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  • Writer's pictureValerieBound

The Hope Diamond is a Star, literally!

This is my last post in the What We Do For Diamonds series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it! Today, I want to tell you about an intriguing development discovered by those awesome folks at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. That museum has a big, beautiful blue diamond, called the Hope Diamond. It’s their most popular gem. People come from all over the world to see this HUGE (and supposedly cursed) diamond. But not everyone knows about what this new research discovered. It’s a cool story, so let’s get started.

A Refresher on French History

I barely remember my American history. French history? Please! But we’re going to go back to pre-1800’s France. Back when it was a monarchy, with lords and ladies and dancing and all that. In this time, a famous gem dealer sold a completely gorgeous diamond to the current King of France (Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King). The King had the gem re-cut into a 67 1/8 carat stone called “The French Blue.” It was set in gold. On different occasions, the King would wear it around his neck with a ribbon. The poor King died in 1715, and his grandson, another King (Louis XV), had the stone re-cut again. This time, it was placed into a piece of jewelry for the Order of the Golden Fleece.

<img class=" wp-image-1326 lazyload" src="" alt="" width="198" height="503" srcset=" 179w, 118w" sizes="(max-width: 198px) 100vw, 198px" /> The French Blue diamond, in a piece for the Order of the Golden Fleece

During the French Revolution, specifically in September of 1792, The French Blue diamond was stolen. There was lots of chaos during this time, and LOTS of stuff was stolen. Part of the whole reason for the French Revolution was the belief that monarchs, nobility, and clergy lived lavishly while the majority of French people lived in poverty (I’m probably over-simplifying, but this is a jewelry blog, not a history blog).

Later on, in England

Blue diamonds are actually quite rare. So when when shows up on the market, people tend to notice. That was exactly what happened in 1812 when a London diamond merchant described a deep blue diamond weighing a tad less than The French Blue. Almost immediately, there was speculation that this new diamond was The French Blue, just re-cut into a new stone that was slightly smaller and shaped differently. Another telling detail: The current King of France, now Napoleon, had declared a 20 year statute of limitations on crimes committed during the French Revolution. He wanted his country to be able to move past that violent chapter of their history. Guess when the statute was up? That’s right, 1812! Just days after the statute of limitations had expired, the blue diamond appeared. Coincidence? Many thought no.

A Blue Diamond Looks for a Home

At this point, the new blue diamond goes through a series of sales between private buyers before it finally ends up with a guy named Henry Philip Hope. No one really knows who he bought it from or how much he paid for it. But from this point on, the diamond is referred to as the Hope Diamond, instead of The French Blue.

In 1911, the Hope Diamond was sold to Evalyn Walsh McLean, a mining heiress and American socialite. From what I’ve read, she seemed like a lot of fun. A flamboyant personality, she had a fabulous relationship with her new diamond, wearing it out and about anywhere and everywhere. She even let her dog wear the diamond!

<img class=" wp-image-1336 lazyload" src="" alt="" width="506" height="768" srcset=" 674w, 197w, 370w" sizes="(max-width: 506px) 100vw, 506px" /> Evelyn with the Hope Diamond

When Evelyn died in 1947, Harry Winston’s company bought not only the Hope Diamond. but her entire exquisite jewelry collection. They showed off the diamond, took it on a world tour, and then ultimately ended up donating it to the Smithsonian in 1958. It’s been there ever since, and continues to be a popular attraction for their Natural History Museum.

New Research at the Smithsonian

Even though most people suspected the Hope Diamond was really just a re-cut of The French Blue, that wasn’t actually proven until 2009. This was because a French scientist discovered a lead replica of The French Blue in the museum archives. Back then, it was common to use a lead replica to design settings for an extremely precious gem. The American and French scientists worked together to create 3D modeling to show exactly how The French Blue was cut to create the Hope Diamond.

<img class="wp-image-1342 lazyload" title="Hope Diamond with lead replica " src="" alt="" width="502" height="258" srcset=" 1600w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 370w, 1040w" sizes="(max-width: 502px) 100vw, 502px" /> The Hope Diamond, left, placed next to the lead cast of the French Blue. (Image courtesy of François Farges)

The Biggest Discovery of All

I always find it fascinating how jewelry was worn and used historically. Earlier, I told you how the French King would wear The French Blue around his neck with a ribbon. But he actually used the gem quite differently. You see, lots of research goes into cutting diamonds to achieve maximum sparkle. Now that they had the lead replica of The French Blue, they realized it was NOT cut in a way that emphasized how sparkly it could be. That was odd. So they ran some more computer models and voilà – this is what they saw!

<img class="wp-image-1320 lazyload" title="Sunburst in Hope Diamond" src="" alt="" width="500" height="375" srcset=" 800w, 300w, 768w, 370w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" /> The gold starburst represents the Sun King! (Image courtesy of François Farges)

Apparently, The French Blue was mounted on a scepter. Looking back through the inventories of the French Crown Jewels, they found an entry from 1691 that said “set into gold and mounted on a stick.” The scientists realized that a gold sheet placed under the gem would create this magnificent and unique golden sun. How perfectly appropriate for someone called “the Sun King.” Even better, the official colors of King Louis XIV were blue and gold. Louis was a monarch that really believed his right to rule came from God. This stone, cut in this way, would have been symbolic and powerful for him.

When you think about it, this gem has over three hundred years of amazing history. I love that we are still discovering new things about it!

<img class=" wp-image-1318 lazyload" src="âteau_de_Versailles.jpg" alt="" width="500" height="619" srcset="âteau_de_Versailles.jpg 872w,âteau_de_Versailles-242x300.jpg 242w,âteau_de_Versailles-768x951.jpg 768w,âteau_de_Versailles-827x1024.jpg 827w,âteau_de_Versailles-370x458.jpg 370w,âteau_de_Versailles-1040x1288.jpg 1040w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" /> King Louis XIV, the Sun King

Can’t get enough?

Want to read more about this fascinating stone? I recommend the following:

[easyazon_infoblock align=”center” cart=”y” identifier=”0972822364″ key=”image” locale=”US” nw=”n” nf=”y” tag=”vathgega-20″]


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