The Dehli Purple Sapphire


The earliest known whereabouts of the Delhi Purple Sapphire is thought to have been in India, where it was looted from the Temple of Indra during the horrific Indian Mutiny of 1857. The temple itself was ironically that of the Hindu god of war and weather, and it is strongly believed that through its theft from the ancient idol, a curse was cast.

The Sapphire was brought to England by Colonel W. Ferris, a Bengal Cavalryman who would go on to regret taking the precious stone home with him. Soon after returning to England the entire Ferris family seemed to be beset by health and financial troubles, they particularly blamed the curse on a series of failed investments made by Mr. Ferris and his son, which left the family in near financial ruin. Things took a grave turn for the worse when a friend of the Ferris family unexpectedly committed suicide while in possession of the sapphire.

It was an author, Edward Heron-Allen, who became the next owner of the gem, in 1890. Heron-Allen (who was a close friend of Oscar Wilde), spoke of an immediate series of misfortunes and bad luck which led him to believe that the sapphire was “trebly accursed”.

A well educated and well respected man who had academic success in a number of fields, including science, Heron-Allen was not a someone who bought into mythology or superstition easily, but he was adamant that the sapphire stone he had acquired was cursed. He had even gifted the stone twice to friends who were interested in owning it, and in both incidence those friends met with bad luck and returned the stone to him.

Heron-Allen even claimed to have thrown the sapphire into the dark and dirty Regent’s Canal only for it to reappear in his possession some 3 months later after being found by a dredger. The jeweller who bought the gem from the dredger recognised the precious stone and returned it to Mr. Heron-Allen who was astonished, and surer still of the powerful curse attached to it.

Finally in 1904, after the birth of his first daughter, and after some 14 years in possession of the Delhi Purple Sapphire, Heron-Allen sealed the gem inside a box and shipped it to his bankers with set instructions for it to be locked away until after his death.

Heron-Allen later bestowed the sapphire to the Natural History Museum, under the condition that the box was not to be opened until at least 3 years after his death, and that under no circumstances must his daughter ever touch or be in possession of it.

In 1943, after the death of Edward Heron-Allen, the Natural History Museum received the box containing the gem and put it to one side, as per his request. Sometime later, long after the box had been opened, a type written note was found which detailed this somewhat chilling history.

Heron-Allen ended his note with these final words, “Whoever shall then open it, shall first read out this warning, and then do as he pleases with the jewel. My advice to him or her is to cast it into the sea.”

In 1964, the gem was in the possession of John Whittaker, a member of the Natural History Museum who was tasked with transporting the purple sapphire to the Heron-Allen society for an event. During the journey, Mr. Whittaker and his wife were trapped in their car, engulfed in a dramatic thunderstorm, one he claimed to be the most horrific he had ever experienced.

Whittaker was tasked with transporting the Sapphire a second time, after which he fell violently sick with a stomach bug, and then a third time, when just before he was due to take the gem he fell in pain, finally passing a kidney stone.

The gem currently resides in a safe deposit box in the Bank of New York and is on record as the property of the Natural History Museum of London.

The Dehli Purple Sapphire

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