Hope Diamond

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2015-06-26 11:03:19

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The Hope Diamond is an extremely rare, deep-blue diamond currently housed in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Washington D.C.

It is the largest known diamond of its kind in the world.

The piece is renowned for allegedly being cursed and estimated to be worth up to $250million.

Characteristics

The Hope Diamond weighs 45.52 carats (9.10g). It is 25.6mm long, 21.78mm wide and 12mm deep.

The cut is described as “cushion antique brilliant with a faceted girdle and extra facets on the pavilion” and its clarity is classed as VS1, with “whitish graining”.

In 1988, the colour was described as “fancy dark grayish-blue”, although this was reappraised and adjusted to "fancy deep greyish-blue” in 1996.

The blue colouration of the diamond is caused by “trace amounts of boron in the stone”.

Tests on the stone indicate “the presence of boron, carbon, hydrogen and possibly some nitrogen” and that “the concentration of boron varies within the diamond, ranging from zero to eight parts per million.” As such, it has been concluded that the Hope Diamond “is actually a mosaic of blues.”

Jeffrey Post, a curator at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, described the natural formation of the diamond as “a completely unique event in the history of the earth”.

History

The Hope Diamond originates from India, most likely the Kollur Mine in Golconda.

Merchant-traveller Jean Baptiste Tavernier purchased the original, crudely-cut stone, describing it as a “beautiful violet”. Although it is unclear when this was, historian Richard Kurin argued that 1653 was a plausible estimate.

The diamond was sold to King Louis XIV of France in 1669 for 220,000 livres.

9 years later, the King commissioned court jeweller Sieur Pitau to recut the diamond; the diamond was referred to as the “Blue Diamond of the Crown” or the “French Blue”.

After being stolen by looters in the early stages of the French Revolution, the diamond re-emerged in London in the possession of merchant Daniel Eliason in 1812.

It was allegedly acquired by King George IV of the United Kingdom.

The diamond was listed in a gem collection catelogue in 1839 as being owned by Henry Phillip Hope, after whom the piece is named. It remained in the Hope Family until 1901, when it was sold to settle debts.

American socialite Evelyn Walsh McLean obtained the reset Hope Diamond in 1911 from Cartier’s in Paris. It remained in her possession until her death in 1947, when it was purchased by jeweller, Harry Winston Inc.

In 1958, due to the efforts of Dr. George Switzer, the Hope Diamond was donated to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Washington D.C. It has been housed there ever since.

Curse

The Hope Diamond is “weighted with mystery, intrigue and a spine-tingling legend of a curse afflicting anyone who presumed to possess it.” The curse is supposedly due to the nature of its acquisition by Tavernier in India. Stories vary, with a general consensus suggesting that the diamond was stolen from an Indian statue or idol.

Evidence for the curse relies upon the unfortunate fates of past owners, most notably the death of Tavernier (who was allegedly torn apart by wolves) and the beheading of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (owners of the diamond prior to its theft). However, the existence of any 'curse' is regularly questioned, and its origin has also been attributed to 19th Century newspapers and word-of-mouth.

Value

The current estimated value of The Hope Diamond is $200-250 million, although it is unlikely to ever be put up for sale.

It was previously sold for 550,000 Francs to Pierre Cartier in 1910, and £29,000 to Adolph Weil in 1902 (the latter estimated to equate to £2,245,350 as of 2011).

Its unique size and colour, infamous curse and lengthy history render it one of, if not the, most notable piece of jewellery in the world today. It has been described as “more than a diamond … [i]t is a legend” and “the most sought-out object in the Smithsonian”.

The diamond attracts 7 million annual visitors.

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