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Famous Diamonds Series: The Hope Diamond

17 Mar / 10
Famous Diamonds Series: The Hope Diamond Famous Diamonds Series: The Hope Diamond
The Hope diamond is famous for its unusual colour; it is a rich dark blue similar to a Sapphire. Blue diamonds occur when Boron is a trace element in the gemmological make up of the stone. There are great a myth about this diamond, that is brings misfortune and bad luck to its owners giving it the nickname the “Diamond of disaster”. This 45.52 carat historic gem is said to be most likely from the Kollur mine in Golconda, discovered in the mid seventeenth century.

The stone was first bought by a French merchant traveler, Jean Baptiste Tavernier. He sold it to Louis XIV of France in early 1668. At this time it was called the Tavernier blue. The original weight of the stone was 110.50 carats. Four years after purchasing the stone Louis XIV had it re cut in 1673. It was cut into a heart shape, shrinking the diamond down to 67.13 carats. The gem was set in various pieces of the French crown jewels and eventually it was set in the Golden Fleece alongside a large Spinel. It was passed down and worn by various members of the French royal family. It was rumored that Marie Antoinette was one of those cursed by the ownership of the diamond. However it is unlikely as it remained in the Golden Fleece while it was in her possession, and the fleece was exclusively worn by men.

In 1792, after an attempt by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to flee France, the jewels of the French Royal Treasury were turned over to the government. They were put on display to the public and in 1792 the French Blue diamond was stolen. It was rumored that the thief named Cadet Guillot stole the Golden Fleece containing the diamond and boarded a ship to London. The stone then went missing for twenty years; this period is considered to be the most mysterious in history of the blue diamond. It is believed it was kept in secrecy for exactly twenty years because in 1804 the French assembly has passed an amnesty law under which all crimes committed in times of war are forgiven after twenty years. It was found in the possession of diamond merchant Daniel Eliason, it had also been re cut and it was now an openly marketable gem. It was later proven by the Smithsonian institution that this stone was indeed the former French crown jewel.

No more of the blue diamond was heard until 1839 when its ownership to Henry Phillip Hope became known, the man from whom the diamond takes its name. Unfortunately, there is no information about from whom Hope acquired the diamond or how much he paid for it.

Following the death of Henry Philip Hope, the diamond passed to his nephew Henry Thomas Hope and then to the nephew's grandson Lord Francis Hope. In 1901 Lord Francis Hope obtained permission from the Court of Chancery and his sisters to sell the stone to help pay off his debts. It was sold to a London dealer who sold it to Joseph Frankels and Sons of New York City, where the stone remained in New York until the owners in turn, needed cash. The diamond was next sold to Selim Habib who put it up for auction in Paris in 1909. It did not sell at the auction but was sold soon after to C.H. Rosenau and then resold to Pierre Cartier that year.

In 1910 the Hope diamond was shown to Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean, of Washington D.C., at Cartier in Paris. She loved the stone but the setting was not to her taste. Cartier had the diamond reset and took it to America, where it was left with Mrs. McLean for a weekend. This strategy was successful. The sale was made in 1911 with the diamond mounted as a headpiece on a three-tiered circlet of large white diamonds. Later it became the pendant on a diamond necklace as we know it today. Mrs. McLean's ownership of the stone lasted until her death in 1947.

In 1949 Harry Winston of New York City purchased Mrs. McLean's entire jewellery collection, including the Hope diamond. Harry Winston had the courage to re-cut the jewel—thus raising it to the very pinnacle of brilliance. For the next 10 years the Hope diamond was shown at many exhibits and charitable events world wide by Harry Winston, including as the central attraction of their Court of Jewels exhibition.

On November 10, 1958, Harry Winston donated the Hope diamond to the Smithsonian Institution, and almost immediately the great blue stone became its premier attraction. The Hope diamond is one of the most famous diamonds in the world, this year, to celebrate the anniversary of its donation to it has been reset into a necklace and can currently be seen at the Smithsonian Institution.

The weight of the Hope diamond for many years was reported to be 44.5 carats. In 1974 it was removed from its setting and found actually to weigh 45.52 carats. It is classified as a type IIb diamond. The Hope diamond phosphoresces a strong red color, which will last for several seconds after exposure to short wave ultra-violet light. It was graded by the Gemological Institute of America to be VS1 in clarity and the color is fancy deep grayish blue.
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