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Orlov (diamond)

    Within the Diamond Fund of the Moscow Kremlin is a large diamond known as the Orlov (sometimes spelled Orloff). The origin of this resplendent relic—described as having the shape and proportions of half a hen's egg—can be traced back to a Hindu temple in 18th century Mysore, southern India.

The particulars of the Orlov's story have been lost with time, but it is widely reported that the diamond once served as an eye of the statue of the presiding deity of the temple of Srirangam, Lord Ranganatha, in southern India. The man held responsible for its removal was a French deserter, a grenadier from the Carnatic wars who apparently converted to the Hindu faith and worshipped at the temple for many years. Whether the deserter did this sincerely or solely to gain access to the statue is not known. The temple, situated on an island in the Cauvery River, was surrounded by seven enclosures; no Christians were ever permitted farther than the fourth. Once having pilfered the stone from its sacred home around 1750, perhaps after untold years of patient planning, the deserter fled to Madras where he would find protection with the British Army, as well as a buyer.

The as yet unnamed stone passed from merchant to merchant in the everlasting quest for profit, eventually appearing for sale in Amsterdam. Salfras, an Armenian (some say Persian) merchant who then owned the Orloff, found an eager buyer in Count Grigory Grigorievich Orlov. The Count paid a purported 400,000 Dutch florins, but would likely have agreed to any amount demanded.

Years before the purchase, Grigory Orlov had been romantically involved with a German princess by the name of Sophie Frederick Augusta. The princess was destined to become history's Catherine the Great of Russia. Count Orloff sought to rekindle their forlorn romance by offering her the diamond, as it is said he knew she had wished for it. While he failed to regain her affections, Catherine did bestow many gifts upon Count Orlov; these gifts included a marble palace in St. Petersburg. Catherine named the diamond after the Count, and had her jeweller, C. N. Troitinski, design a sceptre incorporating the Orloff.

Now known as the Imperial Sceptre, it was completed in 1784. A description is given by Burton (1986):

The sceptre is a burnished shaft in three sections set with eight rings of brilliant-cut diamonds, including some of about 30 carats (6 g) each and fifteen weighing about 14 carats (2.8 g) each. The Orloff is set at the top, with its domed top facing forward. Above it is a double-headed eagle with the Arms of Russia enameled on its breast.

The Orloff is a rarity among historic diamonds, for it retains its original Indian rose-style cut (see diamond cut). Its colour is widely stated as white with a faint bluish-green tinge. Data released by the Kremlin give the Orloff's measurements as 32 millimetres x 35 millimetres x 31 millimetres, its weight being 189.62 carats (37.924 g).

Quite a few sources perpetuate the belief that the Orloff is but a part of the larger Great Mogul and therefore the same stone which vanished after the pillaging of Delhi in 1739. Most historians now agree that the two diamonds have completely different origins.


  • Burton, E. (1986). Legendary Gems or Gems That Made History, pp. 45-47. Chilton Book Company, Radnor, PA
  • Shipley, R. (1939). Famous Diamonds of the World, pp. 15-18. Gemological Institute of America, USA
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Orlov_(diamond)". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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