There are several legends about the famous Hope Diamond, its origins, and the fate of those who possessed it. These legends have inspired authors to write fiction novels, and for more than three hundred years this mysterious stone has captivated people from around the world. It’s time to uncover the facts about this precious gem and discover if the tales that are surrounding this jewelry item were ever true.
Where Did The Hope Diamond Originate?
Diamonds are the hardest and most durable mineral known to mankind. They consist primarily of carbon and sometimes traces of other materials which can cause a slight variation of color. They are formed in the earth’s mantle about 100 miles or so below the surface where the carbon and other materials are placed under tremendous amounts of pressure for perhaps a billion years or longer. After formation they rise to the surface as a result of volcanic activity. Although some of the world’s largest diamond mines are in South Africa most diamond production today takes place in India where diamonds have been mined for at least 3,000 years and perhaps as far back as 6,000. The Hope Diamond is a large, one-of-a-kind, diamond from India with a beautiful deep blue color owing to a boron trace. The color is said to be a precise Fancy Dark Grayish Blue. Diamonds of this nature are indeed rare and valuable, but the Hope Diamond is thought to also be notorious owing to its alleged curse.
How Did The Hope Diamond Move to Europe?
History’s first record of the Hope Diamond comes from the efforts of a French gems trader named Jean-Baptiste Tavernier to acquire it (it became known as the Tavernier Blue) sometime in the mid 1600’s on one of his several trips to India. Tavernier either purchased or stole the diamond (it’s not clear which) and brought it to Paris presenting it later to King Louis XIV in 1668. The king bought the Tavernier Blue diamond along with a group of other diamonds for a sum that would equal approximately $7.75 million dollars in today’s world. The stone weighed about 115 carats at the time.
The French Blue
King Louis XIV had the diamond cut down to about 67 carats to improve its luster, and had it set in gold supported by a ribbon which the king wore during certain ceremonies. Upon the death of Louis XIV it passed to Louis XV who had it set with a large red spinel thought to be a ruby and used it as a decoration for the Order of the Golden Fleece. It later was passed to Louis XVI who possessed it until his execution in 1793. The crown jewels were looted after the French Revolution and the French Blue went missing for 20 years.
The London Version
In 1812 a London diamond merchant named Daniel Eliason possessed a large, blue diamond that resembled the missing French Blue. The London version was about 23 carats smaller ( about 45 carats) and cut differently possibly to hide its origins. It is believed that the cutting process was “butchered” and that the missing portion actually broke into smaller pieces. One of the pieces weighing 13.75 carats was passed to the wife of King George IV who sold it to support living separately from the Royal Family. In 1839 the London version was acquired by Henry Thomas Hope from the estate of his uncle, Henry Phillip Hope.
The Last Private Owner
The last private owner of the Hope Diamond was Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean, the daughter of an Irish immigrant who discovered a large gold strike around the turn of the last century. Mrs. McLean, a Washington, D.C. socialite, lead a lavish and tragic life. Her nine year old son was killed by a car in front of her estate, her daughter died of a drug overdose, and her husband had a mistress eventually ending up in an insane asylum. Mrs. McLean never recovered from her daughter’s death and died a year later in 1947. Her estate sold the Hope Diamond to a gems trader named Harry Stinson, who later donated it to the Smithsonian Institute where it resides today. The value of today’s Hope Diamond can only be discerned from the Smithsonian management’s decision to insure it for $250 million.
The Various Names of the Hope Diamond
Over the years the Hope Diamond has acquired several names. When it was owned by Tavernier it was known as the Tavernier Blue, and he described it as a beautiful violet. It was then termed the French Blue (Le bleu de France) when Tavernier brought it to Paris. When he sold it to King Louis XIV it was named The King’s Jewel (Le Bijou du Roi). The diamond was named the Hope Diamond after Henry Philip Hope who acquired it without any official record of its origins surfacing.
Was it Cursed?
Legend has it that the original stone was stolen from an idol in a monastery in India, and that the monks levied a curse of bad luck or death on not only whoever owned it but whoever touched it. Although certain maladies or misfortunes have struck some of the various owners there is no real proof that these issues were brought on as a result of possessing the diamond. One of the mesmerizing characteristics of the stone is that it exhibits an unusually intense and brilliant red phosphorescence after an exposure to short-wave ultraviolet light, and this fact might have spawned some of the curse stories. Tavernier, the French gems trader who allegedly stole it, continued his travels and gems dealing until he died in Moscow at the ripe old age of 84.