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This Diamond is as Cold as Ice: The Curse of the Hope Diamond

Artifacts | October 8, 2018

Visitors flock to the Harry Winston exhibition Hall to see the Hope diamond with 45.52 carats in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington,D.C. on January 13, 2012. The Hope Diamond has been returned to its original Cartier setting.

The Hope Diamond, a magnificent 45.52-carat blue diamond, has a reputation for being unusual, breathtaking and expensive but it is also equally known for the curse that is said to surround the gem. Many, though not all, of the diamonds former owners, have experienced odd strokes of bad luck when they were in possession of the diamond, though other owners seemed to have escaped the gem’s violent curse. Here we will take a look at the curse of the Hope Diamond, some of the gem’s victims, and some who have dodged the curse. 

The Curse Begins

According to legend, Jean Baptiste Tavernier, a French merchant traveling through India in 1653, spotted the blue diamond – and a matching twin that has never been discovered – in a Hindu statue where the pair was serving as the idol’s eyes. Tavernier plucked one of the gems from idol’s eye and made his way back to Europe with it. The Hindu priests were outraged that anyone would desecrate their idol so they cursed whoever owned the rare stone. Tavernier sold the blue diamond to King Louis XIV and then retired to Russia. There, according to some stories, he was mauled to death by a pack of dogs. 

King Louis XIV

King Louis XIV and the “French Blue”

The rare and magnificent gem became known as the “French Blue” while it was in the possession of King Louis XIV. Nicholas Fourquet, who served as the caretaker of the French crown jewels, was once permitted to ear the “French Blue” to a posh event. Shortly afterward, Fouquet fell out of favor with the King, who had him arrested and executed. While the king seems to have escaped the stone’s curse himself, his descendants did not. King Louis XVI, who inherited the diamond and his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette, was beheaded at the guillotine in the midst of the French Revolution. Afterward, the “French Blue” diamond, along with all the crown jewels, was stolen. 

Marie-Louise, Princess de Lambelle

Marie Antoinette’s Confidante met a Horrific End

Prior to her arrest and execution, Marie Antoinette sometimes allowed her closest confidante and a member of her court, Marie-Louise, Princess de Lambelle, to wear the “French Blue”. After Marie Antoinette was arrested, an angry mob attacked the Princess de Lambelle as a symbol of the court of Louis XVI. Marie-Louise was bludgeoned with a hammer, decapitated and disemboweled. Her head was stuck on a pike and the mobsters showed it to Marie Antoinette through the window in her prison cell. 

The Giant Diamond was Cut Down

When Tavernier stole the blue diamond in India, it was an enormous 115-carat gem, but it has since been cut down. The Dutch jeweler who re-cut the stone, Wilhelm Fals, fell victim to its curse. Fals was murdered by his own son, Hendrik, in 1830. Hendrik then took his own life. 

Henry Phillip Hope

The “French Blue" Becomes the Hope Diamond

Some twenty years after the French Revolution, the re-cut piece of the “French Blue” diamond showed up in London. It was purchased by Henry Phillip Hope in 1839, and the diamond had borne his name ever since. Again, the diamond seemed to spare Hope its curse but unleashed its full vengeance on Hope’s descendant, Lord Francis Hope. After Lord Francis inherited the gem on his 21st birthday, he quickly married an American showgirl and the couple lived an extravagant lifestyle that was far beyond their means. Lord Francis was forced to declare bankruptcy and sell the Hope Diamond. When the transaction was completed, his beautiful showgirl wife dumped him for his archenemy. Lord Francis died alone and impoverished. 

Adbul Hamid II, Sultan of Turkey

A Series of Owners…A Series of Tragedies

The blue diamond went through many hands in the years following Lord Francis’ death. No single person owned the Hope Diamond for very long, but it was clear that the being in possession of the gem brought bad luck. Jacques Colot went insane and killed himself. Prince Ivan Kanitovski then took ownership of the gem. His lover, Lorens Ladue, wore it once and then was murdered by Prince Ivan. As for Prince Ivan himself, he was killed by Russian revolutionaries. Next, a wealthy Greek jeweler purchased the stone. His car careened off a cliff, killing him, his wife, and their child. A Persian diamond broker by the name of Habib Bey bought the gem, but he drowned in a shipwreck in 1909. The Sultan of Turkey, Adbul Hamid II, acquired the Hope Diamond for $400,000. Soon afterward, he lost the entire Ottoman Empire in a military revolt. The Sultan’s favorite concubine, Zubayda, wore the diamond and a found mysteriously stabbed to death. 

Pierre Cartier

Famed Jeweler Cartier Acquired the Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond landed in the hands of well-known American jeweler, Pierre Cartier. Cartier reported no ill-effects of the stone’s curse, but he did seem to be the first one to popularize the idea that the Hope Diamond is cursed. 

Evalyn Walsh McLean with her husband and dogs.

The Curse Unleashed a Vengeance on its Next Owner

Pierre Cartier sold the Hope Diamond in 1912 to a wealthy Washington socialite, Evalyn Walsh McLean. In McLean’s possession, the curse seemed have come out of its dormancy and tragically impact McLean’s live, which quickly went from charmed to disastrous. Soon, McLean’s young son died in a tragic car accident, and then her daughter committed suicide. McLean’s husband left her for another woman. Evalyn Walsh McLean was committed to an insane asylum and the Hope Diamond was sold off, along with the rest of her estate. Her tragic life helped to solidify the curse of the Hope Diamond. 

Harry Winston Sold the Gem to the Smithsonian Museum

The Hope Diamond was briefly owned by jeweler Harry Winston, who bought it from McLean’s estate. He, too, managed to escape the curse. In 1958, he sold the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. The postal worker, James Todd, who delivered the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian was, technically, in possession of the gem for a short amount of time, but that seemed to have been long enough for the diamond to evoke its curse. Shortly after taking the Hope Diamond to its final home at the Smithsonian, Todd was hit by a truck and badly injured. Next, his wife and his dog both died suddenly and shortly afterward, his house burned down. 

For 60 Years, the Curse Has Been Quiet

The Hope Diamond has been housed at the Smithsonian for the last sixty years and, according to their website, has experienced a curse-free and quiet existence. It is the crowning jewel of the museum’s massive gemstone collection. Today, it is estimated that the Hope Diamond is worth between $200 and $250 million dollars. 

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Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.