Topkapı Palace

Istanbul, Turkey | C.1478

Photo Credit: Yashaswini Rajendra

Inside the Topkapi Palace is a treasure so intriguing that its origins still spur legends, centuries later. It is The Spoonmaker’s Diamond, and at 86-carats (surrounded by a garnish of 49 old-mine cut diamonds) it is considered the fourth largest in the world.

Since the 17th century it has resided at Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace, the royal residence of the Ottoman Dynasty for nearly half a millennium. Constructed after the conquest of Constantinople, it was both home and headquarters of the Sultans, until the Ottoman Empire fell in 1923. The Palace was too precious to go down with it, and so was transformed into a Museum.

The Diamond’s origin story is cut from many angles. Spoon-inheritors: take note! One legend recounts a naive fisherman who discovered a gleaming stone along the shore, and took it to a jeweler, who feigned ignorance and identified the rare treasure as a piece of glass. He offered the fisherman three spoons for his find; and later sold it to a vizier for the Sultan.

Another story claims that a French officer purchased the Diamond from India’s Maharajah of Madras in 1774. The Diamond made its way to Paris, where it was auctioned off to none other than Napoleon Bonaparte’s mother. When Napoleon was exiled, his mother sold the Diamond to save her son. It traded hands among distinguished royalty until its final acquisition by the Ottoman Empire.

Whether plucked from the hands of a common fisherman or an imperial ruler, the Spoonmaker’s Diamond has found a permanent home in the Topkapi Palace Museum, the stately residence that welcomes all who seek a glimpse into the lavish lifestyle and mysterious jewels of the Ottoman Sultans.

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