In Netflix’s ‘All the Light We Cannot See,’ a diamond becomes one of the unexpected things that bring together a French girl and a young Nazi soldier. While France is ravaged by the Second World War, Marie’s father, the curator of the Museum of Natural History, is focused on only one thing: he cannot let a precious stone fall into the wrong hands. While there are a lot of valuables in the museum, none compares to the legend of the Sea of Flames. Considering that the show takes place during the Second World War, one wonders whether Sea of Flames might also be one of the things that have been plucked from reality. SPOILERS AHEAD
The Inception of the Story of the Sea of Flames
‘All the Light We Cannot See’ is based on the novel of the same name by Anthony Doerr and weaves a fictional tale about Marie-Laure and Werner. At the beginning of his process, Doerr wondered about how he could bring the two characters together. As the story was set in Saint-Malo, the author started reading up on the history of France, which led him to research the beginning of the German occupation of France, and he read about the Louvre and other museums being emptied out to save them from Nazi plunder.
“They really only had weeks to get all this stuff out of Paris. Rembrandts and the Mona Lisa were rolled up and moved out of the city. There are some incredible photographs of Rembrandts being crated up and the halls of the Louvre becoming packing yards with straw and twine and crate,” the author noted. This further led him to the Museum of Natural History of Paris, which housed “incalculable mineral wealth” along with irreplaceable things like fossils and meteorites. “Anything that was light enough to be moved, they were trying to figure out what they were going to do with it. I was mostly just imagining those circumstances,” Doerr added.
Going down this rabbit hole, Doerr ended up reading about a strange amethyst called the Delhi Sapphire in The British Museum. Based on the legends surrounding the real stone, he concocted the myth of the Sea of Flames and used it as a “narrative vehicle,” deliberately placing it in the possession of a girl “who might be immune to its visual charms.” It also became a plot point that would get father away from her and attract people like Reinhold von Rumpel.
The Story Behind the True Gemstone That Inspired the Fictional Sea of Flames
In Doerr’s story, the Sea of Flames is said to be the stone that grants immortality to its owner but brings terrible misfortune to the people they love. The book expands the stone’s history, tracing its origins to India, which is also where the Delhi Sapphire’s story begins. Reportedly, the amethyst was found in India during the rebellion of 1857 and was said to have been stolen from the Temple of Indra.
It was brought to England by a Bengal cavalryman named Colonel Derris, who met with all sorts of troubles since having the stone in his possession. The series of misfortunes continued for the people to whom the stone was passed on until eventually Edward Heron-Allen recognized what was going on. Heron-Allen tried to get rid of the stone and noted that wherever the amethyst went, it was followed by bad luck. Interestingly, the store seemed to have developed a particular affinity towards him, and no matter what he did to get rid of it, the Sapphire always found its way back to him in the uncanniest of manners.
Eventually, Heron-Allen is said to have packed the stone and ordered it to be brought back in public thirty-three years after his death. However, his daughter gave it to the British Natural History Museum a few months after he passed away in 1943. The warning accompanied the stone, but the museum not only accepted it but has also kept it on display as a part of his collection.