The Extraordinary History of the Hope Diamond

Hope Diamond Necklace Display
The Hope Diamond. Photo: DavidNNP /

The world-famous Hope Diamond has a long history dating back centuries. The 45.52-carat stone is known for its rare and beautiful blue color and exceptional size, and it is just as admired today as much as it was back in the seventeenth century.

The Tavernier Blue 

The mesmerizing color of blue-diamonds comes from the traces of boron in their carbon composition. Today, you can easily view and purchase beautiful blue diamond jewelry, such as the stunning blue diamond wedding rings from Diamondere. But centuries ago, blue diamonds were much harder to find. And even today, you will not find a blue diamond as large and captivating as the Hope Diamond.

The stone now called the Hope Diamond is thought to have originated from the Kollur Mine, Golconda Sultanate, which is now in India. The earliest records show the French gemstone merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier obtained the stone in 1666. Tavernier took the large uncut stone to Paris, where it soon gained attention and became known as the Tavernier Blue. At the time, the stone was a crudely-cut triangular shape. In 1668, Tavernier sold the stone to King Louis XIV.

King Louis XV Portrait 1917
King Louis XV portrait. Photo: Everett Collection /

The French Blue

In 1673, the royal court jeweler Sieur Pitau recut the stone. Due to its intense blueness, the stone was given the title: the French Blue. The stone was set in gold and placed on a neck ribbon. King Louis XIV would wear the jewel on ceremonial occasions. Decades later, in 1749, King Louis XV had the court jeweler Andre Jacquemin reset the stone in a ceremonial jewelry piece.

During the political unrest of 1791, the French Royal Treasury jewels became the property of the government, and that included the French Blue. However, in the week-long looting of the crown jewels in 1792, the French Blue was stolen.

The stone resurfaced in 1812. At least, a blue diamond strongly resembling the French Blue came into the possession of the London diamond merchant Daniel Eliason. Rumor has it that it then found its way into the possession of King George IV. As the king’s debts were so large when he died in 1830, it is likely the stone was sold via private channels, along with his other prized belongings.

Hope Diamond Alternate View

The Hope Diamond

The next record of the stone dates from 1839. It is listed in gemstone collector Henry Philip Hope’s gem collection catalog. Although it is not known for sure where or how Hope obtained the stone, the London-based Dutchman will always be most famously associated with the stone because he gave it its modern name: the Hope Diamond.

After Hope died in 1839, the diamond passed to Henry Thomas Hope and then to Lord Francis Hope. When Lord Francis Hope got into debt in 1901, he sold the stone to a London dealer who sold it on to Joseph Frankels and Sons of New York City. In 1909, the stone was sold on to Selm Habib. In the same year, he sold it to C.H. Rosenau. In turn, Rosenau sold the Hope Diamond to Pierre Cartier. 

In 1910, at Cartier’s in Paris, the Hope Diamond was shown to the American Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean, but she did not like the setting. Cartier then reset the stone in the hope of a sale, and in 1911, Mrs. McLean bought the stone, which was now mounted as a headpiece on a three-tiered circlet of white diamonds. Sometime later, the stone became the pendant on a diamond necklace, as it has remained to this day.

After Mrs. McLean died in 1949, New York company Harry Winston Inc. purchased her entire collection of jewelry. The Hope Diamond was exhibited at many events for the next ten years before it was donated to the Smithsonian Institute in 1958, where it can still be viewed today.

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