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The Orlov Diamond in the Scepter of Imperial Russia

July 9, 2023
Russia Beyond
Muhammad Shah 1720–1748



     This largest of diamonds found in India is so old that it has had many names, including ‘The Great Mughal Diamond’ (after the empire of the Indian Shahs to whom it belonged) and ‘Mount Sinai’. The diamond was found in India in the early 17th century. It was there until 1738, when Nadir Shah invaded India and took the treasure to Persia. From there, the stone made its way by obscure means to Europe, where it was found in London in the middle of the 18th century.


     It is said that the stone was presented to the empress by her favorite guest, Count Grigory Orlov, on November 24, 1773, at a name day party. The Prussian envoy Count Victor von Solms described the event: “Everyone who appeared in the hall, despite the late fall, gave her huge bunches of flowers and some also gave her a souvenir specially prepared for the occasion. One Count Grigory showed up empty-handed. Noticing the discrepancy of his appearance to the general mood, he slapped his forehead and said: “I’m sorry, mother! You have such a holiday today and I, an old fool (Orlov was 39 years – Ed.), completely forgot. Well, don’t be angry, I have something here… It may come in handy… Don’t refuse to accept it.” And, with these words, the count took a flat box from his vest pocket containing a precious diamond.


     The truth is much more prosaic – this “gift” Catherine gave to herself. The diamond was bought from an Armenian merchant Lazarev for 400 thousand rubles – a huge sum, which even the favorite of empress could not possess. The diamond was bought by installments for seven years and the empress paid for it from the state treasury. In the same year, 1774, the ‘Orlov’ diamond was inserted in the top of the imperial scepter of the Russian Empire, in which it remains to this day. Its estimated weight is about 190 carats (39 grams). The ‘Orlov’ is a rarity among historic diamonds, for it retains its original Indian rose-style cut.

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Ismail Mazari

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Very good information.


The Mughal Images immediately took a much greater interest in realistic portraiture than was typical of Persian miniatures. Animals and plants were the main subject of many miniatures for albums and were more realistically depicted. To upload your images click here.

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