The Blue Hope Diamond

The Stone

The Hope Diamond is an antique cushion cut blue diamond with a weight of 45.52 carat. Before this name came into being, it was also known as Le Bijou du Roi (the King’s Jewel) or Le bleu de France ( France’s blue) or Tavernier Blue. This is perhaps the most famous diamond in the world.

Spanning more than 4 centuries, it has purportedly left a trail of curses and tragedies for those who wore it.  

The Legend

One legend had it that some 500 years ago, the Hope Diamond weighing 112.5ct was ripped from the forehead of a Hindu idol by a Hindu priest in a temple build by the worshippers of Rama, the Hindu God of Preservation.  The priest was caught and tortured to death when the missing diamond could not be recovered. 

Later, mysteriously, the stone appeared on the forehead of a statue of the Hindu goddess, Sita. In 1642, a French jeweler, Jean Baptiste Tavernier, who traveled extensively in India, said that he bought the 112 carat blue diamond in its original form. He believed that the stone came from the Kollur mine in Golconda, India where that ancient site was famous for many world’s famous diamonds. However, one story had it that Jean Tavernier had ripped the stone from the forehead of the of the Stature of Sita, the Hindu Goddess. In other words, Jean stole the gem.

Since then, the curse of the Stone would befall anyone who personally possessed it.

The Curse

Jean Baptiste Tavernier, after obtaining the Stone and sold it, was heavily indebted on gambling debts, failed in all his business ventures, became a bankrupt and later was torn to death by some rabid dogs in Russia

The gem then came into the possession of King Louis XIV of France, who had it cut to 67.5ct.  King Louis XIV’s kingdom was crippled by a series of war and he died a brokenhearted man.  King Louis XVI who inherited the diamond presented it to his Queen, Marie Antoinette who died on the guillotine.

A Dutch diamond cutter came in possession of the diamond, had it recut to 45.5ct and committed suicide when it was stolen from him.  Others who came to own this fabulous diamond were Jacques Colet who killed himself, Prince Ivan Kanitovitsky, who was murdered and Sultan Abdul Hamid of Turkey, who was dethroned.

In 1839, the recut piece of the “French Blue” showed up in London. It was purchased by Henry Phillip Hope, and the diamond had borne his name ever since. Somehow, Hope was spared while the curse of the diamond wrecked its vengeance on his descendant, Lord Francis Hope. After Francis Hope inherited the gem, he married an American showgirl and they lived an extravagant lifestyle that was far beyond his means. He was later forced to sell the Hope Diamond to pay off his debts. His wife dumped him and Francis Hope was declared a bankrupt. He died a lonely man.

Subsequently, the Hope Diamond made its way to New York City, and after changing hands with some diamond dealers, Pierre Cartier bought it in 1910. He reset the diamond and sold it to the scion of Washington Post, Edeard Beale McLean and his wife, the mining heiress and socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean in 1911.

Cartier had previously met the McLean couple in Paris and it was there that Evalyn saw the Hope Diamond for the first time. Mrs McLean had told Cartier that objects that other people considered as bad omen, might in turn be good fortune for her.

So Cartier, a smart and savvy jeweler, concocted tragic tales of previous owners who met with untimely and horrible death, revolutions, bankruptcies and divorces that attributed the malevolent curse of the diamond. This was to entice Evalyn to purchase the diamond.

After Evalyn bought the Hope Diamond, her family would suffered a succession of terrible misfortunes; her son tragically died in a car accident, her husband ran off with another woman and later ended up in a sanatorium, her daughter died of an overdose of sleeping pills and their family newspaper, the Washington Post went bankrupt. 

Though Evalyn died peacefully in 1947, the Blue Hope Diamond was sold to settle her debt.

Harry Winston, the New York diamond merchant purchased the stone in 1949. In 1958, Harry Winston donated the Blue Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History, where it has remained ever since.

This famous diamond is the museum most popular piece. According to the Smithsonian Institute, the Hope Diamond is priceless because it is irreplaceable. As at 2009, it was reportedly insured for $250 million.

Gemological Facts

Hope Diamond unmounted.

In December 1988, the Hope Diamond was formally graded by the world famous gemological laboratory, The GIA Gem Trade Laboratory from New York City.

Their findings are:

Weight: 45.52 ct

Shape:  Cushion Antique Brilliant Cut

Dimension: Length, Width & Depth: 25.60 x 21.78 x 12.00mm

Color: Fancy dark grayish blue, natural color

Clarity: VS1

Fluorescence: Exposure to short-wave ultraviolet light, specimen produces a brilliant red phosphorescence. The red glow indicates that there is a trace amount of boron and nitrogen. This type of diamond is known as the Type IIb diamond.

If you happen to be in Washington DC do not miss out this opportunity of going to the Smithsonian Institute to view this beautiful and rare diamond.  It is indeed a magnificent sight.

Photo Credit: thegreatcoursesdaily.com, smithsonianchannel.com, gia.edu, historydaily.org, express.co.uk, mountainsoftravelphotos.com, langantiques.com, gia.edu

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