The Black Orlov joins Diamonds exhibition at the Natural History Museum
A 'cursed' black diamond is to go on display in the UK for the first time. Known as the Black Orlov or The Eye of Brahma, the jewel's curse allegedly began when it was removed from a Hindu idol in southern India and it is claimed to be responsible for the violent deaths of two Russian princesses. The Black Orlov will join the Diamonds exhibition at the Natural History Museum from Wednesday 21 September.
The gem's history is clouded in mystery but legend tells of a monk removing the original rough 195-carat diamond from the eye of the Idol of Brahma at a shrine near Pondicherry, India. This sacrilege allegedly cursed all future owners of the precious stone to a violent death. In 1947 Princess Nadia Vyegin-Orlov and Princesss Leonila Galitsine-Bariatinsky - both former owners of the Black Orlov - leapt to their deaths in apparent suicides. Fifteen years earlier J.W. Paris, the diamond dealer who imported the stone to the USA, had jumped to his death from one of New York's tallest buildings shortly after concluding the sale of the jewel.
In an attempt to break the curse the diamond was re-cut into three separate gems and has since been owned by a succession of private owners, all of whom seem to have escaped the curse. The 67.5-carat stone, today known as the Black Orlov, is set in a 108-diamond brooch suspended from a 124 diamond necklace. After the Diamonds exhibition closes in February 2006, the Black Orlov will travel to California to make its next star appearance at the 2006 Academy Awards.
'In the middle of the 20th century the media christened it the "Evil Death Gem" but I've never felt nervous about owning the Black Orlov,' said Dennis Petimezas, the stone's current owner. 'I've spent the past year trying to discover everything I can about the stone's melodramatic history and I'm pretty confident that the curse is broken.'
'The intriguing legend of the Black Orlov highlights the powerful way that diamonds have captured human imagination for thousands of years,' said Alan Hart, exhibition curator. 'This jewel's beauty and apparent infamy make it a fitting addition to the world's biggest diamond exhibition
True black diamonds are incredibly rare. Only one in 10,000 diamonds mined are coloured. Most coloured diamonds get their colour from chemical impurities or defects in the stone itself. Black diamonds are different: their colour comes from the presence of tiny mineral inclusions.
The Black Orlov's colour is described as 'dark gunmetal'. Recent studies have shown that these inclusions are predominantly the iron oxide minerals magnetite and haematite along with native iron itself. When these iron rich inclusions occur in a high enough proportion they can even make diamonds magnetic.
Diamonds explores one of nature's great miracles. Showcasing some of the world's most beautiful and spectacular white and coloured diamonds the exhibition tells the story of this remarkable stone, from deep in the Earth to the red carpet. The biggest-ever diamonds exhibition, Diamonds displays such extraordinary stones as the De Beers Millennium Star, the Incomparable and the Steinmetz Pink together for the first time. Diamonds has been made possible by the generous support of principal sponsor Steinmetz, with additional support from the Diamond Trading Company. This dazzling event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see such an astonishing array of important diamonds in one exhibition.
Admission: £9, £6 concessions, Family (up to five, minimum one adult) £24, FREE to under 5s
Venue: the Natural History Museum
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 10.00-17.50, Sunday 11.00-17.50
Ticket booking: www.nhm.ac.uk/diamonds or 0870 013 0731
Notes for editors