The Notorious Hope Diamond

The Notorious Hope Diamond

There are many famous diamonds. Some have been around for hundreds of years. That is what is so amazing about these gemstones. They have histories that have been traced down through the ages.

One of the most famous diamonds of all is the “Blue Hope” now on display in the Smithsonian Institute in the US state of Washington.

The “Blue Hope” has a notorious history.   It is supposed to carry a curse that anyone who owns or even touches the blue stone will live out their days in misery, poverty and sometimes unexpected death such as suicide.  This has happened to many of it’s owners, of course that could have happened naturally from poor business practices and bad habits.

The original stone, before it was cut weighed 3106 carats, the largest diamond ever found.  Rumor says that it was stolen from the eye of a Hindu  idol, and that the temple priests created the curse.  Modern experts believe the curse was invented by a diamond merchant to make the stone more interesting.

The original French merchant who acquired the stone either by theft or by legal means, did die in poverty.

The large diamond comes from the Kollur mine in Golconda, India. At that time it was crudely cut in a triangular shape, the cut diamond weighing just over 112 carats. The year was 1668, when That merchant sold what he called a” beautiful violet stone” (un beau violet) to King Louis XIV of France.

The King had the stone recut to a 67ct diamond and had it suspended on a neck ribbon which he wore on special occasions.

In 1749, King Louis XV, had the stone, then known as the “French Blue” reset into a piece of Royal Jewelry called the “Golden Fleece”. Then in 1791, in the French Revolution,King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette attempted to flee France with the Royal jewels but were caught.The jewels were handed over to the government and the fleeing monarch and his paramour were beheaded. In the upheaval of the revolution the “French Blue” was stolen.

History next notes a large blue diamond in the possession of a London diamond merchant in 1812;  it is believed to be the “French Blue”. The stone is then sold to King George IV of England. Upon his death in 1830 the diamond is sold to help cover his enormous debts.

Next we find the blue stone in the gem catalog of  diamond merchant Henry Phillip Hope. It is now called the “Hope” diamond. The diamond passes down through the Hope family, from Henry Philip to Henry Thomas Hope, to a Grandson, Lord Francis Hope. All died in bankruptcy. Again the stone was sold to pay off debts.

This time it crossed the Atlantic to Joseph Frankels of New York city, who also ended in debt.

In 1911 the blue diamond was owned by Pierre Cartier, who had the stone reset  as the middle stone of a headpiece of large white diamonds. This piece was sold to a Mrs. Walsh McLean of Washington  DC.

She eventually had the stone reset into a pendant, which is how we see it today.  It is said that she wore it always and would not take it off.  Mrs. McLean owned the “blue hope” until she died in 1947.   She also had many instances of bad luck but never attributed it to the diamond.

Harry Winston purchased her jewelry, “Blue Hope” included, at the estate sale in 1949.  Winston displayed the blue diamond in many exhibits, then in 1958 Winston Inc, of New York city donated the large blue diamond to the Smithsonian  Institute where it immediately became their star attraction……  It has since traveled four times,  in 1962 to France, to be displayed in the “Ten Centuries of French Jewels”, in 1965, to South Africa for the ‘Rand Easter Show” 1984 saw the Blue Hope at Harry Winston’s 50th anniversary exhibit and then in 1996 back to New York, to Harry Winston, for cleaning and minor restoration.

The modern weight of this famous  blue diamond is 45.5 carats.  The blue shade is the result of trace amounts of boron in the stone.

The pendant surrounding the “Hope” is made up of 16 white diamonds and the neck chain contains 45 smaller white diamonds.

Modern gemologists using a color-meter  found the stone to have a slight tinge of violet mixed in with the blue which takes us back to the original “un beau violet”  1668.

This famous diamond has had a fascinating life!

Resources: Wikipedia, About.com, the Smithsonian Institute