Famous precious stone with a reputation of bringing disaster to its owners. The Hope diamond is one of the largest colored diamonds known, a vivid blue and weighing 44.4 carats. It is believed to have been cut from an even larger stone of more than 67 carats. The name is derived from Henry Thomas Hope, a former owner who bought it for £18,000.
Fact and legend are inextricably tangled in the story of this unlucky diamond. The known history begins in the seventeenth century with the explorer Jean Baptiste Tavernier (1605-1689), who is reputed to have acquired the stone from the Indian mines of Killur, Golconda, around 1642. He sold the stone to Louis XIV in 1668 and subsequently lost all his money through his son's speculations.
The diamond was worn by Madame de Montespan at a court ball, and she fell from favor soon afterward. From this time on, the diamond had a sinister reputation. It was worn by Marie Antoinette, who had misfortune in connection with diamonds when the celebrated Affair of the Diamond Necklace preceded the French Revolution.
Princess de Lamballe, who was lent the diamond, was executed on the guillotine and her head was paraded on a pike under the windows of the prison in which Louis XVI and his family were imprisoned.
The diamond disappeared for 30 years, reappearing in the possession of a Dutch lapidary named Fals. As in the case of Tavernier, a son brought Fals misfortune. He stole the diamond and left his father to die in poverty. The son entrusted the diamond to a Frenchman named Beaulieu, who committed suicide after selling it to London dealer Daniel Eliason, who died under mysterious circumstances. It was then that the diamond was acquired by Henry Thomas Hope, and it remained in the Hope family for 70 years.
Lord Francis Hope, last of the line, married an actress but divorced her and lost all his money. The diamond disappeared for a time, but was later acquired by an American who went bankrupt, a Russian who was stabbed, and a French dealer who committed suicide. A Greek merchant sold it to Abdul Hamid II, sultan of Turkey, who lost his throne. In 1908 the diamondwas bought by Habib Bey for £80,000 but was auctioned the following year at a fifth of the price.
The next owner was a millionaire named McLean. His wife, Evalyn, published a book, Father Struck It Rich (1938), in which she describes the misfortunes that befell the family in spite of having the diamond blessed by a priest.
The diamond was finally bought by Harry Winston, a jeweler in New York. He displayed it for several years and donated it in November 1958 to the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Interestingly enough, Winston sent it through the U.S. mail system and it arrived without incident at the Smithsonian.
Cohen, Daniel. Encyclopedia of the Strange. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1985.