One of the most famous fancy black diamonds in existence also has one of its darkest histories. The 67.5-carat Black Orlov is believed to have been discovered in India in the early 1800s as 195-carat rough stone. Legend has it that, after being cut and polished, it became an eye in a statue of the Hindu god Brahma, in a shrine in the Tamil Nadu town of Pondicherry. This is source of its alternative name, the Eye of Brahma. But it is said that the stone was stolen by a monk, and from that day forth it was cursed.
The diamond came into the hands of the Orlovs, a Russian royal family whose members fled the country in the wake of the 1917 revolution, selling jewelry, among them the Black Orlov, to finance their stay in exile. In 1932, J.W. Paris, a diamond dealer who has imported the stone into the United States, jumped to his death from a New York skyscraper, shortly after selling the jewel. Fifteen years later, two Russian princesses, Nadia Vyegin-Orlov and Leonila Galitsine-Bariatinsky, both of whom had evidently owned the diamond, leapt to their deaths within one month of each other.
In 1969, the Black Orlov was reportedly sold for $300,000, and then sold once again in 1990 at Sotheby’s for $99,000. Today it is owned by Dennis Petimezas, a diamond dealer from Pennsylvania, who bought it for an undisclosed amount in 2005. He insists the curse has been broken.
The Black Orlov, which has been a prized jewel for some 300 years, is somewhat of an anomaly. For many years black diamonds were considered industrial, until a group of adventurous designers began using them in jewelry. They achieved special prominence in 2010 hit film Sex in the City 2, when Mr. Big gave Carrie a 5-carat fancy colored black diamond engagement ring at the movie’s climax.
Natural-color black diamonds generally are completely opaque, with a high luster, which provides the stones with a metallic appearance. Research has indicated that most get their color from clouds of extremely small mineral inclusions, which include graphite, pyrite or hematite. They commonly feature numerous cleavages or fractures, which are stained black or have become black because of graphitization. Because they so heavily included, they are notoriously difficult to cut and polish, and need to be handled with considerable care.
A variety of black diamonds is Carbonado, which is an impure form of porous polycrystalline diamond, which actually is a blend of diamond, graphite, and amorphous carbon. It is found primarily in alluvial deposits in the Central African Republic and in Brazil. The exact source of origin is unknown, but Stephen Haggerty, a geoscientist, has suggested that they were formed as the result of a supernova explosion, which occurred in outer space at least 3.8 billion years ago. According to this theory, after drifting through the galaxy for about one and a half billion years, a large mass fell to earth as a meteorite approximately 2.3 billion years ago, impacting in a region would later split through tectonic movement into what is today Brazil and the Central African Republic.
Care must be taken to ensure that a black diamond is natural, because a great many of the goods on the market begin life as gray, heavily included and fractured diamonds, which were subject to high-temperature low-pressure treatment to graphitizes the cracks, turning them black. Some black diamonds ate in dark green, that got their color artificially through irradiation. There have even been reports on artificially created black stones that still exhibited residual radioactivity.
Because they are opaque, black diamonds cannot be graded on the standard clarity scale. The Gemological Institute of America, for example, issues them with a Colored Diamond Identification and Origin Report, in which they are described as fancy black. The report will also indicate whether they are natural or treated.
The largest polished black diamond is likely to be Carbonado. Called Spirit of de Grisogono, it is world’s fifth largest polished diamond, and started life as rough stone discovered in the western Central African Republic weighing of 587 carats. It was cut by the Swiss jeweler De Grisogono into a mogul-cut stone of 312.24 carats, which today in a white gold ring set with 702 small white diamonds.
The Korloff Noir diamond is an 88-carat fancy black diamond cut a standard 57-carat brilliant round. Once owned by the Korloff Sapojnikoff family, it was brought by the French jeweler Daniel Paillasseur in 1978 and has been reported to be insured for $37 million. Unlike the Black Orlov, it is said to bring happiness, good luck, and prosperity to all those who come in contact it. Before the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Russian figure skater Alexei Yagudin was reported to have touched the stone and then gone on to win the gold medal.
MID House of Diamonds is of the world’s preeminent suppliers of loose fancy-colored diamonds, with a large and varied stock that includes black stones. Because it is a world of which many diamond buyers are less familiar, with different pricing patterns and grading standards, MID invites you to speak with one of the fancy color experts on its team.
The 67.5 Black Orlov diamond, which was believed to be cursed after it was stolen from a shrine in India, where it had served as an eye of Hindu god Brahma.
The 312.24-carat Spirit of de Grisogono, which is believed to be the world’s largest fancy color black diamond.
The 88-carat Korloff Noir diamond is believed to bestow good luck on those who touch it.