The Hope Diamond
The Diamond of Death
The Hope Diamond is more aptly named the Diamond of Death, for it’s thought to hold a curse that brings tragedy and misfortune to all who possess it. The blue diamond is thought to have originally came from the Kollur Mine in Golconda, India and weighed 112.5 carats, making it one of the world’s largest and most valuable jewels.
According to legend, a priest stole it from the forehead of an Hindu idol, which was dedicated to Rama Sita. The priest was tortured to death.
Jean Baptiste Tavernier, a French merchant, acquired the jewel in 1642 and took it to Europe. In 1668, he sold it to King Louis XIV who had the court jeweler cut it to just over 67 carats to enhance its brilliance and named it “The Blue Diamond of the Crown.” The King wore it on ceremonial occasions. Misfortune met Louis as well. He died a shattered man with his empire in ruins. The diamond, known as the “French Blue,” was left to his heirs who fared no better. Princess de Lamballe was beaten to death by street mobs and King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were beheaded–the French Crown jewels were stolen along with the Blue Diamond of the Crown.
As for Tavernier, he didn’t escape the curse either.
He returned to India, hoping to make another fortune and was set upon by a pack of wild dogs. In short order, he was torn to pieces.
For a while the diamond vanished but it would resurface.
Queen Maria Louisa of Spain wore a diamond that looked much like the French Blue in a portrait painted by Goya in 1800.
There are reports that the jinxed diamond was recut to its present size of 45.52 carats (about walnut sized) by Wilhelm Fals, a Dutch diamond cutter to hide the jewel’s identity. Fals is said to have died of grief after his son, Hendrick stole the gem from him. Hendrick, in turn, committed suicide.
Next it turned up in London. King George IV acquired it and died penniless in 1830.
Wealthy London banker, Henry Philip Hope, would be its next owner and would give the cursed jewel its name. Unfortunately, the name didn’t lend that quality to the evil stone and when it was passed down to his nephew’s grandson, Lord Franci Hope, the unfortunate owner suffered from an accidental shooting that caused him to have his leg amputated. In addition, he went bankrupt and was forced to sell the diamond in 1902.
It changed hands several times during the next few years. Some claim that it was bought by An Eastern European prince who gave it to an actress of the Folies Bergere and later shot her. A Greek owner and his family plunged to their death over a precipice in an automobile accident. The Turkish sultan Abdul-Hamid II had owned the gem only a few months when an army revolt toppled him from his throne in 1909.
The diamond got into Pierre Cartier’s hands and in 1912, it was sold to Evalyn McLean, the eccentric wife of American tycoon, Edward Beal McLean for $180,000. Worried about the diamond’s curse, Pierre told her all about its history before he sold it to her, but she wasn’t worried, claiming that objects usually considered bad luck turned into good luck in her hands.
She was wrong.
Not long afterward, Mclean’s mother and two household servants died. Then the McLean’s nine-year-old son was killed in a automobile accident, and their 25-year old daughter committed suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills. Edward and his wife divorced, and he died in a mental institution.
American jeweler, Harry Winston bought the jewel (which by now had a gem-studded necklace) from the McLean estate, and in 1958, and gave it to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. It was valued at $100 million dollars, and is kept in a special safe, where it’s, hopefully, unable to cause further harm. Perhaps his unselfish act, finally ended the curse. But I certainly wouldn’t want to test that hypothesis. Would you?