Hope Diamond – A Blue Stone with History, maybe a Curse

The Hope Diamond is known as a large, beautiful, natural blue diamond.  Many stories have been told about this gemstone, including a time in its life when its location was unknown.  Let’s have a look at some of the details about the history of this famous blue diamond.

Hope Blue Diamond

Photo by Dane A. Penland Smithsonian Institution

History of the Tavernier Blue

Jean-Baptiste Tavernier

Tavernier Blue mineralsciences.si.edu

The Hope Diamond started its life as portion of the famous Tavernier Blue diamond.  The Tavernier Blue that weighed 112 carats had been cut by Indian lapidaries to retain the most weight and as a result it was not symmetrical or brilliant.  This was a diamond obtained by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier in 1642 and it was from the Kollur mine near Golconda in India.  When Tavernier was presented to King Louis XIV, Tavernier sold him 22 diamonds, including the Tavernier Blue, which was then officially designated as ‘The Blue Diamond of the Crown’ (diamant bleu de la Couronne de Franc).  English speakers commonly refered to the stone as the ‘French Blue’.  The Blue accounted for 222,000 livres of the total 897,731 livres paid to Tavernier for the 22 diamonds.

The Tavernier Blue was supposedly cut into three stones.  The largest would eventually be recut a second time and called the Hope Diamond at 44.52 carats.  The second largest at 13.75 carats was eventually sold by the Duke of Brunswick in 1874 in Geneva.  The smallest at 1.74 carats was bought by a Paris jeweller in 1862 and two years later sold to a Bond Street jeweller called Edwin W. Streeter.

King Louis XIV

French Blue mineralsciences.si.edu

King Louis XIV had the stone recut for brilliance and it then weighed 67.50 carats.  The French Blue and most of the French crown jewels were stolen during the French Revolution (1789–1799) and the French Blue was never recovered.  The theft was rumoured to have been politically motivated; at one time Marie Antoinette was accused of instigating the theft.

Henry Philip Hope has a Large Blue Diamond

Hope Diamond

Hope Diamond mineralsciences.si.edu

The stone disappeared from all records until it appeared in 1839 in the collection catalog of a banker and gem collector called Henry Philip Hope (it is not clear how much he paid or where he bought the stone).  Now the blue stone has been recut and weighs  only 45.52 carats and is renamed the  “Hope Diamond”, after Henry Philip Hope.

There are stories that the French Blue was cut into two stones, but the second stone cannot be accounted for and a recent CAD reconstruction of the French Blue fits too tightly around the Hope Diamond to allow for the existence of such a second stone.  When Henry Philip Hope died in 1939, the stone passed to his eldest nephew Henry Thomas Hope, and then eventually it passed to the nephew’s  grandson Lord Francis Hope.  In 1901, the Hope Diamond was sold to a London dealer to pay off debts.  It was then sold to Joseph Frankels and Sons of New York City (who sold it to raise cash) to Selim Habib ( a wealthy Turkish diamond collector).  Then it was put up for auction in Paris in 1909, it did not sell, but was soon bought by C.H. Rosenau, who resold it to Pierre Cartier within a year.

Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean

Hope Diamond

Hope Diamond mineralsciences.si.edu

In 1910, Pierre Cartier showed the Hope Diamond to Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean.  She did not like the setting, so Cartier created a new setting with the diamond mounted as a head-piece on a three-tiered circlet of white diamonds.  Mrs. McLean bought the diamond in 1911.  Later it was put into a pendant surrounded by 16 white diamonds (both pear shapes and cushion cuts) and placed on a necklace chain of 45 white diamonds.  Mrs. McLean owned the necklace until her death in 1947.

Donation of the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution

In 1949, Harry Winston Inc. purchased all of Evalyn Walsh McLean’s jewellery, including the Hope Diamond.  For the next ten years the Hope Diamond was shown by Harry Winston Inc. at various charitable events.  On November 10th, 1958 Harry Winston Inc. donated the Hope Diamond and the necklace to the Smithsonian Institution.  It has only left the Smithsonian Institution four times since it was donated.

Famous Diamond Replicas

Scott Sucher has created a website that has replicated famous diamonds and contains information about these diamonds (www.MuseumDiamonds.com).  You can see replicas of the diamonds (such as the Tavernier Blue, the French Blue and the Hope Diamond) without traveling the world to find them in museums.

Curse of the Hope Diamond

Voice of America has created a video with an interview with Jeffrey Post, a geologist with the Smithsonian Institution, who discusses the curse of the Hope Diamond.

If you would like to read  more about the evidence that the Hope Diamond is cursed, there is an interesting  list on the American Public Broadcasting Service website where the Hope Diamond is named one of the Treasures of the World.

A New Temporary Setting for the Hope Diamond called ‘Embracing Hope’

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the donation of the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution the Hope Diamond will be on display in a new, temporary setting from November 18, 2010 to November 18, 2011.  I have seen the new setting and I prefer it in its original setting.  The American public voted on-line for this design, it is called ‘Embracing Hope’ and was designed my master craftsmen at Harry Winston Inc.  This new design demonstrates how the same stone can be used in different ways with different results.  Do you like this new setting?

Hope Diamond Temporary Setting

Photo Smithsonian Institution

More information on the Hope Diamond can be found on the Smithsonian Institution website.

Your Input (Join our poll or scroll down and leave a comment)

Hope Diamond Close Up

Photo by Chip Clark Smithsonian Institute

I plan to introduce different gemstones alphabetically.  I will start with “A” (Ammolite) and see where it leads me.  Leave a comment and let me know if you have a favourite gemstone that starts with the letter “I” (Hope Diamond for ‘H’).  Take the poll!  Can you name a reference to a gemstone in a song, movie or book?


About Jen McKercher

Jennifer McKercher teaches gemmology at the Canadian Gemmological Association. A passion for gemstones drives Jen to learn as much as she can about the wonders of gemstones and how they enhance our lives.

Posted on August 31, 2011, in Individual Gemstones and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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