THIS diamond, which is the chief ornament in the scepter of the Czars of Russia, ranks first among European gems in size; in beauty it yields only to the “Regent,” while for romantic interest it rivals the “Koh-i-Noor” itself.
Its true name is said to be the “Koh-i-Tur,” or, Mountain of Sinai; its weight is 193 carats.
Of its early history little that is reliable has been preserved. Mr. Streeter, however, has carefully collated the various accounts, and we give an outline of his revised version.
On a fortified island in Mysore, not far from Trichinopoly, stands a magnificent Pagoda, or Hindu temple, with seven distinct enclosures, lofty towers, and numerous dwellings for Brahmins, the whole enclosed within an outer wall four miles in circumference. A French grenadier, having deserted the Indian service, found employment in the neighborhood of the temple, and learnt that it contained a celebrated idol of the Hindu god Sri- Ranga, whose eyes were formed by two large diamonds of inestimable value. These he determined to seize. By assuming the character of a native devotee, and affecting great reverence for this particular divinity, he so imposed upon the Brahmins that they appointed him guardian of its shrine.
Taking advantage of a stormy night, he wrenched one of the eyes from its socket, escaped through the raging tempest to Trichinopoly, and thence to Madras, where he sold the gem to an English sea captain for f 2,000, who disposed of it to a Jew in London for f 12,000. The latter sold it to a Persian merchant, Khojeh Raphael, who took it to Amsterdam. There he met Prince Orloff, whom he persuaded to purchase it for the Czarina, Catherine II, under whose displeasure he had fallen. Orloff paid the merchant f 90,000 in cash, besides procuring for him an annuity of f 4,000.