For many centuries, the Hope Diamond has remained as one of the most famous and largest colored Diamonds in the world. Whether it’s due to the Diamond’s vast collection of wealthy owners, thieves and French royals, or its vibrant color and impressive size, or even its notorious reputation of being cursed, the Hope Diamond is still one of the most talked about Diamonds to date. With ownership records dating back almost four centuries, the Hope Diamond has had an impressive list of owners before it was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958, where it is still housed today at the National Museum of Natural History.
Weighing in at 45.52 carats, the Hope Diamond exudes brilliance and beauty through its Fancy dark greyish-blue color and VS1 clarity rating. Today, the cushion antique brilliant cut Diamond has a faceted girdle and extra facets on the pavilion and is surrounded in a pendant of 16 white Diamonds, both pear shapes and cushion cuts.
A recent study in August 2018 found that blue Diamonds, like the Hope Diamond, are among the rarest Diamonds on Earth. A recent survey followed of approximately 13.8 million Diamonds found that only 0.02 percent were categorised as blue Diamonds.
Furthermore, the study, which was published in the journal Nature, suggested that blue Diamonds form four times as deep in the Earth as colorless Diamonds, at depths of over 400 miles below the surface. For a long time, the origin of blue Diamonds had remained a puzzle to geologists and jewelers alike, but this new research offered an insight into the complex geologic sequences that create blue Diamonds like the elusive Hope Diamond.
Believed to have originated in the Kollur mine in Golconda, India, the Hope Diamond was originally a much larger stone when it was purchased by French merchant traveller, Jean Baptiste Tavernier in the 17th century. Tavernier later described the 112 3/16- carat Diamond as beautifully violet colored and somewhat crudely cut in a triangular shape. The larger stone was soon named the Tavernier Blue and was over 60 carats bigger than the Hope Diamond, which is ultimately just a small piece of what the stone once was. Interestingly, while experts had always suspected that the Hope Diamond was cut from Tavernier Blue, it was not until 2005 that it was proven to be a descendant of the larger stone.
In 1668, Tavernier sold the Diamond, along with a number of other large Diamonds and several smaller ones, to King Louis XIV. According to the Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, the Tavernier Blue became the first recorded blue Diamond in Europe and became known as the ‘Blue Diamond of the Crown’ or the ‘French Blue’, due to its described intense steely-blue color. Five years after purchasing the jewel, King Louis had it cut down in size to ⅛ carat stone, by the court jeweler Sieur Pitau. Wanting to showcase the stones best facets and glittering brilliance, Louis then had it set in gold and hung on a neck ribbon, which he wore on ceremonial occasions.
In 1749, King Louis XV had the stone reset with an impressive red Spinel for the Order of the Golden Fleece, by court jeweler Andre Jacquemin. For the next few years before the French Revolution, the French monarchs continued to don the beautiful rare gem. Although there is no historical evidence, many believe that even Marie Antoinette doned the beautiful French Blue a number of times. After an attempt by Louis XVI and Marie Antoniette to flee France in 1791 during the French Revolution, the crown jewels of the French Royal Treasury were turned over to the Government for safe keeping. During a week-long looting in 1792, a large portion of the French crown jewels were stolen, including the French Blue. For many years, it was believed the Louis XVI was the last owner of the French Blue.
It wasn’t until the early 19th century that a smaller blue Diamond of 45.52 carats with a matching beautiful violet hue to the Tavernier, resurfaced in England under the possession of London diamond merchant, Daniel Eliason. Strong evidence suggests that it was in fact the recut French Blue. Several references suggest that the Diamond was eventually acquired by King George IV, however following his death in 1830, it was most likely sold through private channels to help compensate his enormous debts.
In 1839, the Diamond surfaced within the gem collection catalogue of the well-known Henry Philip Hope, with whom the Diamond takes its name today. Unfortunately there is no evidence in the catalogue about how he acquired the Diamond or how much he paid for it. Following his death later in the year, the Diamond was passed down to his nephew Henry Thomas Hope and then to his nephew’s grandson Lord Francis Hope. Over the next few years, the Diamond underwent a number of different owners, up until it was resold to Pierre Cartier in 1909. In 1910, the Hope Diamond was shown to Washington D.C. socialite Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean, at Cartier’s in Paris. After resetting the Diamond and mounting it as a headpiece on a three-tiered circlet of large white Diamonds, Cartier sold the Diamond to Mrs. McLean in 1911. Soon after, the Hope Diamond became the pendant of the necklace that remains today.
Following Mrs. McLean’s passing in 1947, Harry Winston Inc. of New York City purchased her entire jewelry collection, which included the Hope Diamond in 1949. For the next 10 years the Hope Diamond was shown at many exhibits and charity events worldwide, before it was donated to the Smithsonian Institution, where it remains today as a premier attraction. Since its re homing on November 10, 1958, the Hope Diamond has left the Smithsonian only four times for exhibitions or cleaning and restoration work. With such an extensive history that dates back four centuries, it is no wonder that the Hope Diamond remains a favourite for many worldwide.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Hope Diamond is the alleged curse it spread to its owners over the last four centuries. According to the legend, the Hope Diamond brought great misfortune to the person who owned and wore the jewel, with tales of suicide, murder, bankruptcy, failed marriages and tragedy. However there are strong indications to suggest that these stories were fabricated to increase publicity and in turn the value of the beautiful jewel. That being said, there is still adequate evidence to suggest that the legend has some truth to it too.
The legend originates back to when Jean-Baptiste Tavernier discovered the blue Diamond in the Kollur mine in Golcanda in southern India. It is suggested that the Diamond was previously embedded in the head of a Hindu goddess statue, perhaps as an eye. Some tales suggest that it was Tavernier himself who took the Diamond from the statue, while others say it was someone else who then sold his spoils to the Frenchmen. Either way, each legend agrees that it was this act of theft that initially placed the curse on the stone. Some stories say that Tavernier was supposedly mauled to death by dogs thereafter, although evidence suggests that he retired a wealthy man, after selling the jewel to King Louis XIV of France.
In the early 20th century, a number of newspapers ran articles that listed the supposed cases of misfortune from the Hope Diamond, which further spread the curse story. An article in the New York Times in 1911 listed examples from King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antionette beheadings, to Jacques Colet’s suicide and even temporary wearer, Princess de Lamballe’s horrific rape and murder, all as cases to suggest the Diamond’s curse.
It was later suggested that jeweler Pierre Cartier further fuelled the whispered tales by applying elements of Wilkie Collins’ novel ‘The Moonstone’ to the Hope Diamond tale, during Evalyn and Ned McLean’s visit to the Cartier store in Paris. It is assumed Cartier embroidered the story in an attempt to convince them to buy the Diamond. The story successfully entranced Evalyn to later purchase the Diamond and she soon became one of the most iconic owners of the Hope Diamond. While evidence suggested that the curse was fabricated to increase publicity, mystery and appeal of the Hope Diamond in the 20th century, misfortune still followed thereafter, with Mrs McLean’s mother-in-law passing, her son dying at the age of nine, her husband divorcing her for another woman and soon after dying in a mental hospital, her daughter dying from a drug overdose at 25 and the family losing their fortunes to bankruptcy.
Even the mailman who delivered the Diamond to the Smithsonian after it was donated by Harry Winston in 1958, suffered a crushed leg injury soon after, his home caught fire and both his wife and dog died soon after.
While many believe these misfortunes occurred because of the Hope Diamond, others are adamant that they are just coincidental circumstances and can be blamed on other causes. Smithsonian curator Jeffrey Post told PBS that he believed the curse was an interesting part of the Diamond’s history, but that it was not true.
“The curse is a fascinating part of the story of the Hope Diamond that has helped to make the Diamond as famous as it is. But as a scientist, as a curator, I don’t believe in curses,” said Mr Post.
So whether you believe the curse or not, the Hope Diamond’s infamous history dating back over four centuries proves for an entertaining read. If you are as enamoured by the beauty and rarity of blue Diamonds like the Hope Diamond, you can purchase one today from Gem Rock Auctions.
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