Famous diamonds

The Blue Diamond of the French Crown, the Hope

The Hope Diamond, AKA “Le Bijou du Roi” (“the King’s Jewel”), “Le bleu de France” (“the Blue of France”), and the Tavernier Blue, is a famous 45.52-carat dark blue stone with very rare red fluorescence.  It is on display in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, DC. The diamond is said to be cursed following the misfortunes of many of its previous owners.

According to legend, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier stole the stone in India in the 1640s.  The uncut diamond weighed 112.25 carats and was named the Tavernier Blue.  Tavernier sold the diamond in 1669 to King Louis XIV, for 3 million pounds, and the story goes that he would end up financially ruined back in India where he suffered an atrocious death and was eaten either by dogs or a tiger.  The king had the stone cut into a heart shape of 68.8 carats and renamed the Blue Diamond of the Crown.  He would only wear it once and died a short time later.  Louis XV refused to wear the stone, but lent it to his mistress, the countess Du Barry who would later be hanged.  Louis XVI dared to wear the diamond and also lent it to Marie Antoinette; perhaps it was the stone that sealed their fates during the French Revolution.  In 1792 the cursed gem disappeared in major burglary.  The stone would resurface decades later as a 44.5-carat diamond. Henry Philip Hope bought it for $90,000, and the diamond was renamed after him.  The stone was passed down through several generations until it finally had to be sold to pay off debts.  Legend has it that each of the Hope family members who owned it suffered a tragic death.  The stone eventually made its way into the hands of Sultan Abdul Hamid II who paid $400,000 for it in 1908.  The next year the sultan was dethroned by his brother, and two years later he sold the diamond to Edward McLean who would die on the Titanic and whose son and granddaughter would tragically perish years later.   In 1949 the jeweler Harry Winston bought the diamond and a decade later donated it to the Smithsonian Institution.

    Unfortunately, most of the legend of the cursed blue diamond is just that, legend.  Tavernier never stole the diamond from a statue of an Indian god, but bought it legally.  Nor was he eaten by dogs or tigers; he died in Moscow at the ripe old age of 84.  Louis XIV died 46 years after receiving the stone and had one of the longest reigns in history, so his death cannot be attributed to the curse.  It is also unlikely that he would have lent such a precious stone to any of his mistresses.  At the time, only men were allowed to wear diamonds of this size, so one cannot blame the demise of Marie-Antoinette on the blue beauty.  As for the McLeans, Mrs. McLean was in no way superstitious, and even claimed that the diamond brought good luck rather than misfortune; she would wear the Hope until her death in 1947.  In the five decades that the stone has been on display at the Smithsonian, it has not killed a single one of its millions of visitors.