Few cities occupy such a strategic position as Istanbul. From the Western point of view it represents the gateway to the East; from the Eastern point of view it stands as the gateway to the West. Consequently the city has for centuries played a vital part in trade between the two continents, a point of transit and a location for purchases. Among diamonds at least two, the 'Sancy' and the 'Akbar Shah', have been acquired there and the likelihood is that many others from the East have come via this route.
Two other diamonds did not travel further west than Constantinople, but remained in that city. Edwin Streeter named them as 'The Turkey I and II' and recorded their weights as 147 and 84 carats. The larger of the two was called the 'Ottoman' and was owned by the Grand Sultan in the middle of the ninteenth century; it was stated to have been a stone of great beauty and of the first water, valued at £156,800. Although its weight was reported to be 140 carats, slightly less than Streeter's figure, it was almost certainly none other than 'Turkey 1'. The whereabouts of this stone is not known.
The other diamond, known as the 'Kasikci' or 'Spoon-maker's Diamond', is undoubtedly the 86-carat (metric) stone that is on view in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. This building, formerly the Sultan's Seraglio, was begun in 1462 and served as the residence of the Sultans until the beginning of the nineteenth century. Nowadays it houses the treasures of the Sultans including collections of china, jewels, armour, textiles and manuscripts.
We are a little more fortunate than Edwin Streeter in knowing about the smaller diamond. His correspondent in Constantinople, whom he described as 'a gentleman holding an official position in the East' clearly found it hard to come by any information on the subject. On the 19 July 1881, he wrote as follows:
In reply to yours of 11th inst., I beg to say that I shall endeavour to get the information you seek; but as the Turkish fast, the Ramadan, is now coming on, it is quite useless to attempt anything till after Bairam, that is in five weeks. I shall then apply, through the Embassy, for a firman to inspect the jewels, which may or may not be given. At that time I shall also endeavour to get such drawings and legends as you wish for. I may, however say that of late years immense robberies have gone one; and very likely the stones you speak of have disappeared...'
Five months later Streeter's correspondent wrote:
I have your memorandum of the 2nd inst., and can well understand that you are surprised at my long silence. I regret, however, to say that I am not one whit nearer the information you desire than when you first wrote to me about it; and that I doubt very much if I shall ever get anything reliable to communicate to you. I have taken no inconsiderable amount of trouble in the matter, and have approched several high and influential men on the subject; but with absolutely no result. It is not at all a question of money; but simply this, that the reign of terror in the palace is so absolute, that no one would ever dare to ask a question referring to crown jewels.
The man responsible for this reign of terror was the Sultan Abd al-Hamid 11, whose recourse to a spy system, censorship, imprisonment, exile and even murder of his opponents exceeded any of his predecessors. He was the owner at one time of several notable diamonds but at the moment when he was most in need of them, at his deposition, he was deprived of them by the treachery of one of his servants who went and sold them himself. It is not known whether he regarded the 'Kasikci' as a part of the Turkish Regalia and therefore inviolable or whether he was thwarted in an attempt to remove that stone too.
The Diamond is a pear-shape and is set in frame of forty nine diamonds. The alternative name of the gem, the 'Spoonmaker's Diamond'. revolves around its discovery in a part of Istanbul and its subsequent exchange for three spoons by a merchant. A goldsmith then bought it from the spoonmaker and showed it to one of his colleagues who recognized it as a diamond and demanded a part of its value. On learning about this dispute the chief goldsmith removed the diamond and paid each of the two men 500 piastres. Soon after, the Sultan demanded to see the stone and decided to keep it for himself.