The Hope Diamond, possibly the most mysterious diamond in the world, resides in the Smithsonian Museum. It was donated by Harry Winston after he bought it from the estate of Evalyn Walsh McLean after her death. It is famous not only for its deep, blue color and its size, but for the curse that follows the owners.
If you asked why it is blue, the answer is that trace amounts of boron, hydrogen and nitrogen give the diamond its blue-grey color. A few years ago, the diamond was removed from the setting and a hole was drilled into it one nanometre deep (four-billionths of an inch) thus revealing these three elements.
Where Did it Come From?
It is generally accepted that the stone first appeared in India and was purchased by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier who made a career out of tracking down and buying large diamonds. He sold the diamond to King Louis X1V in 1668. It was stolen 123 years later and when it appeared, it had been recut in 1839. The new owner was a London banker by the name of Hope. It passed from one owner to another and finally became the property of Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean who was an heir to the Westinghouse fortune. She had the Hope Diamond remounted with 19 round diamonds and a diamond set neck chain and loved to wear it on many occasions.
Like many famous stones, the Hope Diamond has many stories of curses connected with it. The diamond has been surrounded by a history of a reputed curse to the end that it brings misfortune and tragedy to those who own it or wear it. There are strong signs that such stories were fabricated to increase the stone’s mystery and appeal, since increased publicity usually raised the gem’s value and mystique.
Many Stories Were Told
For many years this story has found its way to the newspapers of the day.
These accounts are almost impossible to prove but here are a few of the many supposedly true facts.
- Stone guardian Kulub Bey was chased down and hanged in Turkey.
- Jeweler William Fals, who was tasked to recut the stone, “died a ruined man.”
- William Fals’ son, Hendrik, had stolen the jewel from his father and later committed suicide.
- Louis X1V and Marie Antoinette were both beheaded.
- Prince Ivan Kanevski bought it but was killed by Russian revolutionists.
These fables about the Hope Diamond have followed many others about pirate’s treasures, hidden boxes of gold, bags of precious jewels and suitcases filled with cold, hard cash — they are all great stories.
More About Harry Winston
Harry Winston’s father, Jacob, started a small jewelry business in New York after he and his mother immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine. While growing up, he worked in his father’s shop. When he was only twelve years old, he was looking in the window of a pawn shop one day and he realized that a two-carat emerald in the shop was an expensive emerald and bought it for 25 cents, and then sold it two days later for $800! Winston started a business of his own and opened his first store in New York City in 1932.
Harry Was Very Smart
Winston’s jewelry empire began in 1926 with his acquisition of Arabella Huntington’s vast jewelry collection for the price of $1.2 million. The wife of railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington, Arabella amassed one of the world’s most prestigious collections of jewelry, largely from Parisian jewelers such as Cartier.
When Winston bought the collection after her death, he came to the conclusion the designs of the jewelry in the collection were quite old- fashioned. Winston set about redesigning the jewelry into more contemporary styles and showcased his unique skill at jewelry crafting that was to make him his fortune. According to the Huntington museum, “He frequently boasted that Arabella’s famous necklace of pearls now adorned the necks of at least two dozen women around the world.”
When he came to own the Hope Diamond his fame grew as well.
Over the years this skill became his forte. After he died he left his business to his two sons who fought over his fortune for 10 years! In 2000 his son, Ronald and his partner bought out his brother Bruce for $54 million.
One of Winston’s favorite diamonds was the Jonker Diamond. It was found by a farmer at the Elandsfontein mine in South Africa by Johannes Jacobus Jonker on January 17, 1934. The diamond was 726 carats and at the time, was the fourth largest uncut gem ever found. The diamond was found 5 km away from the largest diamond ever found, the Cullinan Diamond. There is speculation that the Jonker may have originally been part of the Cullinan crystal, as both crystals had cleaved faces which seemed to match up perfectly.
Winston purchased it for 150,000 pounds and after studying it for a year, had it cut into 13 stones. He had it recut from time to time and it was sold in pieces around the world. One diamond was was sold to King Farouk of Egypt for $100,000 who, after he was deposed, had to give it up to settle debts. The last known location of the Jonker 1 was in the hands of an owner in Hong Kong who bought it for $2,298,000.
The Hope Diamond has had some amazing company over the years and Harry Winston has been in the mix many times over that time.