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Hope Diamond - The cursed Jewellery

Diamonds have held an extraordinary allure for humanity since the beginning of time. One of the most historic jewels in the world is a rare blue diamond called the Hope Diamond. The Hope Diamond is known to carry a mysterious curse and has an exciting history that revolves around distinct tales of curse, mystery and bloodshed. The Hope Diamond originated in India and was cut from the famous Tavernier Blue diamond. Its colour is described to be the blue of the most beautiful blue sapphire, and is arguably the most beautiful diamond in the world.

Origin and history The Hope Diamond is said to have been mined from the Kollur mines in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, during the time of the Golconda Empire. This priceless diamond is said to have formed 1.1 billion years ago and is believed to have originally weighed 115 carats. It is currently one of the rarest diamonds on the planet. Like other rare blue diamonds, the Hope Diamond is said to have formed as far as 400 miles below the surface of Earth. It is said that the deep blue colour of the diamond is due to the presence of boron.

Author Karl Shuker, in his book ‘The Unexplained’, mentions about the origin of the Hope Diamond as “it sparkled in the brow of an Indian idol – until it was impiously plucked out by a thieving Hindu priest, whose punishment for this unholy act was a slow and agonising death." This is in tune with other stories about the origin of the diamond that says it formed an eye of the idol of Sita, but there is no historical confirmation regarding the same. However, it is certain that this large blue diamond was then purchased from the Indian soil by a merchant named Tavernier. He then took it to Paris, where he sold it to King Louis XIV of France. The Diamond, then known as Tavernier Blue, was ordered by the King to be cut and reshaped. The Tavernier Blue was then cut into French Blue and became one of the most iconic jewels in history. From King Louis XIV, the diamond then passed to Louis XV, who ordered a pendant to be made for the diamond. It then passed to Louis XVI, and his wife, Queen Mary Antoinette. The diamond remained in its pendant during this time and was regarded as one of the rarest diamonds in the royal collection.

The story of a curse There are innumerable stories relating to the curse attributed to the Hope Diamond, but very few of these tales have historical backing. It is said that Tavernier, who bought the diamond from India, was brutally torn to pieces by wild dogs. It is also said that some extremely wealthy owners of the Hope Diamond were murdered, while others committed suicide, and a few were executed. Jacques Colot, who bought the diamond temporarily, was believed to have been affected by its curse and to have committed suicide. It is said that a Russian prince gifted the diamond to his lover, an actress, and the tale goes that he later shot her dead on the stage before he got killed by the mob.

Although the authenticity of such stories is debated, if we analyse the plight of a few real owners, we get to see that they were less than fortunate. One of the early owners, Mary Antoinette, the last queen of France, was mercilessly beheaded during the French revolution. A theft that took place following their execution resulted in the cursed pendant with the dazzling French Blue disappearing forever from the royal collection and history.

The French Blue reappeared in public in 1839 as the Hope Diamond, where it was cut and listed in the catalogue of Henry Philip Hope of the Hope family. However, the owner Henry Philip passed away the very year the diamond was listed in his collection, and the diamond passed many hands and eventually fell into the hands of Lord Francis Hope, who was not lucky either. After possessing Hope Diamond, Lord Francis was declared bankrupt, and his wife May Yohe divorced him. The diamond eventually reached the Frankel business, and the business faced extreme financial hardships during those years and had to sell it. The diamond was then sold to the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid through Selim Habeb, and soon the Sultan was reeling under debt and had to sell all of his possessions, including the diamond. The Hope Diamond eventually reached Pierre Carter who sold it to Evalyn Walsh McLean and her husband, Edward. Though the couple initially hesitated to purchase the diamond owing to its curse, they were so smitten that they eventually purchased the blue beauty. Under Evalyn’s possession, the diamond gained great popularity and was even protected by secret service agents and guards. After the death of Evalyn McLean, the diamond was sold to pay off her debts and reached the hands of Harry Winston. The mythical curse seems to have receded by the time it reached Harry Winston. It was Harry Winston who finally donated it to the National Museum of Natural History, where it is being exhibited now. It is not known to many that Harry Winston casually wrapped the million-dollar diamond in a paper and sent it to the Museum via simple registered post!

The French Blue reappeared in public in 1839 as the Hope Diamond, where it was cut and listed in the catalogue of Henry Philip Hope of the Hope family. However, the owner Henry Philip passed away the very year the diamond was listed in his collection, and the diamond passed many hands and eventually fell into the hands of Lord Francis Hope, who was not lucky either. After possessing the Hope Diamond, Lord Francis was declared bankrupt, and his wife May Yohe divorced him. The diamond eventually reached the Frankel business, and the business faced extreme financial hardships during those years and had to sell it. The diamond was then sold to the Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid through Selim Habeb, and soon the Sultan was reeling under debt and had to sell all of his possessions, including the diamond. The Hope Diamond eventually reached Pierre Carter who sold it to Evalyn Walsh McLean and her husband, Edward. Though the couple initially hesitated to purchase the diamond owing to its curse, they were so smitten that they eventually purchased the blue beauty. Under Evalyn’s possession, the diamond gained great popularity and was even protected by secret service agents and guards. After the death of Evalyn McLean, the diamond was sold to pay off her debts and reached the hands of Harry Winston. The mythical curse seems to have receded by the time it reached Harry Winston. It was Harry Winston who finally donated it to the National Museum of Natural History, where it is being exhibited now. It is not known to many that Harry Winston casually wrapped the million-dollar diamond in a paper and sent it to the Museum via simple registered post!

Unusual Luminescence The Hope Diamond is known to emit a mysterious red glow in the dark when exposed to ultraviolet light. While most blue diamonds emit a bluish-white phosphorescence when exposed to ultraviolet light, the luminescence emitted by the Hope Diamond is an unusual fiery red. This had contributed to the myth that the diamond was indeed cursed and evil. However, the tests conducted proved that this is a quality peculiar to blue diamonds depending on the boron content. Today, even as the myths of the curse of the Hope Diamond have been dispelled, the tales of its breathtaking beauty remain.

We can never know if it once adorned the eyes of Sita’s idol, but if it did, we can only be awed at the thought of that sight, and wonder about the whereabouts of the twin diamond that formed the other eye!