About the Pitt or Regent Diamond

story about the discovery of the Pitt diamond at a jewel mine in India and the deaths that ensued as the gem stone was bought and sold at high market values, and was renamed the Regent diamond

The romance of gem history is well illustrated by the accepted account of that acme of fine diamond qualities, the Regent or Pitt diamond. Mr. Ludwig Nissen, a New York authority on gems and who talks and writes in an interesting way about them, offers the following narrative as authentic:

The Pitt Diamond, afterward called the "Regent," was found by a slave in the Parteal mines, on the Kistua in India, in the year 1701. The story goes that, to secure his treasure, he cut a hole in the calf of his leg and concealed it, one account says in the wound itself, another in the bandages. As the stone weighed 410 carats before it was cut, the last version of the method of concealment is, no doubt, the correct one. The slave escaped with his property to the coast. Unfortunately for himself, and also for the peace of mind of his confidant, he met an English skipper whom he trusted with his secret. It is said he offered the diamond to the mariner in return for his liberty, which was to be secured by the skipper carrying him to a free country. But it seems probable that he supplemented this with a money condition as well, otherwise the skipper's treatment of the poor creature is as devoid of reason as it is of humanity. The English skipper, professing to accept the slave's proposals, took him on board his ship, and having obtained possession of the gem, flung the slave into the sea. He afterwards sold the diamond to a prominent dealer for a thousand pounds sterling, squandered the money in dissipation, and finally, in a fit of delirium tremens and remorse, hanged himself.

The dealer sold it in February, 1702, to Thomas Pitt, Governor of Fort St. George, and great-grandfather of the illustrious English statesman, William Pitt, for the sum of 20,400 pounds. Pitt had the stone cut and polished at a cost of 5000 pounds, but the cleavage and dust obtained in the cutting returned to him the handsome sum of 15,000 pounds. In 1717 he sold it to the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France, during the minority of King Louis XV, for the sum of 135,000 pounds; so that he must have netted a profit of nearly 125,000 pounds on his venture.

Later, in the inventory of the French crown jewels, drawn up in 1791, it was valued at 12,000,000 francs, or $2,400,000. Soon afterwards, during the "Paris Commune," it was, with other valuable jewels, stolen and buried in a ditch to prevent its recovery. One of the robbers, however, on a promise of a full pardon, later revealed its hiding-place, and it was found. All of the criminals were sent to the scaffold, except the one who had turned informer.

The recovery of the "Regent" is claimed to have helped to put the first Napoleon upon the throne of France, by having enabled him, through pledging it to the Dutch government, to raise sufficient funds to make a success of the Marengo campaign. Since its redemption from the Dutch government it has served as an ornament in the pommel of the First Emperor's sword, and has ever been the most conspicuous gem of the crown jewels of France. It now quietly rests to meet the wondering eyes of the world's tourists in the Galerie d'Apollon in the Louvre, Paris.

Though a rich and valuable treasure, the "Pitt" or "Regent" has unquestionably been the cause of more misery than joy. It sent the first dishonest holder to a watery grave, the second to the rope, and the third, which consisted of several, to the guillotine; though it also restored the fortunes of an ancient English family, which subsequently gave to England her most distinguished statesman, and is said to have helped in the creation of an empire and in the making of one of the world's most famous characters.


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