Last updated on June 15, 2021
The mysterious story of the Delhi Purple Sapphire was unknown until fairly recently when a young curator at London’s Natural History Museum found a letter stored with the gemstone. The gem set in a quite unattractive silver ring was not that remarkable, but the strange letter began to unravel the dark tale of the stone.
The Curse of the Delhi Purple Sapphire
The history of the Delhi Purple Sapphire traces back to the 19th century when India was thrown into turmoil because of the uprising against the British. It brought chaos and destruction to the country, but the revolt was eventually suppressed by the British Army.
Although in the end, it forced the British to change their attitude to the traditions and customs of other countries, during this period, they have looted India’s temples and palaces to take treasures.
One of the looted temples was the temple of Indra in Cawnpore (Kanpur), the Hindu god of war and weather. In 1855, a Bengal Cavleryman Colonel W. Ferris took what he thought to be a purple sapphire from the temple before he left India and returned home to his family.
As soon as Colonel W. Ferris returned to England, he began to suffer many financial and health misfortunes, which led his family to ruin. At first, he blamed himself for the failures, but when every member of the family suffered illnesses his thoughts turned to the gemstone. His fears were confirmed when a friend of the family inexplicably committed suicide after borrowing the stone.
The Delhi Purple Sapphire and Edward Heron-Allen
In 1890, the gem had come to the possession of one of the most respected scholars of the time Edward Heron-Allen. Heron-Allen was a writer and scientist, and certainly, not a man who would believe in mystery.
Soon after taking the gem from Ferris’ son, the rational scientist began to attribute a series of misfortunes to the curse of the stone. Heron-Allen was sure that the Delhi Purple Sapphire is accursed and was stained with the blood and the dishonour of everyone who has ever owned it.
To neutralize the power of the curse, Heron-Allen had the gem set in a silver ring fashioned as a double-headed snake. He also attached two amethyst scarab beetles and inscribed the ring with astrological and alchemical signs. In the years that followed, the gemstone seemed to have “calmed down”. The only sign of the curse was the ghost of a Hindu Yogi that hunted Heron-Allen desperately searching for the gem.
In 1902, the scientist even agreed to lend the Delhi Purple Sapphire to a friend who almost immediately was stuck with misfortunes.
Desperate Heron-Allen threw the stone into Regent’s Canal, thinking that he got rid of the curse. However, three months later, the ring was dredged from the canal and taken to a local jeweller who immediately recognized the stone and returned the ring to its owner.
After a while, a friend asked Heron-Allen to borrow the jewel and once again the gem was lent out. The recipient was a singer who lost her voice after wearing the cursed gemstone.
Fearing that the gem would influence his newborn daughter, the scientist locked the Dehli Purple Sapphire into seven boxes filled with good luck charms and deposited it in the safe of his bank with instructions for it not to be opened for 33 years after his death.
The Delhi Purple Sapphire’s New Home
In 1943, after Heron-Allen’s death, his daughter sent the locked box containing the cursed gem to the Natural History Museum with instructions not to be opened for 33 years after her father’s death. There it stayed until 1972 when a young, curious curator uncovered the box and found the gem and a strange letter enclosed.
The letter written by the scientist told the sinister story behind the gem and warned the future possessor about possible misfortunes.
“To – Whomsoever shall be the future possessor of this Amethyst. These lines are addressed in mourning before he, or she, shall assume the responsibility of owning it.
This stone is trebly accursed and is stained with blood and the dishonour of everyone who has ever owned it. It was looted from the treasure of the Temple of the God Indra at Cawnpore during the Indian mutiny in 1855 and brought to this country by Colonel W. Ferris of the Bengal Cavalry. From the day he possessed it he was unfortunate and lost both health and money. His son who had it after his death, suffered the most persistent ill-fortune till I accepted the stone from him in 1890. He had given it once to a friend, but the friend shortly afterwards committed suicide and left it back to him by will.
From the moment I had it, misfortunes attacked me until I had it bound round with a double-headed snake that had been a finger ring of Heydon the Astrologer, looped up with Zodiacal plaques and neutralized between Heydon’s magic Tau and two amethyst scaraboei of Queen Hatasu’s period, brought from Der el-Bahari (Thebes). It remained thus quietly until 1902, though not only I, but my wife, Professor Ross, W.H.Rider, and Mrs Hadden, frequently saw in my library the Hindu Yoga, who haunts the stone trying to get it back. He sits on his heels in a corner of the room, digging in the floor with his hands, as of searching for it.
In 1902, under protest, I gave it to a friend, who was thereupon overwhelmed with every possible disaster. On my return from Egypt in 1903 I found she had returned it to me, and after another great misfortune had fallen on me I threw it into the Regent’s Canal. Three months afterwards it was bought back to me by a Wardour St. dealer who had bought it from a dredger. Then I gave it to a friend who was a singer, at her earnest wish. The next time she tried to sing, her voice was dead and she has never sung since.
I feel that it is exerting a baleful influence over my newborn daughter so I am now packing it in seven boxes and depositing it at my bankers, with directions that it is not to see the light again until I have been dead thirty-three years. Whoever shall open it, shall first read this warning, and then do so as he pleases with the Jewel. My advice to him or her is to cast it into the sea. I am forbidden by the Rosicrucian Oath to do this, or I would have done it long ago.”
(Signed) Edward Heron-Allen
Nowadays, the Purple Dehli Sapphire, which is, in fact, an amethyst resides at the Natural History Museum and is often on public display. Although the museum itself is on the belief that Heron-Allen manufactured much of the story, rumour still abounds that the gem has an evil influence on those close to it, and the curse will only be over when it is returned to the place it truly belongs.
Cover image: Natural History Museum