Posted on February 18, 2015 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments
The gorgeous, steely blue Hope Diamond is the center of many dark legends and unfortunate stories.
The tale of the Hope Diamond continues to ignite our imaginations. The idea that such a beautiful stone could spur ghastly misfortune is darkly fascinating. While skeptics may scoff at belief in such supernatural stories, it’s hard to deny that the events surrounding the Hope Diamond curse are intriguing for anyone who loves a good story.
Of course, one must parse faction from fiction where possible. Historians suggest that the gem’s various owners may have embellished some of the gruesome tales attached to the stone in order to garner a better sale price—but some of these bad luck accounts have been confirmed by historians and need no embellishment to give you chills.
In 1653, a French merchant named Jean Baptiste Tavernier filched a 115-carat, rare blue stone from the eye of an Indian Hindu idol. According to legend, Hindu priests cursed the stone, ultimately causing Tavernier’s death by dog mauling. Historians refute this gory story, however, explaining that Tavernier died peacefully in Russia. The stone’s origin story also begs the question: Where is the second blue stone (the second eye)? We’re still waiting for it to turn up.
King Louis XVI inherited the French Blue and was later executed by revolutionaries.
King Louis XIV purchased the diamond (then called the “French Blue”) from Tavernier, but did not seem to suffer from its curse. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette inherited the French Blue—and most of us know how they met their ends. Could the cursed diamond have precipitated angry mobs, guillotine executions, and the French Revolution? Perhaps not—but it certainly didn’t serve as a good luck charm!
The stone was recut and eventually purchased by London financier Henry Philip Hope in 1839 (hence the name, “Hope Diamond”). The curse skipped Henry but landed pretty hard on his descendant, Lord Francis Hope, who inherited the stone. With his showgirl wife, he lived far beyond his means and was forced to sell the stone and declare bankruptcy. His wife ran away with his rival, and Lord Hope died poor and alone.
The Hope Diamond found its way to American jeweler Pierre Cartier. Learning that potential client Evalyn Walsh McLean may be interested in purchasing the stone, Cartier may have embellished legends of the curse to pique her interest. McLean had told Cartier that “bad luck” objects turned to “good luck” tokens under her ownership. Hope diamond scholar Susanna Patch notes that stories of the Hope Diamond’s curse didn’t appear in print until the twentieth century. Could the notion of the curse have started with Cartier?
Evalyn Walsh McLean
McLean purchased the diamond in 1912 and wore it constantly—if it wasn’t being worn by her dog! After obtaining the stone, her life was met with one tragedy after another. Her son was killed in a car accident, and her daughter died of a drug overdose. After leaving her for another woman, McLean’s husband was committed to an insane asylum.
Mr. and Mrs. Walsh
The stone’s grim havoc did not end with McLean, however. Jeweler Henry Winston purchased the stone from McLean’s estate and sold it to the Smithsonian National Museum of History in 1958 (where the stone resides today). Although Winston and the museum seem to have avoided the curse, the mailman, James Todd, who delivered the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian was not so lucky. He was hit by a truck (he survived), his wife and dog died shortly thereafter, and his home caught fire.
The Hope Diamond was delivered to the Smithsonian in this inconspicuous package.
What do you think? Curse or coincidences?