The Delhi Purple Sapphire - the cursed gemstone stolen from India in 1857

Delhi purple.


India is home to countless famous diamonds and gemstones and for reasons beyond our comprehension,  a large number of them particularly diamonds  are linked to some kind of curse or misfortune. Surprisingly,  many of the  mysteries associated with diamonds and gemstones remain unanswered. No plausible  explanation  is available. The mystery is more a matter of conjecture than a real one. 

Have you ever heard of  Delhi Purple Sapphire that is purported to carry curse that caused the owner to experience misfortune and tragic events?   Normally, gemstones, unlike diamonds, are not associated  with  the ebb and flow of  misfortune and rather they promote peace of mind and spiritual awakening according to some gemologist cum jewelers. So there is no question of distress or mental agony caused by gemstones. But Delhi Purple Sapphire is a mystic one and has a different tale to tell us . No doubt, this not attractive gemstone  gets our attention. 

Originally looted from a Hindu temple in North India, an interesting fact is it is a case of mistaken identity. Looted from a Hindu temple in northern India  this precious stone, in reality, is not a sapphire  but actually an amethyst.  

Crystalline  amethyst

Above image: Amethyst  in crystalline form  It is a semiprecious stone, a purple variety of quartz (SiO2) and  its violet color  is due to  irradiation, impurities of iron and  some other  transition metals, and  trace elements.  There are various shades of purple, from light lavender to deep violet. According to healers, this stone is a valuable one and has unique   spiritual quality. hence people who wear it can  reach  higher levels of consciousness if deeply involved in meditation. Its hardness (on  Mohs' scale) is close to that of quartz hence it is  widely used in jewelry making.  The presence of impurities like iron causes changes in the shades of color. If you leave your amethyst in sunlight or under other UV sources for too long, its color will fade. And if you expose it to heat, you'll see the color fade as well. Sometimes, instead of gray or clear crystal.

As for Sapphire it is a gemstone variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminum oxide (α-Al2O3). Trace amounts of other elements such as iron, titanium, or chromium can give corundum blue, yellow, pink, purple, orange, or greenish color. What is special about pink sapphires? Unlike  other  sapphires, the purple ones, that are rarer than other varieties,  do not grab much attention because of misconception about them and  are poorly appreciated. They  change color naturally  under different lighting  conditions without any heat treatment and this may not be true of blue and pink sapphires............... 

It is believed to have been stolen from the Hindu God of rain Indira in a Hindu temple at Cawnpore (Kanpur) during the famous first war of independence in 1857 between the East India company's military and the  frustrated Indian soldiers of the English army. The stone was  taken to  England by a Bengal cavalryman, Colonel W. Ferris. Since his possession of the gemstone Ferris had faced all kinds of  problems including dwindling fortune and later his son had also experienced the same both health-wise and finance-wise. 

 19th century  image Haunted

Above image The Hindu temple dedicated to rain God Indira, Cawnpore from where the purple sapphire was stolen by the British army man. .....

The bad effects of  Delhi Purple Sapphire  continued without any break and this time  his friend committed suicide  when he owned it.  In the later years  Harrow educated Edward Heron-Allen, a lawyer by profession bought this stone.  A well-read man who had a flair for odd subjects like  palmistry, archaeology, etc., he noticed that things were not going well for him soon after the possession of Delhi Purple Sapphire. After experiencing more misfortunes he got rid of the stone by throwing it in the  Regent Canal.


Above image: Edward Heron-Allen , an intellectual and a friend of Oscar Wilde, a famous English Essayist;  in the 1890s he  suffered a series of misfortune while owing Delhi purple  sapphire. Being rationalistic over a short period of time he became superstitious and felt something was amiss with purple sapphire. Might be a curse!...........................

 As ill luck would have its way, after a gap of three months purple sapphire surprisingly came back to  Allen  through a   street  dealer. Perhaps it could be his karma to face  what was in store for him. As the days went by Allen became concerned with the bad effects of the gem upon the birth of his new born baby.  When he lent the gemstone to  his fiend, a professional singer, misfortune struck the wearer and  the singer lost his voice unexpectedly and he could no longer  hold the audience in thrall. This incident had further confirmed that Delhi sapphire was carrying curse for some reason. So Allen  firmly locked the gemstone in a box  with an instruction  not to open it until three years after his death.  After his demise the box with the stone was donated to  the Museum of Natural History in London. Here, in 1972  one  Peter Tandy, a Museum Curator  uncovered the sapphire and the strange hand-written  message enclosed detailing the  tales of woe  linked  to the stone. It ends…” Whoever opens this box, do whatever you want with it. My advice however is to throw it into the sea.” Allen apparently warned the  the prospective owner or reader  about the curse the famous amethyst had carried presumably due its past association with a Hindu God in an Indian temple. The curator revealed that he had opened the Pandora's box  and all was not well with  this rare gem and possession of it would mean trouble. 

John Whittaker, a member of the Natural History Museum who entrusted with the task of   transporting the purple sapphire to the exhibition venues had experienced some kind of  misfortune that had a deep impact on his mind. The purported curses of many gems of Indian origin are still wrapped in layers of riddle.  Still there are tales of  self-destruction, crimes, and many other tragic events associated with historical gemstones looted from the Hindu temples of India.