Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Celebration Planned for The Hope Diamond’s Anniversary

The Hope diamond is one of the world’s most valuable diamonds, and with a very interesting past. The diamond, which has been housed in the Smithsonian Institute for the last 50 years, will be getting a celebration and its own documentary to mark the anniversary.

Although it has belonged to the Smithsonian for the past five decades, the Hope Diamond’s history goes back a lot farther. The 45.52 carat, Fancy deep blue diamond was once a part of a 115 carat crude triangular stone, originally mined in India and sold to the French court in 1669.

Louis XIV ordered the stone, known as the Tavernier Blue, to be recut in 1678. The result was a 67.125 carat Blue diamond called ‘The French Blue’ that was added to the royal jewels. However, during the French Revolution, it was stolen by thieves and never recovered.

The diamond, which is now on display in Washington DC first appeared in the possession of gem collector Henry Phillip Hope, in 1839, and is believed to have been cut from the stolen French Blue. The Hope diamond changed hands a few more times until it was bought by Harry Winston in 1949, who later donated it to the Smithsonian Institute where it is one of the biggest draws of the National Museum of Natural History.

Although the Hope diamond is known for its value and clarity, people are equally drawn to the diamond’s supposed curse as well.

In the late 1880’s, a story began to circulate that the original Tavernier diamond had once been the eye of a great Hindu Idol, stolen and then doomed to curse any who possess it. Most historians have since discredited the story, but in 1908 The Washington Post ran an article entitled "Hope Diamond Has Brought Trouble To All Who Have Owned It,” increasing the public’s interest in the diamond.

Winston, who possessed the diamond for almost a decade, never believed in the curse and mailed the diamond to the Smithsonian through the US postal service in a plain brown paper bag. He died of a heart attack at the old age of 82.

With the exception of a few overseas exhibitions, such as the Louvre in Paris and the Rand Easter Show in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Hope diamond has remained in Washington DC for 50 years. To celebrate the occasion, The Smithsonian is producing a documentary detailing the diamond’s full history, and will be narrated by Academy Award winner, Kim Basinger.

Interestingly, Basinger is well known for selling her own diamonds to raise money for charity. In 2004, Basinger put up her 3.7 carat diamond engagement ring from her ex-husband Alec Baldwin for auction through Christie’s, and raised over $59,000 for The Performing Animal Welfare Society.


Basinger’s new documentary, entitled “The Mystery of The Hope Diamond,” will air on November 21, 2010 on the Smithsonian channel, and will coincide with the diamond’s placement into a new setting. The Hope diamond is currently being displayed for the first time unset.

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