The Hope Diamond is an infamously breathtaking jewel whose long, tortured history is shrouded in mystery, intrigue, decadence and a rumored curse. The saga of the exquisite deep grayish-blue gem starts hundreds of years ago and millions of miles away from its resting place, The Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington D.C. Millions of people flock to the museum to catch a glimpse of its brilliant design, deep-sea blue hue and gossip about the “curse” bestowed on anyone who has owned it.
To fully understand the scope of the mystery surrounding the Hope diamond, one must first hear the tale of an ancient Hindu legend surrounding it. According to the legend, the diamond in its original form was stolen from the eye of a sculpture of Sita. She was the wife of the god Rama. The curse asserts that all who possess the diamond would encounter misfortune. However, many believe that this story was attached to the diamond to give it a mysterious past and to add sales appeal.
Before the Hope Diamond even existed, it is believed to have been apart of a larger cut, the Tavernier Blue diamond. The stone was a whopping 115 carats and named after the French merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier who brought the diamond back to Europe and sold it to King Louis XIV in 1669. There is no direct link to any exact dates to when and where Tavernier purchased the diamond, but historians are certain that it was between the years 1640 and 1667 in India. Louis XIV had the stone cut into a 67 1/8 carat stone that jewelry historians would later call the French Blue. The French Blue was set in several different arrangements before it disappeared shortly after the fall of the royal family during the French Revolution. Many of the Crown Jewels were stolen during the revolution; some of the gems were recovered but the French Blue was not. The French Blue turned up in England in 1812 when a jewelry merchant named Donald Eliason, listed the gem as one of his prized possessions. Although there is no direct paperwork, there is strong evidence that this blue diamond, eventually called the Hope Diamond, was cut from the French Blue.
The diamond did not appear in any catalogs again until 1839, as part of Henry Philip Hope’s collection of gems. The diamond stayed in the family until 1909, when it was sold to an auction house to pay off the family’s debt. The diamond bounced around to different buyers but eventually found its way into the hands of famed-jeweler Pierre Cartier around 1909. Cartier sold the gem to millionaire heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean in 1911 after resetting the stone amidst an outer layer of large white diamonds. As part of his sales pitch, he told her the long tale of tragedy and misfortune that seemed to accompany the stone. The flamboyant heiress flaunted the gem at many a party until her death in 1947. Two years later, the Hope Diamond along with Mrs. MacLean’s entire jewelry collection was purchased by Harry Winston Incorporated. After displaying the diamond at charitable events all over the world, Winston donated the infamous gem to the Smithsonian Institute in 1958.
The Hope Diamond has long been attached to a mischievous curse. There are many stories of woe attached to anyone that has owned it. For example; Tavernier, the French merchant who brought the diamond to Europe was said to have been killed by a pack of wild dogs. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are said to have had their monarchy stripped from them and were killed as a result of owning the French Blue. The Hope family, who passed the diamond on to several generations experienced untimely deaths in the family and financial ruin. Mrs. MacLean, the last private owner, suffered the loss of her nine-year old son in an auto accident, her husband ran off with another woman, her daughter died of a drug over dose and she was forced to sell her family’s newspaper The Washington Post. Although the circumstances surrounding these events are vague, often unsubstantiated, and, if true, the outcomes were probably the cause of uncontrollable events, many historians say it is more intriguing to link it to the diamond. The Hope Diamond is already an extraordinarily beautiful piece of jewelry but the curse adds a dangerous appeal for all those who flock to the Smithsonian to look at the astonishing 45.52 carat diamond.