The Orloff diamond is a “half-egg” shaped brilliant rose cut diamond with one large flat side, not unlike the Great Mogul diamond. The finished Orloff weighs 199.06 carat rounded off: 200 carat. Traced back to 1750, this unusual diamond was fitted into an idol of an Indian God, in a temple in Trichinopoly, in southern India. Two large diamonds were used as eyes in this idol.
Legend has it that a French grenadier (soldier) deserted his post, during the Carnatic wars, in southern India, and embraced the Hindu faith in an elaborate plan to steal the idol’s eyes. After years of posturing he gained a position of guardian of the temple. Under the cover of a stormy night, he wrenched one of the gems from the idol’s eyes and after loosing his nerve, abandoned the second gem, and escaped to Trichinopoly. In Madras, he sold the gem to an English sea captain for $10,000. The captain took the Orloff to London and sold it for $60,000. Later, in London, the stone was sold to a Persian merchant named Khojeh who took it to Amsterdam. In 1775, he sold it to a Russian prince, Gregory Orloff, for $450,000.
Orloff had been a favored suitor to Catherine the Great but in passing days, she had turned to other lovers. In an effort to win her favor back, Orloff pooled all his worldly treasures to buy this impressive diamond to present it to her on the feast of her name day in 1776. Katherine accepted the gift but Orloff never regained his former powerful position.
Katherine the Great had the Orloff mounted into a royal scepter of the czars where it is now on display in the Soviet Russian treasures, within the Kremlin.
The cutting style, shape and overall configuration of the Orloff diamond mirror that of the larger Great Mogul diamond. The Orloff diamond somehow avoided being recut into more modern proportions and retains its unusual and unconventional shape. The Great Mogul no longer exists because it was reduced into several smaller stones. It’s a pleasant circumstance that no one tried to improve the original configuration. The Orloff is historic and it still looks that way. It once belonged to Napoleon, and now resides in the Kremlin, in Moscow.