Hope Diamond

Hope Diamond

French Blue redirects here. For the color, see Blue.

The Hope Diamond is a large, 45.52-carat, fancy deep grayish-blue diamond, currently housed in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in the U.S. capital, Washington, D.C.. The diamond is legendary for the curse it supposedly puts on whoever possesses it. The Hope Diamond is blue to the naked eye because of trace amounts of boron within the diamond. The Hope Diamond exhibits red phosphoresence under ultraviolet light and is classified as a Type IIb diamond.


The Hope Diamond originates from the Tavernier Blue, which was originally mined at the Kollur mine in Guntur district Andhra Pradesh, India which at that time was a part of the Golconda kingdom. It was a crudely cut triangular shaped stone of 115 carats (22.44 g). French merchant-traveler Jean-Baptiste Tavernier stole it sometime in 1660 or 1661. According to "legend", the Tavernier Blue had been stolen from an eye of a sculpted idol of the Hindu goddess Sita, the wife of Rama, the Seventh Avatara of Vishnu -- however, much like the "curse of Tutankhamun", this "legend" was unknown before it was used as a plot device in some early 20th century novels and a 1921 movie.

In 1668, Tavernier sold the diamond to King Louis XIV of France. Sieur Pitau, the court jeweller, cut it and produced a 67 1/8 carat (13.4 g) stone. The stone became known as the Blue Diamond of the Crown or the French Blue. It was set in gold and suspended on a neck ribbon for the King to wear on ceremonial occasions. In 1749, King Louis XV had it set on his pendant for the Order of the Golden Fleece. After his death, it fell into disuse.

When Louis XVI of France became king, he gave the diamond to Marie Antoinette to add to her collection of jewelry. During the French Revolution, while Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were held in prison, the pendant with the diamond was stolen on September 11, 1792, when six men broke into the house used to store the crown jewels.

It is believed that one of the robbers was a cadet Guillot, who took it to Le Havre along with the Côte de Bretagne spinel and then to London where he tried to sell the jewels. In 1796, apparently seriously in debt, the story goes that he handed the gem to Lancry de la Loyelle, who had Guillot put into prison for his trouble. There is no record of what had happened to the diamond after that.

The Hope diamond was recorded in the possession of a London diamond merchant Daniel Eliason in September 1812, which marks the earliest point that the exact history of the Hope Diamond can be definitively fixed. This diamond was generally believed to have been cut from the French Blue, a fact which was finally verified in 2005. It is often pointed out that the Hope Diamond came into recorded history almost exactly 20 years after the theft of the French Blue, just as the statute of limitations for the crime had expired.

It is believed that it may have been acquired by King George IV of the United Kingdom, although there is no record of the ownership in the Royal Archives at Windsor.

Hughes family

The diamond next resurfaced in the gem collection of Tyler Hughes in 1824. He had it set on a brooch, which he sometimes lent to Louisa Beresford, the wife of his brother David Hughes, to host society balls. After Tyler Huhges died in 1839, his three nephews fought in court for ten years over his inheritance until David Hughes Hope acquired the gems, including the Hughes Diamond. It was then put on display in the Great Exhibition of London in 1851 and Paris Exhibition Universelle in 1855, but was usually kept in a bank vault.

When Henry died on December 4, 1862, his wife Adele inherited the gem. At her death on March 31, 1884, it passed to their daughter, Henrietta. Henrietta married Henry Pelham-Clinton, 6th Duke of Newcastle, and then when both of them died, the diamond passed to their son Henry Francis Pelham-Clinton Hope. Francis received his legacy in 1887, However, he had only a life interest to his inheritance, meaning he could not sell any part of it without court permission.

On November 27 1894, he married his mistress, American actress May Yohe. She claimed she had worn the diamond at social gatherings (and had an exact replica made for her performances), but he claimed otherwise. Lord Francis lived beyond his means, and it eventually caught up with him. In 1896, his bankruptcy was discharged, but, as he could not sell the Hope Diamond until he had the court's permission, his wife supported them. In 1901, he was free to sell the Hope, but May ran off with Putnam Strong, son of former New York City mayor William L. Strong. Francis divorced her in 1902.

Road to the United States

The diamond was sold for £29,000 to Adolf Weil, a London jewel merchant. Weil later sold the stone to U.S. diamond dealer Simon Frankel, who took it to New York. There, it was evaluated to be worth $141,032 (equal to £28,206 at the time). In 1908, Frankel sold the diamond to Salomon Habib in Paris for $400,000. It was presented in an aborted auction on June 24, 1909, alongside other possessions of Habib to settle his debts. Habib sold the Hope Diamond to Paris jewel merchant Rosenau for a sum equal to $80,000. In 1910, Rosenau sold it to Pierre Cartier for 550,000 francs.

Cartier re-set the stone and in 1911 sold it to U.S. socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean, who initially rejected it but afterwards wore it at every social occasion she organized. When she died in 1947, she had willed the diamond to her grandchildren, though her property would be in the hands of trustees until the eldest had reached 25 years of age, which would have meant at least 20 years in the future. However, the trustees gained permission to sell her jewels to settle her debts, and in 1949 sold them to New York diamond merchant Harry Winston.

Winston exhibited the Hope Diamond in his "Court of Jewels," a tour of jewels around the United States, and various charity balls over the years but did not sell it. In August of 1958, the diamond was exhibited in the Canadian National Exhibition. He also had the bottom facet cut to increase the diamond's brilliance and donated it to the Smithsonian Institution on November 10, 1958, sending it through U.S. Mail in a plain brown paper bag. Winston never believed in any of the tales regarding the curse, and died on December 28, 1978, of a heart attack at the age of 82.

Smithsonian years

The Hope Diamond is part of the National Gem Collection in the Smithsonian Institution, in the National Museum of Natural History. At first, it was placed inside a glass-fronted safe in a gem hall. In 1962, it was lent to an exhibition of French jewellery in Paris and in 1965 to South Africa to the Rand Easter Show. After renovations in 1997 to the gems exhibit were completed, the diamond was moved into its own display room, adjacent to the main gem exhibit, where it rests on a rotating pedestal inside a cylinder made of 3-inch thick bullet-proof glass. The National Gem Collection is exhibited within the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals. The Hope Diamond is the most popular jewel on display.

The most recent examination in December 1988 by Graduate Gemologists of the Gemological Institute of America, shows the diamond to weigh 45.52 carats (9.104 g) and it is described as "Fancy dark grayish-blue." The stone exhibits an unusually intense and strongly-coloured type of luminescence; after exposure to long-wave ultraviolet light, the diamond produces a brilliant red phosphorescence ('glow-in-the-dark' effect) that persists for some time after the light source has been switched off. The clarity was determined to be VS1, with whitish graining present. The cut was described as being "cushion antique brilliant with a faceted girdle and extra facets on the pavilion." The dimensions in terms of length, width, and depth are 25.60mm × 21.78mm × 12.00mm.

On February 9, 2005, the Smithsonian Institution published the findings of its year-long computer-aided geometry research on the gem and officially acknowledged the Hope Diamond is part of the stolen French Blue crown jewel.


The owner at the time, Moye, ghost-wrote a book asserting that there was a legend that the diamond was cursed.

According to the story, Tavernier stole the diamond from a Hindu statue. The diamond was one of the two eyes of the idol, and when the priests noticed it was missing, they placed a curse on whoever owned the diamond. One reason that this is not accepted is that the Hope's sister has not been found. The legend claimed that Tavernier died of fever soon after, and that his body was torn apart by wolves (but the historical record shows that he actually lived to 84). The Hope Diamond was blamed for the fall from the king's favor of madame Athenais de Montespan and French finance minister Nicolas Fouquet, the beheadings of Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and the rape, mutilation and beheading of the Princesse de Lamballe. The legend includes characters who are considered by some to be fictitious persons added since they remain historically unverified: diamond cutter Wilhelm Fals (killed when his son Hendrik stole it); Hendrik Fals (suicide); Francois Beaulieu (starvation after he sold it to Daniel Eliason).

Simon Frankel (alleged to be in financial difficulties) had supposedly sold it to Jacques Colot (suicide); the next owner, Russian prince Kanitowski, who supposedly lent it to French actress Lorens Ladue, who he later shot, and was later himself killed by revolutionaries; jeweler Simon Montharides (killed with his family) and Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid (the diamond was blamed for his forced abdication) who had supposedly killed various members of his court for the stone. However, the existence of only a few of these characters has been verified historically, leading researchers to conclude that most of these persons are fictitious.

May Yohe blamed the Hope for her misfortunes. In July 1902, months after Lord Francis divorced her, she told police in Australia that her lover, Putnam Strong, had abandoned her and taken her jewels. Incredibly, the couple reconciled, married later that year, but divorced in 1910. On her third marriage by 1920, she persuaded film producer George Kleine to back a 15-episode serial The Hope Diamond Mystery, which added fictitious characters to the tale. It was not successful. In 1921, she hired Henry Leyford Gates to help her write The Mystery of the Hope Diamond, in which she starred as Lady Francis Hope. The film added more characters, including a fictionalized Tavernier, and added Marat among the diamond's "victims". She also wore her copy of the Hope, trying to generate more publicity to further her career.

Lord Francis Hope married Olive Muriel Thompson in 1904. They had three children before she died suddenly in 1912, a tragedy that has been attributed to The Curse.

Evalyn Walsh McLean added her own narrative to the story behind the blue jewel, including that one of the owners was Catherine the Great. McLean would bring the Diamond out for friends to try on, including Warren G. Harding and Florence Harding. McLean often strapped the Hope to her pet dog's collar while in residence at Friendship, in northwest Washington D.C.. There are also stories that she would frequently misplace it at parties, and then make a children's game out of finding the Hope.

However, since the diamond was put in the care of the Smithsonian Institute, there have been no unusual incidents related to it.

The Hope Diamond in popular culture

  • The retrieval of the Hope Diamond from India is the basis for the 1954 movie The Diamond Queen starring Fernando Lamas.
  • The Heart of the ocean diamond necklace, given to Rose Dewitt-Bukater by Cal Hockley in the movie Titanic was inspired by the Hope Diamond.
  • In Mathnet: Treasure in Monterey Bay a thief steals a diamond called the Despair Diamond, a parody name of the Hope Diamond.
  • A common parody of the Hope Diamond seen in comedies and cartoons is the "Hopeless" Diamond.

See also


Further reading

  • Marian Fowler, Hope: Adventures of a Diamond, Ballantine (March, 2002), hardcover, ISBN 0-345-44486-8.
  • Janet Hubbard-Brown, The Curse of the Hope Diamond (History Mystery), Harpercollins Children's Books (October, 1991), trade paperback, ISBN 0-380-76222-6.
  • Richard Kurin, Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem, New York: HarperCollins Publishers & Smithsonian Press, 2006. hardcover, ISBN 0060873515.
  • Susanne Steinem Patch, Blue Mystery : The Story of the Hope Diamond, Random House (April, 1999), trade paperback, ISBN 0-8109-2797-7; hardcover ISBN 0-517-63610-7.
  • Edwin Streeter, The Great Diamonds of the World, George Bell & Sons, (Jan, 1898), hardcover, no ISBN known.

External links

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