What is the Hope Diamond?
Over the years there have been many gemstones believed to be cursed, but the most famous of the gemstones is the Hope Diamond. This lustrous blue diamond weighing 45.52 carats is surrounded by tales of misfortune.
How did this diamond which originated in India, and accumulated history among Europe’s aristocracy, end up in one of America’s most beloved museums, the Smithsonian? Just like people, stones have stories. Here’s the blue diamond’s fascinating history.
Early History: The French Blue and the Guillotine
The stone originated from the Kollur Mine, Telangana in India before Jean-Baptiste Tavernier purchased it in 1666. Around 1668, King Louis XIV of France purchased the large blue diamond weighing a little over 112 carats from the French merchant.
The king had the stone re-cut into a 67-carat heart-shaped stone (giving it the famous heart shape that we associate with Valentine’s Day) and set in gold by his court jeweler. The stone was named “Le bleu de France” (The French Blue).
This amazing gemstone remained with the French royal family until it was stolen in 1792 during the French Revolution, along with the rest of France’s crown jewels. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, reining monarchs at the time of the revolution experienced the ultimate misfortune the diamond is accused of bringing to its owners. While attempting to flee France they were caught and both guillotined for treason. According to the Smithsonian:
- “King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were captured attempting to flee France during the French Revolution. The royal jewels were turned over to the revolutionary government and housed in the Garde-Meuble.”
The French Blue Becomes the Hope Diamond
Decades later, the diamond was stolen again and reappeared on the London scene. From there, the famous jewelry kept changing hands, being captured, re-cut, and moved almost as if it had a life of its own. First, a diamond closely resembling the stolen French Blue reappeared in London, and owned by King George IV of England.
The diamond was sold after his death in 1830 to help pay off his enormous debts. It was purchased by Henry Philip Hope, from whom the stone got its name. The diamond remained in the Hope family for many years, until it was auctioned off in 1908 to a Turkish Sultan, who was later dethroned in an army revolt.
Evalyn Walsh McLean
At the turn of the 20th century, the famous diamond crossed the Atlantic Ocean and ended up in New York City. Famed jeweler Pierre Cartier bought the Hope Diamond in 1909. He enticed Evalyn Walsh McLean, an American heiress and socialite to purchase the diamond in 1912.
McLean was the last private owner of the diamond, and was not afraid of the stones history.
She did experience tremendous misfortune while owning it, the loss of her eldest son at the age of 9 in a car accident, the loss of her only daughter at age 25 to suicide, and the loss of her husband to insanity, and eventually his death in an insane asylum. There was also financial misfortune, which led to the loss of the family newspaper The Washington Post to a bankruptcy auction. However, McLean did not believe the diamond brought her bad luck, and wore it until she died in 1947.
Modern History: A Home at the Smithsonian
Harry Winston, an American Jeweler bought McLean’s entire jewelry collection including the Hope Diamond after her death in 1947, and in 1958, the stone would finally find its permanent home. Winston donated the famous diamond to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., where it would no longer be worn, but has since been gawked at, Googled, and admired by over 100 million visitors. The last person to experience the misfortune of the diamond was the mail carrier that delivered the stone to the Smithsonian Institution in a brown cardboard box. He had his leg crushed in an accident and a brief time later lost his home in a fire.
Is the stone cursed, or is this just random bad luck?
The Heart of the Ocean: A Blue Sapphire
Since we’re talking about the Hope Diamond, we’d be remiss not to mention the Heart of the Ocean. Do you remember this famous blue diamond featured in the film, “Titanic”?
The scene: Rose (played by Kate Winslet) is wearing a heart-shaped blue diamond around her neck (and naked body) as she is being sketched and admired by Jack (played by Leonardo DeCaprio). The Heart of the Ocean was inspired by the Hope Diamond. In other words: it’s a knock-off for the film. And apparently, because that film was such a blockbuster (and its characters and jewels made so famous and iconic), a jeweler wanted to make another knock-off, but this time a real knock-off. According to Vogue, London jewelers Asprey & Garrad decided to seize the opportunity. They crafted a necklace with a 170-carat heart-shaped sapphire (for it’s rare to find a blue diamond) and 104 sparkling diamonds. Celine Dion (who sang part of the Titanic soundtrack) then wore the necklace during her 1998 Oscar performance of the famed love song, “My Heart Will Go On.”