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Learning Library

Hope Diamond

Probably the most famous Blue Diamond in the world.  


 


The Hope Diamond is steeped in history. Appearing a brilliant blue to the naked eye, under ultraviolet light it looks a fluorescent red. It is currently on display in the Smithsonian Natural History museum in Washington, USA and is protected by three inches of bullet-proof glass in the Harry Winston room.

It was originally found in India as a rough crystal weighing a massive 112 carats! The history of the gem commences in 1668 with French traveller Jean Baptiste Tavernier. He was approached by a slave whilst in India, carrying what he believed to be a stunning rough cut triangular Sapphire. But Tavernier was a worldly man and realised that the slave had in his possession the rarest of Blue Diamonds.

As you can imagine, Tavernier bought this stone as quickly as he could and managed to smuggle it to Paris, where he sold it to King Louis XIV. Under Royal control, the gem was re-cut by the famous lapidarist Sieur Pitau into a round shape and became known as the “Blue Diamond of the Crown”. Unfortunately, the re-cutting of the gem reduced its size to 67 carats. The king proudly had the Diamond set into a necklace, which he often wore on ceremonial occasions.

In 1791, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette attempted to flee France. After finally doing so the government seized all of the royal jewellery; this was indeed quite befitting as the unpopular queen was believed to have been involved in the 1785 Diamond necklace scandal. During the French Revolution the entire collection was looted.

Next, the gem was said to have found its way into the possession of George IV of England; it was reported to have been sold after his death to help pay off his enormous debts.

In 1839, gem collector Henry Philip Hope, after whom it was later named, acquired it. At this point the gem had been re-cut several times and now weighed 55.2ct. Unfortunately, he died the same year he obtained the gem and after a legal dispute it eventually became the property of his nephew.

After this, it stayed in the Hope family until it was sold in the early 1900s to a London jewel merchant. It changed many hands from then until 1949 when it was sold to Harry Winston. He was then persuaded to donate the Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution on November 10th, 1958.

Between its initial find and its donation to the Smithsonian Institution, the carat weight of this amazing Diamond diminished to its current weight of 45.52 carats. In 2010 the gem was removed from the museum, extracted from its 1910 Cartier Platinum Oval setting, and a miniscule hole was drilled into it so that scientists could analyse its composition. The gem was then set into a more modern design called ‘Embracing Hope’, in order to mark the 50th anniversary of its donation to the museum, as well as the 100th anniversary of the museum.

The gem is unusual in that it exhibits a red phosphorescence (a glow in the dark phenomena often witnessed in Kunzite) after being exposed to ultraviolet light.  Its saturation in colour is slightly masked by a greyish tint and the GIA in 1988 certified the Hope Diamond as weighing 54.52 carats and being of a “fancy dark greyish blue” colour. In 1996 the gem was re-examined and its colour report subtly modified to a more marketable “fancy deep greyish-blue”.

The earliest date that definite records began of the Hope Diamond (until this point many experts claim there is a potential that stories may relate to another Blue Diamond) is in 1812 when the gem was recorded as being in the possession of a London Diamond dealer Daniel Eliason. Interestingly this recording was exactly 20 years after the date the famous Blue Diamond was stolen from Paris, 20 years being the exact period of time when the crime could no longer be punishable. Coincidence? Probably not!

Whilst the Hope Diamond will most likely never be put up for sale again, today there are often beautiful Blue Diamond cluster rings being auctioned at The Genuine Gemstone Company.

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The Hope Diamond is on display in the Smithsonian Museum.