The Russian Crown Jewels

I recently moved the Orlov diamond to its own section.

The Great Imperial Crown was made by a skilled court jeweller Jeremia Posier for the Empress Catherine II the Great's Coronation in 1762. It has a traditional shape and is made up of the two open hemispheres divided by a foliate garland and fastened with a low hoop. The crown is set with 5,000 selected Indian diamonds (some Russian sources state this number as 4,836) and and number fine, large white pearls. The crown is also decorated with one of the seven historic stones of the Russia's Diamond Collection - a large precious red spinel weighing 398.72 carats which was brought to Russia by Nicholas Spafary, the Russian envoy to China from 1675 to 1678.

The Shah is an 88.70-carat, bar-shaped, partially polished diamond bearing three engraved markings. It was probably found in Golconda, India. The first engraving reads "Bourhan-Nizam-Shah-II, 1000" (Mohammedan calender), which places the stone in the hands of the ruler of the Indian province of Achmednager in 1591.

The next one reads, "Son of Jehangir Shah-Jehan Shah, 1051." This refers to Shah Jehan, who completed the bejeweled Peacock Throne and built the Taj Mahal (meaning "Elect of the Palace") for his beloved Queen, Mumtaz Mahal; the date corresponds to 1641.

He and Mumtaz had a beautiful romance. They met while the Emperor was still young Prince Khurrum. Mumtaz was the daughter of a high-ranking palace official and was of Persian extraction. She had white skin and curling black hair that fell on her shoulders. Persian miniatures show her wearing a flaring crownlike headdress, thickly jeweled, and earrings that fell to her shoulders. She was married to the Prince in 1615 and shared all his campaigns throughout India, meanwhile bearing fourteen children.

The Shah's shape, similar to a quartz crystal, is one of the most unusual in the world of famous diamonds.

Jehan ascended the throne in 1627 and was proclaimed Shah of Agra, near Delhi, the following year. The coronation festivities are said to have cost more than seven million dollars. The Shah was weighed and a like amount of gold, silver and gems distributed to the people. But poor Mumtaz lived only a short time after. She died in 1631 in the Deccan, the region of Golconda, while on another expidition with her husband. Jehan then made the construction of the edifice, requiring fourteen years, a major effort of his life.

The Shah is believed to be the stone that Tavernier, the French jeweler and traveler, saw dangling before the throne at the Court of Aurungzeb, Jehan's son, in 1665. (Before the completion of Shah Jehan's reign, Aurungzeb rose against his father, imprisoned him and usurped his throne.) How the gem was later carried to Persia is not definately known; it is possible, however, that Nadir Shah, the Persian conqueror of India, took it in 1739 when he seized the Great Mogul's treasures during the sack of Delhi.

It was during this time that the great diamond was in the possession of the Persian rulers that the third inscription, "Kadjar Fath Ali Shah," who was the Shah of Persia in 1824, was engraved on it. A tiny furrow was also cut on the diamond, possibly to take the cord on which it was suspended.

In 1829, the Shah was given to Czar Nicholas I of Russia by the Persian Government in appeasement for the assassination of the Russian Ambassador, Alexander Griboyedoff, in Teheren; thus, it became part of the Crown Jewels of that country.

In 1914, when World War I broke out, the diamond was sent to St. Petersburg to Moscow for safekeeping. After the Revolution, when the strong boxes were opened in 1922 by the new regime, the Shah was amoung the treasures. It is now one of the prize possessions in the Russian Treasury of Diamonds & Precious Stones in the Kremlin.

The Imperial Orb was made of the so called "red gold" for the Empress Catherine II the Great's Coronation in 1762. It is a polished hollow ball with with a cross and is encircled with the two rows of the large diamonds, and the sapphire on the top weighs about 47 carats.