Hope Diamond

Hope Diamond : is described as being "torn from the brow of a temple god and cut into the world's most valuable gem, the Hope Diamond bewitched kings and was at the heart of the French Revolution.  But it also brought tragedy and death to those who owned it.."

The Hope Diamond is believed to have come from the Kollur mine near Golconda in India.  It first came to attention in the 1660's when a French explorer Tavernier noticed the then 112 carats of golf ball shaped blue stone, gleaming on the forehead of a temple idol.  At that point in time it was roughly three times the size that it is today.  Tavernier took the diamond back to France where in 1669 he sold it to Louis XIV for the modern day equivalent of �71 million.

Four years after making his purchase, Louis XIV better known as the Sun King because of the magnificence he sought to project had the diamond re-cut.  Now after losing some of it's original weight the Hope diamond was now a beautiful heart shape of 67 carats.  It's fame as a beautiful piece soon grew throughout Europe, where it became known simply as the "French Blue".

However it was not long before an aura of malevolence began to glow around the diamond, albeit slowly at first.  Initially Louis XIV lent the diamond to his mistress, Madame de Montespan, who was immediately replaced by her rival Madame de Maintenon (her children's governess and later wife to Louis).  Shortly after this, one by one of those persons close to Louis began to die.  These included: his son, brother, his grandson, and his grandson's wife.  In September 1715, his great-grandson Louis XV succeeded Louis.  He duly inherited the Hope diamond that he had mounted on the insignia of the Golden Fleece order of chivalry that he often wore.  So too did his ill-fated grandson Louis XVI when he succeeded to the throne in 1774.  He also went on to lend the diamond to Marie Antoinette.  Unfortunately both their lives ended in a 'welter of blood and violence'.  The royal family were guillotined in 1793, bringing to a violent all those so far who had had the misfortune to wear the Hope Diamond.

The new government that replaced the monarchy ordered the monarchy's jewels to be brought from Versailles to Paris.  However records show that two gangs of robbers led by the thief Paul Miette, 35, cut a hole in a window where the diamond was kept and duly stole the Sun King's collection of diamonds.  Miette tool the white gems leaving the "French Blue" to the other gang.  Strangely enough the thieves returned to the scene to procure some diamonds they could not carry from the night before.  However the noise of their bickering over their spoils alerted the authorities, that duly captured and beheaded many of them whilst recovering some of the gems.  The "French Blue" was not among them.  As the diamond was so well known it was impossible to sell in it's present form so it was believed to have been re-cut in Amsterdam.  It wasn't until 1812 that a marvelous blue diamond appeared in London, owned by a diamond merchant named Eliason.  It was valued then at �30,000 or �789,000 in today's money.  From here Henry Philip Hope bought it in 1830, he came from a family of bankers.  It was from this point that the diamond became known as the Hope Diamond.  The diamond then passed from Hope who never married to one of his three nephews Henry who bought it from his uncle's estate.  Henry then lent the diamond to be shown at the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park.  Now a diamond of only 47 carats; experts seven years later managed to verify that the diamond was in fact originally from the Sun King's collection.

Sadly Henry was only 54 when he died but he left the diamond to his daughter Henrietta who married Henry Pelham-Clinton, heir to the fifth Duke of Newcastle.  From here the diamond passed to her grandson Lord Henry Pelham-Clinton.  Unfortunately because of pressing financial problems he had to sell the diamond on to a Hatton Garden dealer for the sum of �33,000 or �1.8m in today's money.  The whole affair had upset him so much that no one was ever allowed to speak of the diamond in his presence.  The diamond's next owner called Colot went mad and committed suicide after selling the diamond to the Russian Aristocrat called Prince Ivan Kanitovski.  Shortly after shooting his mistress he was himself stabbed a few days later.  This added once again another chapter and three more deaths to the violent history of the Hope diamond.  After the death of the Prince Abdul the damned also known as Abdul Hamid II - the Sultan of Turkey, acquired the diamond.  He like many of the diamond's previous owners met an untimely death in 1909, by the Young Turk Revolution.  This was not before he had managed to shoot his wife, the Sultana Salma Zobeida while she was wearing it! 

The next owner a jewel merchant named Habib drowned within weeks of purchasing the diamond.  This occurred when the French liner La Seyne sank in the Rio straits 40 miles from Singapore.  Pierre Cartier owned the diamond next, but it is not known how much he paid for it.  Luckily for him he was one of the few to own it and not end up dead!

The daughter of Thomas Walsh a gold mining mogul who made his fortune in Colorado, was next in line to own the diamond.  Evalyn Walsh married Edward McLean someone almost as rich as her father.  He was a newspaper heir and in 1910 shortly after the birth of their first child Pierre Cartier showed them the Hope Diamond while they visited Paris.  Evalyn was initially unimpressed by the setting of the diamond.  However Cartier re-set it and along with it's documents allowed Evalyn to keep it for a weekend.  After the weekend she bought it in 1911, well aware of it's history for the princely sum of $180,000 or �5m in today's money.  Even though Evalyn had the diamond blessed by a priest her life still had it's share of tragedy.  Her brother died at an early age.  Her elder son, whose birth was celebrated by the purchase of the Hope diamond, was killed in a car accident when he was just nine years old.  This led to her husband drinking heavily and the marriage ending in divorce.  More unfortunately was to follow, her daughter died in 1946, killed by an overdose at the tender age of 25.  The very next year Evalyn herself died of pneumonia.  The New York jeweler Harry Winston bought all 74 pieces of Evelyn's jewelery for $1.5m.  Nine years he presented the Hope diamond to the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC.  It was sent by recorded delivery.  Even the postman who delivered it failed to escape its influence.  James' Todd firstly had his leg crushed by a lorry, lost his wife, then fell from a car, after which his dog strangled itself on its own lead.

Today the Hope diamond and its 74 facets, polished and buffed, gleam from a platinum setting in a beige marble display case.  It affords at least the same amount of security as the British Crown Jewels.  Interestingly, in 1965, the diamond firm De Beers discovered that the Hope diamond could be made to glow for several minutes like a red-hot coal, on exposure to ultra-violet light.  Not only does no one know why this occurs, the head of Mineral Sciences at Smithsonian is quoted as saying, "Nothing like this has been known to happen with any other diamond".

Today some experts believe the diamond to be worth around �215m although with such a chequered history it remains to be seen who might dare to be the next to own it.

Source: Information and inspiration for this article taken from an article called  - The Hope Diamond - by Anne de Courcy which appeared in the Daily Mail, Saturday December 15th, 2001.

Recommended Reading
Matthew Hart - The History of a Cold Blooded Love Affair - 4th Estate
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