The ‘Cursed Amethyst’, or the Delhi Purple Sapphire was erroneously designated as a sapphire in the 19th century. The legendary gemstone had remained concealed for three hundred years beneath London’s Natural History Museum before the museum curator Peter Tandy removed the gem from its box and discovered a note behind it detailing a disastrous and at times weird story that led to the gemstone being labeled as ‘trebly cursed’
The curse of the amethyst
After the Indian Rebellion of 1857 was suppressed by the British, they sought to quell any future rebellions by sacking and looting the temples, shrines, and palaces of India. The British Army raided and stole many tons of Indian treasures. One of the ransacked temples was the Temple of Indra in Cawnpore (Kanpur). As the name suggests, it was dedicated to Indra, the Hindu God of war and thunderstorms, who rides on a white elephant carrying a thunderbolt as his weapon. It was during the Siege of Cawnpore that the Bengal Cavalryman Colonel W. Ferris took possession of the ‘purple sapphire’ which was actually an amethyst. Ferris believed that the stone would secure his family’s wealth and fortune. But no sooner had he returned to England when a series of financial misfortunes happened to him and every member of his family was struck down with many different ailments.
This pattern of gloom, bad luck, and devastation was also passed on to the people who inherited the artifact. When Ferris’ son inherited it and gave it to a friend, he suddenly committed suicide. Thus unfolded a string of mysterious events which together gave rise to the legend of the Amethyst Curse or the ‘Curse of the Delhi Purple Sapphire’.
Edward Heron Allen
In 1890, Ferris’ son gave the stone to Edward Heron-Allen, who was a renowned British polymath, writer, and scientist, who aside from being a gifted linguist with knowledge of Arabic literature was also interested in palmistry. When Heron-Allen gave the stone to a female friend who was a singer, her voice went dead and she wasn’t able to ever sing again. This confirmed Heron-Allen’s fear that the gem was indeed evil and according to the legend, he threw the stone into the Regent Canal in London. But three months later, a river dredger found the stone and a dealer subsequently gave the stone back to Heron-Allen, who described it as being ‘cursed and stained with blood.’ According to Atlas Obscura, Heron-Allen is said to have tried to neutralized the evil power of the stone by having it bound with a silver ring cast as a double-headed snake and two amethyst scarab beetle beads. Heron-Allen also engraved the ring with the twelve symbols of the zodiac, before locking it in his bank vault inside seven sealed boxes.
Heron-Allen left instructions to his daughter that she should unlock each of the seven boxes exactly three years after his death in 1943 and give the stone to the Natural History Museum. He also detailed the evil history of the gem. He had stated that whoever opened the boxes and found the stone should first read his warnings about it and then do as he wished with the jewel. According to Heron-Allen, it was best for the person who had got possession of the stone to cast it into the sea.
Belief in curses
In 2007, when the amethyst first went on display at the Natural History Museum, the curator of the museum, Richard Savin had stated that when he and his wife had taken the stone from a symposium of the Heron-Allen Society, they had to drive through a fierce thunderstorm. Savin’s wife had asked him to throw the jewel away and criticized him for bringing it. He also stated that whenever he attempted to attend a meeting on the stone later, he would fall seriously ill. However, he admitted that it could be a coincidence. This shows that whatever has occurred after the gem was stolen from India can be attributed to a series of coincidences. However, today in the era of great scientific innovations and discoveries, one can treat the matter with the basic assumption that all the events surrounding the stone could be a coincidence but could also possibly be a curse. It is belief, which is the element required for a curse to work.
Historically, curses were thought to have been formed as a result of invocations, prayers, and rituals in which a desire for adversity is aimed at another person, object, or place. Curses were a regular part of ancient cultures and could have been a ruse to frighten enemies and explain all the injustices of the world. Though no empirical evidence has ever been found to prove that curses can exist and work, many psychologists know people who believe in curses and thus suffer a miserable existence. This belief leads to victims falling into the trap of ‘confirmation bias’ where only events and occurrences related to the curse are believed leading the believer in the curse to have a series of events related to their curse which strengthens their belief in the curse. Faith and belief are the main aspects of the Old Testament of the Bible and it can be considered to be a ‘book of curses’. This has led the West to use curses conveniently to justify bad things happening to good people.
In most occurrences of terrible things in history, people didn’t have medicine or science to explain them but only their holy men who consulted only the Biblical ‘book of curses’ to find answers. Thus, there was always a supernatural cause for any bad thing that occurred then in contrast to the modern world where many explanations can be given. It was from this dark age of science that there emerged an entire group of psychics, spirit-channelers, tea-leaf readers, and clairvoyants who all offered cures to combat the effects of the curses for exorbitant fees.