The Turbulent History of the Hope Diamond
The largest deep blue diamond in the world, no other jewel has captured the attention of diamond lovers the world over as has the Hope diamond.  A gem with an illustrious past, legend tells that it originated from an Indian temple, having been plucked from the eye of an idol of the goddess Sita.  While we can’t always rely on the precision of legends, what is known is that its geological origin is mostly likely the Killur mine in Golconda, India.  At some point following its excision from the mine, it was purchased as a 112³/16 carat diamond in the mid-17th century by French merchant traveler Jean Baptiste Tavernier.  How it navigated from the mine to Tavernier remains a mystery, but what follows next is nonetheless a tale of adventure.

Tavernier returned to France and sold the rough-cut stone in 1668 to King Louis XIV, who, after ordering it re-cut to enhance its brilliance, wore it often, suspended on a neck ribbon.  The stone was re-set in 1749 when the king’s successor, Louis XV, commissioned a ceremonial piece of jewelry for the Order of the Golden Fleece.  During the tenure of Louis XVI, the next king in the line of succession, who attempted to flee France with Marie Antoinette in 1791, the jewels of the French Royal Treasury were turned over to the government where an inventory commenced by order of the National Assembly.  A futile effort indeed, however, as the crown jewels were plundered by a band of thieves as they rested in the Garde-Meuble, in public view.  Along with them, the Hope diamond vanished.

It wasn’t until 1812 that the diamond, or one of similar description, was discovered in the possession of a London diamond merchant, according to documentation.  Although re-cut, evidence suggests it may have been acquired by England’s King George IV, upon whose death it was sold in order to neutralize the excessive debts incurred during his reign.

The Hope diamond took its name in 1839 from Henry Philip Hope, who became the next known owner of the gem, although no records exist as to the origin or cost of the acquisition.  Upon his death, it passed to his nephew, Henry Thomas Hope, and on to his nephew’s grandson, Lord Francis Hope, who sold the stone in 1901 to a London dealer to compensate for his considerable debts.  Over the next eight years, the diamond changed hands five times, with Pierre Cartier being the fifth owner.

In 1911, Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean, of Washington, D.C., purchased the diamond at Cartier’s in Paris after he had re-set the gem into a pendant containing 16 white diamonds, both pear-shapes and cushion cuts, which was then hung on a necklace chain containing 45 white diamonds—the setting for which it is known today.  

In 1949, two years after her death, Harry Winston purchased Mrs. McLean’s entire jewelry collection, including the Hope diamond.  Following 10 years enduring exhibit showings and charitable events, Harry Winston Inc. donated the Hope diamond to the Smithsonian Institution, where it resides to this day.

Having been reduced over the years, the Hope diamond today is 45.52 carats, a Cushion antique brilliant cut with a faceted girdle.  Its color is classified as fancy dark grayish-blue with VS1 clarity.  The dimensions are 25.60 mm in length, 21.78 mm in width, and 12.00 mm in depth. 

Some believe the Hope diamond is cursed—a result of its legendary origins—and that ill-fate followed those who possessed it.  Whether its owners were forced to endure bankruptcy, untimely death, or revolution, it can’t be denied that the Hope diamond underwent a long and arduous journey from its origins to what appears to be its final resting place.  No other stone known to the world has experienced such a turbulent history.
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