Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tales from the Bergamot: The Delhi Purple Sapphire

Sounds melodramatic, doesn't it? Mr. Herron Allen would perhaps have agreed with you, had his experiences with this particular jewel not haunted him for the rest of his life. A man of science and learning, his life was devoted to many studies, spanning everything from botany and law, to the translation of ancient Persian and Sanskrit texts. Maybe it's in these parts of the world that he came across this entrancingly beautiful violet stone, reminiscent of royal robes from an ancient time. I'd imagine he was not aware of the damage it had done to its previous owners; but then again, he did not believe in such superstitious things either:
Colonel Ferris, a soldier fighting during the Great Mutiny in India, brought home the jewel with him to the UK and soon befell an illness from which he would never recover. His son would inherit the stone along his father's serious problems in wealth and health. Having left no heir, it would appear that this cursed jewel passed from place to place until falling into the hands of ill-fated Mr. Herron Allen.
When he first acquired this stone, he felt a great weight with it, but didn't take much notice of it. It was highly admired by all of his friends and acquaintances. But soon afterwards, he too would begin to feel the effects of this stone. Large and inexplicable welts would appear on his body. And he would be overcome by the worst fits of memory loss, further straining his work as a scholar. He thought he might relinquish this burden by giving it to one of these admiring acquaintances. One particular owner, a singer, blamed the jewel for having ruined her career as she could no longer sing. In fact, she would never sing again. One by one these people would return it to Herron Allen, insisting that they could not keep it.

Eager to be undone of his cursed stone, he threw it into the canal, believing that the current would sweep away his curse along with the tide. But curiously, he did not feel relief when the last purple glints disappeared in the distance. That familiar weight still burdened him. Months later he would understand why, when the stone would be mysteriously brought back to his doorstep; there to finish him off.

Resolving to ensure that this nefarious jewel could not harm anyone else, family or other, Mr. Herron Allen bore the burden of it silently for 14 years until his death and insisted that no other person would touch it. He stored it away in a series of boxes, seven altogether, each containing good luck charms meant to counteract its power. With it came strict instructions for the bank that under no circumstance should a worker come in contact with it. Even more adamant, was the instruction that no family member should handle it directly, even after his death and during the dealings of his succession. It was bequeathed to the Natural History Museum of London, along with the foreboding message above.

We, despite being people of science, still believe that the curse lives on. Why is that? Not long ago, the museum reorganized their stores of gems and minerals and thought to showcase some of their long forgotten specimens. A particular curator has been the only one to handle it; even these brief encounters have been enough to secure his fair share of bad luck. If a long standing illness and passing an especially large kidney stone were not enough, Mr. Whittaker recalls a moment when he truly felt the power of this curse. While transporting it to a conference, he and his wife were suddenly overcome by a most ominous and terrifying thunderstorm. Unlike any storm they had ever witnessed, they feared for their lives in that moment, even to the point of abandoning the car, with the stone in it. Had it resurfaced for one last victim?
The Delhi Purple Sapphire. Go ahead, touch it....if you dare! Photo courtesy of 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tales from the Bergamot: The Black Prince Ruby

Things are not always as they seem. I should know; people have been mistaking me for a ruby for centuries. While I used to take offense to this blunder, now I relish in the remembrance of countless fools who have gone to their deaths in an attempt to have me as their own. Little did they know that I am in fact a spinel! These supposedly important and powerful people succumbing to their most basic and greedy instincts, stained me red forevermore with their blood.

Should I tell you about some of my conquests? How about Muhammed VI? Born into a long and illustrious line of Sultans, he lived in a time and place of change. While his kingdom in Muslim Spain was long lived until the mid 1300s, he was reduced to a pawn in a battle between two feuding Spanish houses. He thought that by allying with the house of Aragon that he might be able to retain a piece of his family's once immense kingdom. He couldn't have been more wrong.

Pedro of Castille had very different plans in mind. He proposed a peace talk near Seville one warm evening, supposedly in order convince the Sultan to bridge the divide between the houses. It is while discussing this that I first caught Pedro's eye. Hanging like a talisman around Muhammed's neck was a deep red mass glowing brightly in what remained of the day's light. All at once, Pedro was consumed by a desire to take the glow away from the Sultan throat and claim me for his own. He quickly took out his beautifully carved ivory-hilt dagger and stabbed him through the heart. While he cleaned the blood from his blade and tucked me safely in his pocket, he congratulated himself not only in removing his enemy's ally, but also in his most fortunate acquisition.

What about this Pedro? Some called him cruel. Some people even said he killed his wife. He wouldn't be the first royal to be accused of this, nor the last. I simply saw him as weak and opportunistic; going about like a peacock since that day near Seville, reveling in his triumph. But that cowardly little man soon got nervous again when he learned that his brother Henry was looking to overthrow him, aided by the house of Aragon. Desperate to quell this rising power, Pedro called upon a force so dark that even he would not wish it as his enemy. He called upon the Black Prince.

Now that was a character; he was my favorite, since I identified with him most of all. The Black Prince was like a force of nature. One that cannot be commanded or tempered. Stories of his savagery and prowess in war were as terrifying as the black stare he would give any living soul. Pedro could not manage to buy his allegiance with the promise of land, power or money as he could with other men. The Black Prince would only be swayed to join him if he also gave up the one thing he treasured almost as dearly as his worthless life: me. Pedro reluctantly agreed.

So they waged war fiercely against Henry, but when it became obvious that Pedro had no intention to honor his promises, the Black Prince left him at the mercy of his relentless brother. Henry would deal Pedro the final blow by spearing through his pathetic body but it was the Black Prince who took what was left of his soul. He cut me away from Pedro's throat at the edge of a blade, gathered his armies and left Spain forever.

"Pity" the Black Prince didn't live very long after that. Turns out that he would die of illness, rather than by the sword. From his hands, I was passed down from one king to the next; each one as unremarkable as the one before. And now...well...things have been quiet lately. Reduced to a mere trinket, I compete with other stones in this silly hat for awe and admiration. I like to console myself by thinking that people today are not much different to the ones from before. And someday soon, people will again bleed for me.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Tales from the Bergamot: The Curse of The Black Orlov

In honor of Halloween, we've decided to tell spooky tales about dark and mysterious gems. So keep reading...if you dare!

A haggard and visibly anxious man, walks warily into the night wearing nothing but the remnants of his torn and burnt evening garment. He removes the tattered clerical collar hanging off to the side of his shirt and stuffs it carelessly into what remains of his pocket. His eyes grow increasingly frightened as he looks down at a mass of rupees, his last and only possession, as he realizes the distance between himself and the port of Pondicherry.

''I should never have come to this place'', he says. ''Up until now, things have be going well here in British India despite the locals' continued reluctance to convert. While visiting the shrines of their strange gods, I heard a whisper that drew me to a most peculiar sculpture: Four heads looking down serenely at the people below with jeweled eyes that shined so brightly that I was mesmerized by its hypnotic gaze. This whisper continued to follow me, imploring me to take one of the diamond eyes of the sculpture. It said that it longed to be held in my hands. I confess I could not resist it. But ever since that day nothing but horrible misgivings have occurred. The monastery was burnt down in which all of my fellow brothers have perished; since then, I have been walking these streets at the mercy of beggars and vagrants, desperately trying to get home. The only good that has come from that diamond as black as this night, is the fare I have received in exchange for it to return to France. I hope that this ill fortune will not follow me across the waters...".

But much to the priest's anguish, his fortunes did not turn. Shortly after his return home and still plagued by continued tragedy, he sought release from this torture by climbing to the top of the town's bell tower, and plunging to his death.

"Serves you well,  for taking that which does not belong to you, foolish impertinent creature'', says the god Brahma, who's eye the priest had so unceremoniously taken out. ''Your greed is all the more repulsive as you are meant to be a man of the cloth; one that sheds these worldly desires. I will punish your greed and that of your successors by cursing all those who claim it as their own to the same fate.

New York City, 1932. Mr. J.W. Paris, a well-known diamond dealer is expected at a meeting with fellow dealers to view the latest yield from the mines. Only, Mr. Paris has been quite unwell lately. He too had in his possession a large black diamond, as dark as that Indian night so long ago. But soon after selling it,  his business had taken a turn for the worst. With increasing pressures mounting and the fear of the depression's horrible reach taking hold of him, he took himself to the top floor of that 5th Avenue skyscraper and dove towards the busy streets below.

Rome, December 1947. Princess Nadia Vygin-Orlov was one of the few fortunate members of the royal family to escape the violence of the Russian Revolution. Rome had since become her home and she founded a life there with her husband, a well-known jeweler.  But on this particular night, she walked frantically through the weaving streets she thought she knew so well. Ever since she received "that" black diamond as a gift, a whisper would not leave her side. She thought that taking to the streets would quell this taunting voice. Much to her dismay, it did not. In an attempt to get away, she quickly turned the nearest corner and was stopped dead in her tracks; the usually angelic face of a familiar statue, had become distorted and terrifying. Growing evermore paranoid, she dashed away only to be met by more twisted, tortured faces on every column, steeple and street corner. Having lost her grasp on reality, she ran into the nearby theater, up the staircase towards the roof. And as Richard III yelled "If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell!" she extinguished the whisper by jumping to her death.