A History of the Hope Diamond

When it comes to famous jewelry, few pieces are as highly recognized or prized as the Hope Diamond. Its illustrious azure appearance has captured the imagination of many, including one James Cameron. Although the piece worn by Kate Winslet was called the Heart of the Ocean in the film Titanic, it’s easy to see how the Hope Diamond inspired its fictional counterpart.

Fortunately, the real jewel has a history that rivals that of any Hollywood blockbuster. At Mark’s Diamonds, we appreciate beauty in all its forms, so we wanted to take a deep dive into the story of this exquisite piece. From a mine in India to the Smithsonian Museum, this diamond has been on a wild journey.

The Origins of Hope

Back in the mid-1600s, a French merchant named Jean Baptiste Tavernier was visiting India’s diamond mines. During a trip to the Kollur Mine in Golconda, he came across a massive and stunning jewel. In his notes, Tavernier described the diamond as a “beautiful violet.”

In its original form, the gem was roughly cut and somewhat triangular. It was also one of the biggest diamonds in history at 112 3/16 carats. A diamond fit for a king.

In 1668, Tavernier visited the French monarch, King Louis the XIV and sold him the uncut gem, along with 14 other diamonds of varying sizes. Because the biggest stone was still rough, the king ordered the court jeweler, Sieur Pitau, to turn it into something more pristine.

Finally, in 1672, the resulting diamond was unveiled before the royal court. Pitau had shaved off a significant portion of the gem, as its weight was now 67 1/8 carats. However, even at its diminished size, it was legendary. The king’s inventory described the diamond as a steely blue with unmatched intensity.

Because of its striking color, the stone was dubbed “The Blue Diamond of the Crown” or “French Blue.” Despite the name, the king actually wore the diamond around his neck during formal proceedings and gatherings. Pitau set the stone in gold with a golden chain, making it even more remarkable.

One hundred years later, in 1749, King Louis the XV had the stone reset into a piece of ceremonial jewelry for the Order of the Golden Fleece. The French Blue Diamond stayed that way until the French Revolution when the gem was stolen. The last time anyone saw it in the palace was September of 1792.

From French Blue to Hope Diamond

By 1812, a London diamond merchant named Daniel Eliason was somehow in possession of the French Blue stone. It’s unclear how he came to own it, but one theory is that the gem wound up in the hands of King George IV of the UK. To help settle the crown’s debts, the king sold the diamond, possibly to Eliason directly. At this time, the stone had been recut, although it maintained the same steely blue appearance.

In 1839, the diamond ended up in the collection of Henry Philip Hope. Hope belonged to a wealthy family, having inherited the Hope & Co. Bank. Using his family’s fortune, he was an avid collector, accumulating a wide assortment of rare gems, artwork, and other oddities. The former French Blue stone was listed in Hope’s gem catalog, although with no mention of where he bought it or for how much. However, since Hope was based in London, it’s possible that he purchased it from Eliason.

That same year, the newly dubbed “Hope Diamond” was passed onto Henry’s nephew after his death. From there, the gem moved through a variety of owners, most of whom had to sell the stone to pay off debts. From Hope’s nephew, it went to Lord Francis Hope, who sold it in 1901. Next, it belonged to a London dealer, who then sold it to Joseph Frankels and Sons of New York City. They then sold it to Selim Habib, who put the diamond up for auction in 1909. Although it didn’t sell at that auction, it finally wound up in the hands of Pierre Cartier.

The Hope Diamond Curse

Because this diamond has passed through so many hands, usually under precarious circumstances, many people believe that it’s cursed. When you look at its history, a pattern does emerge. Consider:

-Jean Baptiste Tavernier, the original buyer, was allegedly mauled by a pack of dogs after selling the stone to the king.

-King Louis and Marie Antoinette lost control of the diamond because of the French Revolution.

-King George had to sell the gem to pay off debts.

-After Hope’s death in 1839, most owners of the diamond experienced terrible luck. Divorces, suicides, drug addiction – all attributed to people who’ve had direct contact with the diamond.

Realistically, the stone is no more cursed than any other jewel, but it’s interesting to see so many people succumb to less than desirable fates. Presumably, to buy a gem of this size implies that a person is well-off, and yet it was bought and sold for years until 1958 when it wound up at the Smithsonian Museum. The Hope Diamond currently sits there to this day.

We have a collection of heirloom quality diamonds (that aren’t cursed) in our showroom and online! Check them out today!

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