“...turning it from side to side as the light flashes from its facets, knowing it's the hardest natural material yet fearful of dropping it.”
These were the words of Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Ron Adams. The one who received the once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity to hold in his palms the iconic Hope diamond, so far strictly guarded at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in the United States. Well, knowing the absolute magnificence of this gem, it’s not a wee bit exaggerated.
But this 45 carat beauty, with a resplendently rare blue colour, and blinding glimmer, could one ever imagine a diamond of this sort might also be irrevocably cursed? Well, believe it or not, a common theme of its 350 year long history is the misfortune that all of its owners have suffered.
A history of misery- jinxed or co-incidence?
It all began in 1673, when a blue diamond of exceptional size was extracted from the depths of the Kollur mine in Guntur, India. It is one of the numerous antique, rare, and precious diamonds that have been extracted from the Godavari Delta region.
This diamond came to be known as Tavernier Blue, named after its first known owner Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a French merchant traveller. Jean attained the stone during one of his trips to India and subsequently took it to his home country, France. Such a magnificent gemstone was beyond the reach of even the wealthiest of Frenchmen. Only the royalty could afford it, leading it directly into the hands of King Louis XIV and Queen Marie Antoinette. Everyone knows their story- the royal couple met their doom during the French revolution, being beheaded. Legend has it that Tavernier too met an unfortunate end. Apparently, he was mauled to death by wild dogs after selling the diamond.
In the chaos of the bloody revolution, the diamond was stolen. It appeared decades later in England. This time it was re-cut (in the shape it is in today), now known as ‘Hope’ Diamond. Taking its name from its new owner Henry Philip Hope. A collector of arts and precious stones, even Henry couldn't escape the diamond’s damnation. From being one the richest families of England, the Hopes were down to bankruptcy. Henry met with an untimely death, after which his family sold off the diamond. Soon after, a jeweller called Wilhelm Fals acquired the diamond. What was to follow sounds like the plot of a horror movie. Fals was killed by his own son, who took the stone, and later committed suicide.
Over the next century, the Hope Diamond saw numerous owners, from gem collectors to socialites, and each carried a streak of misfortune, from bankruptcy to heartbreak, and even deaths. An American heiress, Evalyn Walsh McLean, bought it believing she could break the curse. However, tragedy did not spare her, as even she faced immense personal losses after acquiring it.
Today, the Blue Hope Diamond rests securely in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. A gift to the museum by Harry Winston in 1958, and now it attracts millions of visitors each year.
A blue ribbon beauty
Despite its ominous reputation, the Hope Diamond has always enticed the world. Its rich blue colour, which is a result of boron atoms within its crystal structure, gives the Hope Diamond its iconic appearance. Under ultraviolet light, this diamond emits a mesmerising red glow, which even lingers moments after the light source is turned off. Was it natural colour any less of a spectacle? Its phosphorescence added yet another layer of wonder!
Carat Weight and Pricing
Although its current value remains undisclosed, past evaluations placed it at $200-$250 million. At an imposing 45.52 carats, it's not just its history but also its size and worth that are staggering.
Either way, the Blue Hope diamond remains an enigma. Its beauty, its alleged powers.While its breathtaking beauty can leave one spellbound, its documented past of tragedies can truly make one wonder. Perhaps it's cursed, or maybe it’s just a random sequence of odd events. A perplexing one for sure. But whatever the story, it's sure to remain a treasured and admired piece for years to come.