Thursday, 28 July 2016

Curse of the Hope Diamond

The legend is said to begin with a theft. Several centuries ago a large blue diamond from the forehead (or eye) of a statue of the Hindu goddess Sita was stolen. For this transgression, according to the legend, the stone would carry a curse of death until returned to the idol.

In 1642 Jean Baptiste Tavernier, a French jeweler who traveled extensively, visited India and bought a 112 3/16 carat blue diamond. (the Hope has been cut down at least twice in the past three centuries.) The diamond is believed to have come from the Kollur mine in Golconda, India.
Tavernier continued to travel and arrived back in France in 1668, twenty-six years after he bought the large, blue diamond.

French King Louis XIV, the "Sun King," ordered Tavernier presented at court. From Tavernier, Louis XIV bought the blue diamond as well as forty-four large diamonds and 1,122 smaller diamonds. Tavernier was made a noble and died at the age 84 in Russia. (It is not known how he died although the myth says he was torn apart by dogs, thus becoming the first death attributed to the curse.)
When Louis XV died, his grandson, Louis XVI, became king with Marie Antoinette as his queen. According to legend, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were beheaded during the French Revolution because of the blue diamond's curse.
In September 1791, the blue diamond was stolen. It resurfaced in London by 1813 and was owned by jeweler Daniel Eliason by 1823. King George IV of England bought the blue diamond from Daniel Eliason and upon King George's death, the diamond was sold to pay off debts. By 1839 the blue diamond was in the possession of Henry Philip Hope, from whom the Hope diamond has taken its name.
The legend says the curse bankrupted the Hope family. While it is true that by 1901 Hope descendants were no longer rich, gambling and high spending by third generation Francis Hope was responsible for the downfall, not any curse.
Simon Frankel, an American jeweler, bought the Hope diamond in 1901 and brought it to the United States. The diamond changed hands several times during the next several years, ending with Pierre Cartier.

Pierre Cartier believed he had found a buyer in the rich Evalyn Walsh McLean. Since Mrs. McLean had previously told Pierre Cartier that objects usually considered bad luck turned into good luck for her, Cartier made sure to emphasize the Hope diamond's negative history. Evalyn McLean wore the diamond constantly. According to one story, it took persuading by Mrs. McLean's doctor to get her to take off the necklace even for a goiter operation.
McLean's first born son, Vinson, died in a car crash when he was nine. McLean suffered another major loss when her daughter committed suicide at age 25. In addition, Evalyn McLean's husband was declared insane and confined to a mental institution until his death in 1941.
Evalyn McLean's jewelry was put on sale in 1949, two years after her death, in order to settle debts from her estate. The Hope diamond was bought by Harry Winston, a New York jeweler, and in 1958 he donated the Hope diamond to the Smithsonian Institution to be the focal point of a newly established gem collection.

The Hope diamond is currently on display as part of the National Gem and Mineral Collection in the National Museum of Natural History for all to see.