The beautiful blue Hope diamond, purchased by American heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean in 1911, is on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC without its setting for the first time.
The famous gem is being reset to mark the 50th anniversary of its donation in 1958 to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History by jeweler Harry Winston who purchased it from Mrs. McLean’s estate in 1949.
Brought to France from India by Jean Baptiste Tavernier, a noted French traveler of the 17th century, the Hope diamond was 112-1/2 karats before being cut for King Louis XIV of France in 1678. The cut stone weighed 67-1/8 karats. It disappeared during the French Revolution when it was further cut to the size it is today — 45.52 karats.
It became known as the Hope diamond through its ownership by Henry Philip Hope who acquired it some time prior to 1839. Although it was regarded as certain that the 10-3/4 karat Brunswick diamond was part of the original diamond, that has since been disproven.
The new setting, “Embracing Hope,” was chosen by the public from three designs shown above, and is being created by the House of Harry Winston for the Smithsonian.
The Hope diamond has long held the public’s imagination. “Because certain of its owners have met with misfortune a baleful influence has been ascribed to the famous Hope Diamond,” reported the New York Times in November 1909 when its then owner — Selib Habib — was reported as having “drowned in the wreck of the French mail steamer Seyne at Singapore.” Habib, who reportedly paid $400,000 for the diamond, sold it in June 1909 for $80,000. Mrs. McLean bought it two years later, in 1911, for $120,000.
I like the old setting. I wish they would have left it alone.