Lost treasure

Being a keen gemmologist and jewellery historian, perhaps still retaining a little too much of the boy in my soul, the idea of lost treasure mesmerises me.

The scope of hidden and forgotten wonders lost in the fluidity of the world’s ever changing history can pull the most sceptical observer closer. The ‘Three Brothers’ jewel of Queen Elizabeth I, the bridesmaid brooches designed by William Burges and the Charles Du Vé eagle brooches designed for the twelve wedding train bearers of Queen Victoria, immediately come to mind.

If I may digress slightly from the concept of a lost complete jewel and wander into the romantic world of the diamond, and one diamond in particular; The Great Mogul.

The Great Mogul

Let us at once venture back in time to 1665, the first day of November in that year to be precise. The sixty year old French traveller, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, had recently sold many splendid gems to The Great Mogul, Aurangzeb, the son of Shah Jehan, the fabled builder of the Taj Mahal. Tavernier had remained for two months at Jahanabad and was on that day making ready to leave. Aurangzeb pressed Tavernier to remain and witness the annual festival with the promise of allowing him a viewing of his magnificent gem collection. How could he refuse?

After the festivities on the 10th November he was summoned to the Palace and…….. I will allow Jean-Baptiste to give his account.

‘I found in this apartment Akail Khan, chief of the jewel treasury, who, when he saw us, commanded four of the imperial eunuchs to bring the jewels, which were carried in two large wooden trays lacquered with gold leaf, and covered with small cloths made expressly for the purpose – one of red and the other of green brocaded velvet. …….’

‘…..The first piece which Akil Khan placed in my hands was the great diamond, which is a round rose, very high at one side. At the basal margin it has a small notch and flaw inside. Its water is beautiful, and it weighs 3191/2 ratis, which are equal to 280 of our carats….. When Mir Jumla, who betrayed the King of Golkonda, his master, presented this stone to Shahjahan, to whose side he attached himself, it was then in the rough, and weighed 900 ratis, which are equivalent to 7871/2 carats; and it had several flaws’.

Aurangzeb had hired the Venetian Hortensio Borgio whilst in India to refashion the rough. In The Great Mogul’s eyes Borgio had made a mistake in trying to remove all the flaws and losing two thirds of the weight in the process. Auranbzeb refuse to pay him and instead fined Borgio 10,000 rupees.

This 280 carat diamond became known throughout history as the Great Mogul.

So where is this great diamond today and the large portion of rough that had been cut away?

It is probably that when Nadir Shah looted Delhi in 1739 he took the diamond back to Persia. If this is the case then The Great Mogul was likely to have been stolen on his death in 1747. It may have subsequently been re-cut to avoid detection.

There are those that believe that The Great Mogul, The Orloff and The Koh-I-Noor were all part of the same stone. The history is complex, and at times contradictory. For the interested reader, which much spare time on their hands, I would recommend the reading of Appendix I, in Volume II, of Tavernier’s Travels in India (Ball & Crooke).

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