Most agree that the diamond was originally found by Jean Baptiste Tavernier, a French merchant who traveled through India. Some legends claim that he stole it from an ancient Hindu idol, who then cursed anyone who touched his pilfered treasure. The diamond traveled through history from there: sometimes gifted, sometimes stolen, and always a coveted item.
It has been noted as the source of all kinds of bad luck – the beheading of King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, the gambling debts of Britain’s King George IV, and the lonely unmarried life of Henry Phillip Hope, who inherited the blue diamond in the early 1800s. Nearly every member of the Hope family is rumored to have died in poverty, which led to the sale of the (officially titled) Hope Diamond in 1901.
Shortly thereafter, the famous jeweler Pierre Cartier found a potential buyer in Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean. She reportedly believed that objects considered “bad luck” always gave her extra goodluck, so Cartier made sure to embellish the history of the haunted Hope Diamond. Despite her confidence, she was struck by one tragedy after another throughout the rest of her years.
Evalyn Walsh McLean (August 1, 1886 in Leadville, Colorado, – April 24. 1947 in Washington, D.C.) was an American mining heiress and socialite who was famous for being the last private owner of the 45-carat Hope Diamond as well as another famous diamond, the 94-carat Star of the , the daughter of Thomas Walsh who had made a fortune gold-mining in Colorado. After a childhood in mining camps, she’d been given the finest education money could buy.
She married a man almost as rich as her father, the newspaper heir Edward McLean. In the summer of 1910, soon after their first child was born, the McLeans visited Paris where Pierre Cartier showed them the Hope Diamond.
Evalyn did not like the way it was set, but Cartier was not discouraged. He had it reset as the centrepiece of a necklace of brilliant white diamonds, and that October travelled with it to New York New York, state, United States.
He brought with him documents describing the diamond’s history, which he asked Evalyn to look at alongside the necklace, suggesting she kept both for the weekend.
The strategy worked: by Monday Evalyn had decided she wanted the necklace, and in the spring of 1911 a price of $180,000 (equivalent to [pound]5 million) was agreed.
Evalyn, aware of its reputation, took the diamond to a priest to have it blessed as soon as she bought it. From then on, she wore it constantly, often along with the other diamonds she collected.
One photograph shows her wearing the Hope necklace with two others, diamond earrings, diamond clips and a wristful of diamond bracelets. ‘I might as well put it all on at once and then I know where it is,’ she would say.
But although she did not believe in the Hope’s malign influence, her life was marred by tragedy.
Her brother died young, her elder son – whose birth was celebrated by the purchase of the Hope necklace – died in a car accident when he was nine, her husband began to drink heavily and the marriage ended in divorce, and her only daughter died of an overdose, in 1946, at the age of 25.
Shattered by these tragedies, Evalyn died from pneumonia the following year.
Her death occurred on a Saturday, when the banks were shut, and her executors, who had discovered the Hope necklace hidden in the back of her tabletop radio, could not think how to keep it safe until the following Monday.
They appealed to the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover Noun 1. J. Edgar Hoover – United States lawyer who was director of the FBI for 48 years (1895-1972)
John Edgar Hoover, Hoover , who allowed them to keep it in an FBI safe.
Evalyn’s jewellery – all 74 pieces – was bought in April 1949 by the New York jeweller Harry Winston for $1.5 million. Nine years later, he presented the Hope Diamond to the National Museum of Natural History.
The National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, sending it by recorded delivery.
The postman who delivered it, James Todd, subsequently had his leg crushed by a lorry.
Today, cleaned and buffed, its 74 facets glittering in its diamond and platinum setting, the Hope Diamond rotates slowly in its beige marble display case. It has drawn more visitors than any other exhibit.
The authorities are taking no chances with its safety. The first line of defence is the thick, crystal clear glass (like that behind which the British Crown Jewels can be seen), but with any hint of a threat the Hope Diamond would drop into the first of a series of vaults concealed in the base of the case, their combinations changed daily.
AND IT never ceases to delight nor to confound. In 1965, the diamond firm De Beers discovered that after exposure to ultraviolet light Ultraviolet light
A portion of the light spectrum not visible to the eye. Two bands of the UV spectrum, UVA and UVB, are used to treat psoriasis and other skin diseases. , the Hope Diamond glows like a red-hot coal for several minutes.
No one knows why this happens.
According to the head of Mineral Sciences at the Smithsonian: ‘ Nothing like this has been known to happen with any other diamond.’ But there never has been a gem quite like the Hope diamond.
What is it worth? Some experts estimate up to [pound]215 million. But as Jeffrey Post, curator of America’s national gem collection, says: ‘How can you put a value on something of such history and extraordinary attraction? It’s priceless.’ But perhaps its true costs can be measured in the lost lives that have followed it through history.
Byline: ANNE DE COURCY