The Mysterious Curse of The Hope Diamond

diamond

Big, blue, beautiful…big, blue, beautiful…big, blue beautiful… These words tumbled over and over again in my head as I gawked at the marvelous object before my eyes less than ten inches away. It was behind thick, probably bulletproof, glass. At the time the display was recessed into a wall. Although other similar objects were to the right and to the left, nothing could compare to the beauty I was staring at—the Hope Diamond.

My military husband with a MEDDAC assignment had been given a two week long TDY at Walter Reed Hospital in 1976, the year of the U. S. Bi-centennial.   We decided I could go along at our own expense. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Central and we were able to spend at least three full days in The Smithsonian Institute. They were days I would never forget. My favorite exhibits at the time were the room full of locomotive engines, the memorabilia of U. S. Presidents and their wives, including vintage clothing, The Spirit of St. Louis suspended in air, an aircraft of the Wright brothers, and several of the early space capsules that I had actually watched blast into space from a tiny black and white TV in our elementary school.

The Hope Diamond had an aura of mystery and beauty all its own. I was not a fan of opulent jewelry, mind you. There was no way you could wear such a thing, yet one cannot deny the wonder of finding this beautiful object in the riverbed of an exotic location, and cutting it expertly to perfection, making the most of glimmering facets. Were there others, undiscovered?

I got my husband off to the side and asked him, “Do you really think that is the Hope Diamond behind that glass? I am thinking it is a facsimile and that the real diamond is in a thick vault somewhere with armed guards surrounding it. Why would they risk putting it on display, for thieves to engineer a way of getting it? Then, the same thieves would have to have it cut down into smaller pieces to re-sell, forever ruining the unbelievable fortune of discovery and the wonder of viewing it.”

“I think that is the real Hope Diamond,” he replied. No one could steal it, the way they have it displayed.”

“No, it would have to be an inside job, or people would have to be coerced, like a kidnapping.” I answered.

“No one probably wants it. It is famous for being plagued by an awful curse.” He winked at me. “An awful curse,” he repeated. “You own the Hope Diamond, you are cursed. Bad things will happen.”

*     *     *

   41P5D2HY4KL  When we returned to our humble Texas abode, I decided to read further about the Hope Diamond. I learned that twenty deaths might be connected with it—twenty. When the Hope Diamond was mined from the Kistna River in India, over 500 years ago, it was placed in the forehead of an Indian Temple idol. A Hindu priest had been mesmerized by its beauty. He decided he must have it for his own, so he removed it from the statue. He was caught and put to a painful death.

In Europe, in 1642, the diamond revealed itself again. A French trader who was not above smuggling had possession of the gem. Jean Baptiste Tafernier sold it in order to buy himself a title of nobility and an estate. His own son developed a severe gambling problem and the father had to sell all that he owned. On his return to India to try to recoup his losses, he was killed by a pack of dogs.

The diamond worked its way up through a network of the wealthy and soon it was under the ownership of Louis XIV of France. Horrors! He had the gemstone cut from its 112.5 carats to 67.5 carats, creating a heart-shaped stone known as The French Blue. It was lent to a government official, Nicolas Fouquet to take to a formal ball. Through sudden twists and turns in this man’s life, he was charged and sentenced with embezzlement. He spent the rest of his life in prison as a result, and Louis XIV, himself, died a broken and hated man with a crumbled empire.

The French royals seemed not to make the connection between ownership of the stone and ill fortune. Three more of the gem’s owners died. Princess de Lamballe—she actually wore the diamond on a regular basis—was beaten to death by a mob of angry citizens. The diamond was then inherited by Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette. We know their dark fate.

During the era of the French Revolution, the diamond was stolen from the Garde-Meuble by a pack of thieves who rifled many royal jewels—the diamond was stored here after the deaths of Louis XVI and his wife.

The stone vanished in 1792 for over forty years. During this forty years, legends about the gem, and folklore were generated from people’s imaginations. One of these states that at some point a French jeweler who was in possession of it was obsessed by, and driven insane by its beauty. He killed himself.

Ivan Kanitovsky, a Russian prince took himself a Parisian mistress. He gave her the diamond which had by this time come into his possession. One day they had a quarrel and he shot her to death. As fate would have it, he was then the victim of murder himself.

Catherine the Great, Russian Empress, owned it for awhile but she died of a strange medical condition.

Where did it go next? No one knows for sure, but it apparently went on a diet. The next time it was spotted it weighed a mere 44.5 carats. Why? It seems that a Dutch diamond cutter had pared it down further. He killed himself when he learned that it had been stolen from him, and that is was his very own son who stole it.

The diamond continued to leave a somewhat bloody trail all across Europe. It was spied by a wealthy Irish banker, Henry Thomas Hope. He had to have it, and purchased it for only $150,000. His ownership is what gave it its modern name—the Hope Diamond. As fate would have it, the family fortunes dwindled and Hope’s grandson died without a penny to his name.

A Turkish Sultan somehow came across the gem in 1908. He bought it for $400,000 and gave it to his wife. In a history that is becoming like a broken record, the Sultan later stabbed this wife to death, and was himself overthrown from his throne.

Could association with the Hope Diamond produce a generation of good fortune, finally? Not yet. What was left of it was bought by a business tycoon from the United States, Ned McLean, in 1911 for $154, 000. During a forty-year span various members of his family—at least four—were stricken with awful calamities, some fatal, and McLean one day found himself in a mental hospital and financially ruined.

The well-known Harry Winston was able to purchase the gemstone from heirs of the McLean family, and perhaps wisely gave it away to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958. I wonder. Did this esteemed jeweler appreciate the fine gem so much that he came to the conclusion that giving it to the Smithsonian was the only way to prevent the marvel from being cut down again, and possibly again? I personally think that might have figured into his decision. The donation arrived in plain brown paper.

I don’t suppose you believe in curses. I am skeptical myself. May Yoke, a wife of Ned McLean, produced a book, The Fateful Record of the Hope Diamond, and, a movie on the same subject in 1921. She lists all of the tragedies connected with the diamond, and believed the gem was at the root of her own separation and divorce from McLean.

You can see May Yoke’s mind-numbing list of the cursed at an interactive site put up by the Smithsonian Institute, specifically for The Hope Diamond (mineralsciences.si.edu.hope.htm). You can also see a timeline of the life of the beautiful stone, including medieval artwork that attempts to graphically depict the exact size and color of the gem.

 

BIG, BLUE, BEAUTIFUL…big, blue, beautiful…big, blue beautiful… These words tumbled over and over again in my head as I gawked at the marvelous object before my eyes less than ten inches away. It was behind thick, probably bulletproof, glass. At the time the display was recessed into a wall. Although other similar objects were to the right and to the left, nothing could compare to the beauty I was staring at—the Hope Diamond.

My military husband with a MEDDAC assignment had been given a two week long TDY at Walter Reed Hospital in 1976, the year of the U. S. Bi-centennial.   We decided I could go along at our own expense. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Central and we were able to spend at least three full days in The Smithsonian Institution. They were days I would never forget. My favorite exhibits at the time were the room full of locomotive engines, the memorabilia of U. S. Presidents and their wives, including vintage clothing, The Spirit of St. Louis suspended in air, an aircraft of the Wright brothers, and several of the early space capsules that I had actually watched blast into space from a tiny black and white TV in our elementary school.

The Hope Diamond had an aura of mystery and beauty all its own. I was not a fan of opulent jewelry, mind you. There was no way you could wear such a thing, yet one cannot deny the wonder of finding this beautiful object in the riverbed of an exotic location, and cutting it expertly to perfection, making the most of glimmering facets. Were there others, undiscovered?

I got my husband off to the side and asked him, “Do you really think that is the Hope Diamond behind that glass? I am thinking it is a facsimile and that the real diamond is in a thick vault somewhere with armed guards surrounding it. Why would they risk putting it on display, for thieves to engineer a way of getting it? Then, the same thieves would have to have it cut down into smaller pieces to re-sell, forever ruining the unbelievable fortune of discovery and the wonder of viewing it.”

“I think that is the real Hope Diamond,” he replied. No one could steal it, the way they have it displayed.”

“No, it would have to be an inside job, or people would have to be coerced, like a kidnapping.” I answered.

“No one probably wants it. It is famous for being plagued by an awful curse.” He winked at me. “An awful curse,” he repeated. “You own the Hope Diamond, you are cursed. Bad things will happen.”

*     *     *

     When we returned to our humble Texas abode, I decided to read further about the Hope Diamond. I learned that twenty deaths might be connected with it—twenty. When the Hope Diamond was mined from the Kistna River in India, over five hundred years ago, it was placed in the forehead of an Indian Temple idol. A Hindu priest had been mesmerized by its beauty. He decided he must have it for his own, so he removed it from the statue. He was caught and put to a painful death.

In Europe, in 1642, the diamond revealed itself again. A French trader who was not above smuggling had possession of the gem. Jean Baptiste Tafernier sold it in order to buy himself a title of nobility and an estate. His own son developed a severe gambling problem and the father had to sell all that he owned. On his return to India to try to recoup his losses, he was killed by a pack of dogs.

The diamond worked its way up through a network of the wealthy and soon it was under the ownership of Louis XIV of France. Horrors! He had the gemstone cut from its 112.5 carats to 67.5 carats, creating a heart-shaped stone known as The French Blue. It was lent to a government official, Nicolas Fouquet to take to a formal ball. Through sudden twists and turns in this man’s life, he was charged and sentenced with embezzlement. He spent the rest of his life in prison as a result, and Louis XIV, himself, died a broken and hated man with a crumbled empire.

The French royals seemed not to make the connection between ownership of the stone and ill fortune. Three more of the gem’s owners died. Princess de Lamballe—she actually wore the diamond on a regular basis—was beaten to death by a mob of angry citizens. The diamond was then inherited by Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette. We know their dark fate.

During the era of the French Revolution, the diamond was stolen from the Garde-Meuble by a pack of thieves who rifled many royal jewels—the diamond was stored here after the deaths of Louis XVI and his wife.

The stone vanished in 1792 for over forty years. During this forty years, legends about the gem, and folklore were generated from people’s imaginations. One of these states that at some point a French jeweler who was in possession of it was obsessed by, and driven insane by its beauty. He killed himself.

Ivan Kanitovsky, a Russian prince took himself a Parisian mistress. He gave her the diamond which had by this time come into his possession. One day they had a quarrel and he shot her to death. As fate would have it, he was then the victim of murder himself.

Catherine the Great, Russian Empress, owned it for awhile but she died of a strange medical condition.

Where did it go next? No one knows for sure, but it apparently went on a diet. The next time it was spotted it weighed a mere 44.5 carats. Why? It seems that a Dutch diamond cutter had pared it down further. He killed himself when he learned that it had been stolen from him, and that is was his very own son who stole it.

The diamond continued to leave a somewhat bloody trail all across Europe. It was spied by a wealthy Irish banker, Henry Thomas Hope. He had to have it, and purchased it for only $150,000. His ownership is what gave it its modern name—the Hope Diamond. As fate would have it, the family fortunes dwindled and Hope’s grandson died without a penny to his name.

A Turkish Sultan somehow came across the gem in 1908. He bought it for $400,000 and gave it to his wife. In a history that is becoming like a broken record, the Sultan later stabbed this wife to death, and was himself overthrown from his throne.

Could association with the Hope Diamond produce a generation of good fortune, finally? Not yet. What was left of it was bought by a business tycoon from the United States, Ned McLean, in 1911 for $154, 000. During a forty-year span various members of his family—at least four—were stricken with awful calamities, some fatal, and McLean one day found himself in a mental hospital and financially ruined.

The well-known Harry Winston was able to purchase the gemstone from heirs of the McLean family, and perhaps wisely gave it away to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958. I wonder. Did this esteemed jeweler appreciate the fine gem so much that he came to the conclusion that giving it to the Smithsonian was the only way to prevent the marvel from being cut down again, and possibly again? I personally think that might have figured into his decision. The donation arrived in plain brown paper.

I don’t suppose you believe in curses. I am skeptical myself. May Yoke, a wife of Ned McLean, produced a book, The Fateful Record of the Hope Diamond, and, a movie on the same subject in 1921. She lists all of the tragedies connected with the diamond, and believed the gem was at the root of her own separation and divorce from McLean.

You can see May Yoke’s mind-numbing list of the cursed at an interactive site put up by the Smithsonian Institute, specifically for The Hope Diamond (mineralsciences.si.edu.hope.htm). You can also see a timeline of the life of the beautiful stone, including medieval artwork that attempts to graphically depict the exact size and color of the gem.

Sara Marie Hogg’s latest book is Quite Curious, a collection of fascinating stories about the mysterious unknown and unexplained.

Unknown

 

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