The Hope Diamond has had quite the past with it being admired by all, stolen, and sold until it was finally donated. Diamonds have an image of purity, light, and of all good things and the Hope Diamond embraced such light with its beauty only after it was donated. Until then, its past was definitely rough with the curse associated with the gorgeous gem.
Wherever the Hope Diamond was, there was always a mystery around it and, unfortunately, a whole lot of bad luck. Only when the Hope Diamond found its calling to be admired by all and not only by those who could afford it, was its purity and essence felt. Maybe it was then that the Hope Diamond truly found its purpose.
The Hope Diamond
The Hope Diamond is an extremely large gem, about the size of a walnut, measuring an inch long, 7/8 inches wide, 12 mm in thickness, and 45.5 carats in weight. The stone is estimated to be worth over a quarter of a billion dollars. It was described as a "fancy deep greyish-blue" back in 1996.
Its gorgeous deep blue color is owed to the small traces of boron mixed into the molecular structure of the diamond. It shines in a brilliant red color under an ultraviolet light.
The cut of the diamond is what is known as an antique cushion cut.
PUntil recently, the Hope Diamond was encased in a platinum setting with 16 alternating pear and cushion cut white diamonds, and hung at the end of a chain of 45 diamonds designed by Pierre Cartier. While we are accustomed to seeing white flashing diamonds, the blue of the Hope Diamond is something we all are in awe of.
Deep-blue diamonds rarely exceed a few carats in their size, and the Hope Diamond is the largest of such a diamond known. The diamond was formed a hundred miles beneath the surface of the earth and was carried upward by a volcanic eruption over a billion years ago.
The Hope Diamond is currently on display in the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology in the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian's National Gem Collection in a new setting which well suits its splendour.
The Hope Diamond, among other great jewels such as the Napoleon Diamond Necklace, the Marie-Louise Diadem, and the Marie Antoinette Earrings that are showcased as a part of the collection at the Smithsonian, is definitely the most sought after gem. However, it was not always at the Smithsonian. The story of the diamond is one that is rather interesting, chilling, and grand. The journey of the Hope Diamond adds to its charm, magic, and mystery.
History of the Hope Diamond
The beginning of the legend
The legend of the Hope Diamond starts with a theft which begins the dramatic journey of the diamond over the centuries.
A man named Tavernier made a trip to India several years ago. While he was thee there, he stole a large, blue diamond from the forehead of a statue of the Hindu goddess Sita.
According to the legend, for this transgression of theft and thereafter selling of the diamond, Tavernier was torn apart by wild dogs on a trip to Russia. This was the first death that was attributed to the curse, and little did everyone know that there would be more to come back then.
The “Blue Diamond” as Worn by the Kings
Before its nomenclature as owed to the Hope family, the Hope Diamond was known as the beautiful Blue Diamond. It had resurfaced in 1673. King Louis XIV decided to re-cut the diamond to enhance its brilliance rather than the size. The newly cut gem was 67 1/8 carats. Louis XIV had officially named the gem as the "Blue Diamond of the Crown" and often wore the diamond on a long ribbon around his neck.
Later in 1749, Louis XIV's great-grandson, Louis XV, was crowned as king and ordered the crown jeweller to make a decoration for the Order of the Golden Fleece by using the blue diamond and the Cote de Bretagne which resulted in an ornate and large decoration.
The theft of the Diamond
When Louis XV died, his grandson, Louis XVI, became the king with Marie Antoinette as the queen. According to legend, both Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were beheaded during the French Revolution because of the blue diamond's curse.
Taking into consideration that King Louis XIV and King Louis XV had both owned and worn the blue diamond on numerous occasions, it is difficult to say that everyone who owned or touched the gem would suffer an ill fate.
While it is true that Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were beheaded, the French Revolution may seem a more probable reason for their beheading rather than the curse of the diamond. Plus, it wasn’t only these two royals who were beheaded during the Reign of Terror at the time.
During the French Revolution, the crown jewels, as well as the blue diamond, were taken from the royal couple in 1791 after an attempt that was made by the couple to flee France. The jewels were then placed in the Garde-Meuble but were not well guarded.
In 1791, the Garde-Meuble was repeatedly robbed on several occasions. While most of the crown jewels were recovered, the blue diamond was not.
The re-emergence of the Blue Diamond
There is evidence that the blue diamond resurfaced in 1813 in London and was owned by jeweller Daniel Eliason in 1823.
No one is sure that the blue diamond which resurfaced in London was the same one that was stolen from the Garde-Meuble as the one in London was of a different cut. But it wouldn’t be a surprise if it was, as at this point, the blue diamond had made quite a statement and seemed to have been stolen time and time again due to its distinct beauty. Diamonds have a way of bringing out the best and worst in people at times. However, most people did feel the rarity and perfectness of the French blue diamond and the blue diamond that appeared in London. This made it most likely that someone re-cut the French blue diamond in the hopes of hiding its origin.
It is evidenced that King George IV of England had purchased the Blue Diamond from Daniel Eliason and on his death, the diamond was eventually sold to pay off debts.
The "Hope” Diamond: How the Blue Diamond got its name
A little before 1839, the blue diamond was in the possession of Henry Philip Hope, and this is where the diamond got its name from.
The Hope family is also said to have been affected by the diamond's curse. The Hopes went bankrupt because of the Hope Diamond, according to legend.
Whether the legend is true or not is another story. Henry Philip Hope was the heir of the banking firm Hope & Co. which was sold in 1813. He became an avid collector of fine art and gems, and acquired the blue diamond that was to carry his family's name.
Henry Philip Hope left his estate to his three nephews as he never married in 1839 when he died. Henry Thomas Hope received the diamond. He married and after his death in 1862, the diamond remained with the widow but was ultimately passed on to Lord Francis Hope, her grandson.
Francis Hope requested the court in 1898 to sell the Hope diamond due to his gambling and high spending but his request was denied.
In 1901, after several oppositions from the family and appeal to the House of Lords, Francis Hope was finally granted permission to sell the diamond.
Three generations of Hopes went untainted by the curse of the Hope Diamond, and it was most likely Francis Hope's gambling that caused his bankruptcy rather than the curse.
Could the Hope Diamond be a good luck charm?
In 1901, Simon Frankel, an American jeweller bought the Hope diamond to the United States. The diamond changed hands during its stay in America several times over the next few years, and ended with Pierre Cartier.
The rich and affluent Evalyn Walsh Mclean glanced at the Hope Diamond in 1910 for the first time when she was in Paris with her husband. And since then, she had her eye on the diamond.
Pierre Cartier thought he had found her as a buyer, as she had told him that objects which are usually considered bad luck turned into good luck for her. Cartier was honest and made sure he emphasized on the Hope Diamond's negative history. However, since McLean did not like the diamond in its mounting, she did not buy it.
A few months after this, Pierre Cartier arrived in the U.S. and asked McLean to keep the Hope Diamond for the weekend. Cartier reset the diamond into a new mounting and hoped Evelyn would like it, and would buy it after having for the weekend. Evalyn was taken in with its beauty and fell in love with Hope Diamond.
The Curse hits Evalyn Walsh McLean
Evalyn Walsh McLean wore the Hope Diamond at every possible opportunity. In fact, she wore it all the time. According to one story, it apparently took a lot of persuading by the doctor of Evalyn Walsh to get her to take off the necklace even for an operation.
While Evalyn Walsh McLean wore the Hope Diamond as a good luck charm, it was well observed that the curse struck her when her firstborn son, Vinson, died in a car crash at the age of nine. McLean also suffered another major loss when her daughter committed suicide at twenty-five.
In addition to all this, many attributed the declaration of Evalyn Walsh McLean's husband as medically insane, and his confinement to a mental institution until his death in 1941 to the Hope Diamond.
It was definitely a lot of suffering and pain to be faced by one person whether it was entailed by the curse or not. While she wanted her jewellery to go to her grandchildren when they were older, her jewellery was ultimately put on sale in 1949, after her death, in order to settle debts from her estate.
Donation of the Hope Diamond
The Hope Diamond went on sale in 1949 when it was purchased by Harry Winston, a New York jeweller. Winston raised money for charity when offering the diamond, on numerous occasions to be worn at balls. Eventually, Winston donated the diamond because he had long believed in creating a national jewel collection. It was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958 to be the focal point of a gem collection which was newly established as well as to inspire others to donate.
So comes the end of troubled but well-travelled journey of the Hope Diamond when the Hope Diamond travelled in a plain brown box in 1958 through regular post to a large group of people at the Smithsonian who were thrilled on its arrival.
Conclusion: The Hope Diamond for all
The Hope Diamond is now currently on display at the National Museum of Natural History for everyone to admire, with all its mystery, glory, and unique history. If there ever was a curse, it was most definitely lifted when Harry Winston donated it to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958. The Hope Diamond was never meant to be enjoyed by just one person, or by the rich or the royals. It was not meant to be stolen from one family to another or sold to the highest bidder.
Diamonds are meant to be enjoyed. And a jewel as beautiful as the Hope Diamond was meant to be made accessible to all, to allow everyone to share in its magnificence.
The beauty, curse, and the rich and royal past of the Hope Diamond is something that will always raise chills, and something that we will marvel at. The future of the Hope Diamond and the light in can bring when it is there for all to share in, is something worth taking note of. The Hope Diamond will remain a symbol of beauty and righteousness no matter where it is.