Hope Diamond: A Curse-Filled Tale

By Frank

Highly experienced diamond polisher who loves to share his knowledge with you. Continues to stun his colleagues with interesting - or simply bizarre - facts about diamonds and gems.

September 11, 2019

For years, people are fascinated with the notorious Hope Diamond. It is a very interesting diamond with an even more interesting history. Read ahead and find out why this legendary gemstone is so revered.

Earlier, I already wrote about the Hope Diamond being the fourth most expensive diamond in the world. But there is more to this blue diamond than only the huge value. Rumors go that the Blue Hope is a cursed diamond… Let’s find out why that is.

History of the Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond is probably discovered in the 17th century in Golconda, India in the Kollur Mine. Back then, it was around 60 carats heavier than the stone as it is today. Before the gem got its current name, the Hope Diamond, it wore another: The Tavernier Blue.

blue gem among blue rocks

The Tavernier Blue

John Baptist Tavernier was a French Merchant. In the mid-17th century, he came across the beautiful blue stone that came from the Kollur Mine. Captivated by the stunning color, he decided to purchase it and name it after himself: the Tavernier Blue. Mr. Tavernier sold the diamond to the French King Louis XIV in 1668. The king referred to his latest asset as the “French Blue” or “Blue Diamond of the Crown”. The French Blue was the first recorded blue diamond in European history.

The French Blue

The king was very fond of his diamond. To be able to wear it more often, he ordered to recut the French Blue immensely. It lost a lot of its weight, but the diamond looked even better than before. The King wore the repolished gem on a neck ribbon for royal events. When King Louis XIV died in 1746, his great-grandson, Louis XV became king. He ordered the stone to be reset for the Order of the Golden Fleece in a brilliant red spinel. When King Louis XV passed, his grandson became king with Marie-Antoinette as his queen. From that moment on, Marie-Antoinette often wore the French Blue.

King Louis XIV
Portrait of King Louis XIV

In 1791, during the French Revolution, the Royal House gave the diamond to the government for safekeeping. Sadly, in 1972, it was stolen along with several other parts of the French Royal Treasury.

Resurfaced?

In the early 19th century, a large blue diamond carat diamond appeared in England. London diamond merchant Daniel Elisaon strongly believed that this diamond was the original French Blue diamond as it was similar in hue to the Tavernier Diamond. We assume the diamond was in the possession of King George IV. After his death, the Royal House sold it to pay off the late king’s debts.

The Hope Diamond

In 1839, a rare blue diamond resurfaced in the collection of Henry Philip Hope. There is no record of how the diamond came into his possession. But we do know he named the diamond after himself: the Hope Diamond. In his will, he left the Hope Diamond to his nephew Henry Thomas Hope who passed it on to his grandson, Lord Francis Hope. After held by many Hopes, it came in the hands of Pierre Cartier in 1909. In 1911, a socialite from Washington D.C., U.S.A., named Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean, purchased the Hope Diamond from Cartier’s in Paris, France. She purchased the diamond after it was set on a three-tiered headpiece. Shortly after purchasing, Mrs. Walsh McLean gave orders to reset the blue diamond in a necklace. The necklace contains 45 white diamonds. To this day, the Blue Hope Diamond is still in this setting.

Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean
Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean wearing the blue Hope Diamond in a necklace

Where is the Hope Diamond Today?

Upon Mrs. McLean’s death in 1949, Harry Winston Inc, purchased McLean’s entire jewelry collection. For the following ten years, it was on display at many worldwide events. On November 10, 1958, Winston donated it to the Smithsonian Institute, where it remains today.

Characteristics of the Hope Diamond

Over the course of time, the Hope Diamond changed a lot. After all, it was repolished and reset many diamonds. Currently, it has the following characteristics:

  • Weight: 45.52 carats
  • Length 25.60 mm
  • Width 21.78 mm
  • Depth 12.00 mm
  • Clarity: VS1. Whitish graining is present
  • Color: Fancy dark grayish-blue
  • Cut: Cushion antique brilliant, a faceted girdle and additional facets on the pavilion

blue hope diamond in current settingThe blue Hope Diamond in its current setting is on display at the Smithsonian Institute

The Curse of the Hope Diamond

Now you know how the Hope Diamond came into existence. So let us dive into the legend of the curse of the Hope Diamond.

The curse from a Hindi goddess

Ancient stories tell that diamond belonged in a statue of a Hindi goddess. Some theories state that Tavernier was the one who removed the stone. Others blame it on a faceless stranger who then sold it to Tavernier. But one thing was for sure: whoever took the diamond needed to be punished.

Tavernier

The first one, for as far as we know, who was in contact with the Hope Diamond, was Mr. Tavernier. Shortly after he sold the diamond to the French king, Jean Baptiste Tavernier traveled to Russia. The story is that while in Russia, wild dogs tore him apart. However, this was never confirmed.

Tavenier with his blue hope diamondTavernier with his drawings and notes of the “Tavernier Blue”

King Louis XIV

King Louis bought the “French Blue” not long before Tavernier’s death. While being the owner of the diamond, King Louis XIV died of gangrene. Moreover, all of his (legitimate) children but one died in childhood. In these times, the mortality rate due to gangrene was high and many children did not reach childhood. But was it all merely bad luck, or did it have something to do with the strange blue diamond?

King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

King Louis XV did not meet a gruesome death. But we cannot say the same about King Louis XVI and his wife. Some say the fact that Marie-Antoinette and her husband met their ghastly death by guillotine was subject to this curse. During the course of its history, the Hope Diamond is allegedly the source of many scandals, widespread disease, and violence.

Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI

Mrs. McLean

Also Mrs. McLean was perhaps a victim of the curse of the Hope Diamond. She herself didn’t die at a young age like Marie-Antoinette. But she did suffer a lot of misfortune. In a span of a few short years, both her 9-year-old son and mother-in-law passed away. Her husband left her after he had an illicit affair and later died in a mental institution. Shortly after, Mrs. McLean’s daughter died at the age of 25 after a drug overdose. When she died, Mrs. McLean left a massive amount of debt behind. McLean’s relatives sold the Hope Diamond to Henry Winston Inc., removing the curse from the family.

Is the Hope Diamond cursed?

Whether this curse is true, the Hope Diamond has a rich and somewhat haunted history. It is still on display at the Smithsonian, and to this day, still draws the most patrons, perhaps due to its ghastly history of death and demise. Learn more about the Hope Diamond and other famous pieces during one of our diamond tours.

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