The Hope Diamond’s Mystery & Curse
The Hope Diamond is by far one of the most notorious diamonds of all time, shrouded in mystery with legends as multifaceted as the diamond itself.
Also known as Le Bijou du Roi (“the King’s Jewel”), Le bleu de France (“France’s Blue”), and the Tavernier Blue, the Hope Diamond is a magnificent deep-blue colour and weighs 45.52 carats. As beautiful as it is, you probably wouldn’t want to wear or own it, as it’s supposedly cursed.
Since its discovery in India in 1642, the infamous diamond was stolen at least twice in its long history and has changed hands several times, leaving a trail of unfortunate fate and supposedly bad luck for almost every owner.
These are some of the stories, legends and victims of the mysterious Hope Diamond:
1666: Jean-Baptiste Tavernier
115.16-carat blue diamond stolen from a Hindu Statue
The story goes that the curse began with the Tavernier Blue, which was the precursor to several large diamonds, including the Hope Diamond. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a 17th-century French merchant who traded gems, allegedly stole the 115.16-carat blue diamond from a Hindu statue, where it was serving as one of the eyes. Upon discovering it was missing, the priests put a curse on whoever was in possession of the gem. It is said that Tavernier came down with a raging fever soon after stealing the diamond and soon after passed away. However, other reports show that he lived until the old age of 84.
1668: King Louis XIV
The Hope Diamond recut to 69 carats in 1673
King Louis XIV purchased the diamond from Tavernier and had it recut to 69 carats in 1673. It was then known as “The Blue Diamond of the Crown” or the “French Blue.” King Louis XIV had gangrene and passed away.
The 1600s: Nicholas Fouquet
Nicholas Fouquet was the real Man in the Iron Mask
Some people believe that Nicholas Fouquet was the real Man in the Iron Mask. He worked for King Louis XIV and is said to have worn the diamond for a special occasion. Shortly after this, he fell out of favour with the king and was banished from France and then sentenced to life imprisonment. Fouquet spent 15 years in the fortress of Pignerol.
The 1700s: Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette
Marie Antoinette, inherited the French Blue Diamond
After King Louis XIV’s death, Louis XVI and his spouse, Marie Antoinette, inherited the French Blue Diamond. Louis XVI was guillotined during France’s turbulent political era and his wife met the same fate nine months later. Some say their death was the result of the Hope Diamond’s curse.
The 1700s: Marie-Louise, Princess de Lamballe
Marie-Louise, Princess de Lamballe
Marie-Louise, Princess de Lamballe, was a member of Marie Antoinette’s court and was her closest confidante. She was a temporary wearer of the supposedly cursed diamond and died soon after.
1791: Wilhelm Fals
Wilhelm Fals was responsible for cutting the 45-carat Blue Hope Diamond
The diamond was stolen during the French revolution and re-cut. Wilhelm Fals was a Dutch jeweller who was responsible for cutting the 115-carat diamond to the 45-carat Blue Hope Diamond we see today. After it was cut, he suffered ill fate when his son allegedly stole the diamond, murdered his father and then took his own life.
The diamond’s whereabouts were not known for many years. It reappeared in the catalogue of a gem collection owned by a London banking family called Hope in 1839.
The 1900s: Simon Maoncharides
The Hope Diamond
Simon Maoncharides was a Greek merchant who owned the diamond and resold it in 1910 to Pierre Cartier. He drove his car over a cliff.
1912: Evalyn Walsh McClean
Evalyn Walsh McLean
Evalyn Walsh McLean was a rich heiress who bought the Hope Diamond from Pierre Cartier in 1912. There are stories that she even affixed the diamond to her dog’s collar. Her ill fate began when her mother-in-law died, and her son died at the age of nine. Her husband left her for another woman and later died in a psychiatric hospital. Her daughter died of a drug overdose, and Evalyn eventually had to sell her newspaper, The Washington Post. She died owing huge debts. Evalyn’s surviving children sold the diamond to a famous jeweller in 1949.
In 1958, the jeweller donated the 45.2-carat diamond to the Smithsonian Institution, sending it through the US Mail for only $2.44 in postage and $155 in insurance.
1958: James Todd
The Hope Diamond Presented to the Smithsonian
Whilst no harm seemed to come to the famous jeweller, the mailman who delivered the diamond to the Smithsonian apparently had and accident in a truck accident shortly thereafter.
He also suffered a head injury in a separate accident. To add to his list of bad luck, his house burned down.
Where is The Hope Diamond Today?
The Hope Diamond Set into A Pendant
The Hope Diamond, now valued at $250 million (R3 717 800 000), is housed in the National Gem and Mineral collection at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. It is the most visited exhibition at the Smithsonian and remains one of the most notorious diamonds of all time.
See a life-size replica of the Hope Diamond (and other famous diamonds) when you book a tour at the The Cape Town Diamond Museum at the Clock Tower Precinct, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. Open 9am – 9pm daily.