hope Diamond and the Koh-I-Noor diamond is apparent, there is nothing particularly special at first glance about the Delhi Purple Sapphire. This gem, which is actually not a sapphire but an oval-cut amethyst, has a rather unfortunate blackened silver setting marked with astrological signs and framed by two scarab carved gems on either side. It is not even close to being the largest or highest quality amethyst. However, the Delhi Sapphire is one of the most notoriously cursed gems to date.

The Delhi Purple Sapphire wasn’t really publicly known until Peter Tandy, a curator at the Natural History Museum came upon the gemstone accompanied by a typewritten note from Edward Heron-Allen who was the stone’s last owner. The note read, “This stone is trebly accursed and is stained with the blood, and the dishonor of everyone who has ever owned it ,” and, “Whoever shall then open it, shall first read out this warning, and then do as he pleases with the jewel. My advice to him or her is to cast it into the sea.”

Already sounding like something out of Indiana Jones, the cautionary note wasn’t warning enough for Heron-Allen. He took it one step further and went as to surround the Delhi Purple Sapphire in protective charms and sealed it in seven boxes before bestowing the gem upon the museum in his will.

The family of Heron-Allen as well as Heron-Allen’s note describe the unfortunate history of the Delhi Purple Sapphire. The store begins in Cawnpore after the Indian Mutiny at the Temple of Indra in 1857 when a Bengal cavalryman by the name of Colonel W. Ferris took the amethyst from the temple. After his acquisition of the gem, the colonel and his son promptly lost their wealth and their health. The Delhi Purple Sapphire was given to a family friend, and shortly committed suicide after.

Heron-Allen was a highly accomplished individual before he even came to work at the Museum of Natural History. He was independently wealthy, trained as a solicitor, and studied the art of making violins as well as the Persian language.

The gem came into Heron-Allen’s possession in 1890 and he also immediately succumbed to misfortune. He gave the Delhi purple sapphire to two different friends, a singer who lost her voice after owning it and the other who was beset by similar bad luck. There is also a story that Heron-Allen threw the amethyst into the Regent’s Canal, but it was later returned to him by a jeweler who purchased the stone from a dredger. Heron-Allen had the stone locked away until his death in 1904 when the amethyst was given to the museum.

Heron-Allen’s descendants are firm believers of the curse. His grandson, Ivor Jones refuses to touch the stone and told stories how his mother, Heron-Allen’s daughter, also never handled it for fear of lifelong misfortune.

Even scientists today are not immune from believing in the Delhi Purple Sapphire’s infamous past. John Whittaker, the former head of micropaleontology for the Natural History Museum, attempted to take the amethyst to the first, second, and third symposiums for the Heron-Allen society. Whittaker was besought with dangerous weather, stomach flu, and kidney stones on his attempts.

Whether you believe in curses or not, it seems to be better to air on the side of caution where the Delhi Purple Sapphire is concerned.

See Part 1 and Part 2 of the Monday Mystery series.

Established in 1912, the King family has owned and operated King Jewelers for five generations while building an outstanding reputation steeped in quality, value, and first-class service. Today, King Jewelers has brick-and-mortar stores located in Aventura, FL and Nashville, TN, both of which have won numerous regional and national awards of distinction. Offering a magnificent selection of fine jewelry collections including the hottest Italian designs, estate jewelry, colored gemstones and fancy-colored diamonds, as well as luxury European timepieces, King Jewelers prides itself in being one step ahead of the trend. In addition, King Jewelers offers on-site jewelry and watch repairs, custom design services, appraisals, estate buying, and corporate gift programs. For more information, visit


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