THE GREAT TABLE.
Tavernier's account of the "Table" Diamond--Its Size. Shape, and Value--Shah Jehan's Invasion of the Deccan--Fire and Sword--Raising Money to pay Tribute to the Victor--The Parsees and the English--Where is the Great Gem to-day?
In Tavernier's list of the "largest and finest diamonds and rubies seen by him in Europe and Asia," this stone occupies the third place, (II. 305). Of it he remarks: "It is a stone which weighs 176 1/8 mangelins, which make 242 5/16 of our carats. The mangelin, as I have said, is the weight used in the kingdoms of Golconda and Visapur, and it is equivalent to 1 3/8 of our carats. When in Golconda, in the year 1642, I was shown this stone, and it is the largest diamond I have seen in India in the hands of dealers. The owner allowed me to make a casting of it, which I sent to Surat to two of my friends, calling their attention to the beauty of the stone and to its price, which was 500,000 rupees or 750,000 livres of our money. I received a commission from them, in case it was pure and fine water, to offer 400,000 rupees for it. But it was impossible to come to terms at this price, although I believe that it might have been had if they were willing to offer 450,000."
This is all that Tavernier tells us of this remarkable stone, which is illustrated in the first, though not in subsequent editions of his work. The representation shows it to be table-cut, so that it may be easily recognized, should it again come to light in India or elsewhere; for since the time of Tavernier it has not been seen by any European expert. Its peculiar form would easily allow of its being reduced by cleavage to two or more stones, a fate that has possibly befallen it. Many stones have from time to time been so treated, for the express purpose of destroying their identity, even though their intrinsic value has thereby been greatly reduced. A notable instance is the French "Blue Drop," which was of such an unique character, that after it was stolen from the Garde Meuble, in 1792, it could not be exposed for sale without incurring the risk of instant detection. Hence the necessity of altering its appearance by some process of reduction, as fully explained in our account of the "Hope Blue." In the same way the great "Table," also a stone of an unique type, at least as regarded its size and peculiar shape, was very likely broken up by cleavage into two or more stones, and it is by no means impossible that the Russian "Table," which will be described in a later chapter, may be one of those fragments. Pictures and other rare artistic objects are known to have been manipulated in analogous ways for like purposes. One of the numerous and vexatious charges brought by his enemies against Benvenuto Cellini, when employed at the court of Francis I., seems to have been of this character. The method which he adopted for bringing the wearisome and ruinous suits against him to a close, was highly characteristic. He tells us in his famous autobiography, that being unable to obtain any redress from the law, "I had recourse to a long sword, which I had by me. The first that I attacked was that person who commenced that unjust and irritating suit; and one evening I so hacked him about the legs and arms, taking care, however, not to kill him right out, that I deprived him of the use of both his legs." Having got rid of another party to the suit, in a similar summary manner, he exclaims, with grim humour, "For this and every other blessing, I returned thanks to the Supreme Being!"
At the period referred to by Tavernier, Golconda was in a deplorable condition. Shah Jehan, whose miserable end (hardly less wretched than that of Shakespeare's King Lear), has generally excited so much commiseration, that his infamous treachery and indescribable inhumanity, are lost sight of, had, only three years before Tavernier's visit, collected an immense force to invade the Deccan. Every country that was overrun by his troops was delivered to fire and sword. "One hundred and fifteen towns and castles were taken in the course of the year, and the kings of Beejapoor and Golconda, to appease the conqueror, renounced their rank as sovereign princes, and received commissions from the emperor of the Moguls." This was but the beginning of sorrow. It was between this eclipse and the subsequent utter destruction of these renowned kingdoms, under Mir Jemla, and Aurungzeb's eldest son, Mohammed, that Tavernier saw the royal gem under notice, in the hands of a private diamond merchant. How came this stone in private hands? The answer is not far to seek. The tribute, on the first signing of the treaty, was up to the full amount. Mir Jemla had probably suggested this, as a severe lesson, with a view to bring his royal master to his knees; but the fallen king had gall enough to seize the person of the revolted minister's son, and the war between Katb and Mir Jemla was a war a outrance. The annually recurring tribute forced the court and king to raise money on jewels not disclosed to the Mogul conqueror, and as Tavernier was known certainly to the Parsee merchants of India, and had in a measure gained the confidence of the most English of all Asiatics, it is not surprising that, European as he was, he should be shewn, and even allowed to take a model of this stone. We venture to doubt whether Tavernier could have secured it for an added pound 5,000 to the offer he made, with a view to purchase, considering the wealth and stable character of the opulent merchants in Western India. It was said that a Turvee or Bheel chief carried it to the city of Golconda, and commenced his negociations by an interview with a "Havildar," a commander of horse, a native of his own tribe. This is probably true. The Bheels dwelt, and still dwell, in the fastnesses of the Western Ghauts, and along the affluents of the Upper Godavery, where most probably the stone was found.
As already stated, it is probable that this stone has been broken up, in order to baffle all efforts to trace its identity, though some Orientals differ from this explanation of its disappearance. It is estimated that there are more than 120,000 families of Parsees residing within the limits of what was termed, in the first quarter of this century, the "Presidency of Bombay," and in that capital alone there were 6,000 families. No other class of natives has connected itself so intimately with the English. The fire which blazed in the burning bush, but consumed it not, is still the emblem of the Supreme Being they worship. They learn English and speak it idiomatically. They master also the Gujerati tongue, which prevails about the Gulfs of Cutch and Cambay, and a large tract of the western coast; and, although their religion indisposes them to become working jewellers, they value, as Europeans do, beautiful things in nature and art. That the Parsees would resist the outrageous bartering tricks of the native, is characteristic, but that a magnificent gem in their possession would be broken up is questioned. Then where is the great "Table" diamond? Certainly not advertised, if in Persia, nor paraded, if in Bombay, Gujerat, or Beejapoor.
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