Brilliant, defiant, and the most prestigious of the classic gemstones - the diamond epitomizes unyielding power and invincible strength. It is these unbreakable characteristics that have evolved the diamond into the icon of the marriage covenant. (Below: Renaissance Ring, available for purchase here.)
Before it became the icon of the Christian marriage, the diamond was marveled more for its magical abilities than for its beauty. The hardest substance known to man and the most effective substance to disperse white light into its component spectrum colours (when appropriately cut) - diamonds have captured our imagination for thousands of years.
Found on nearly every continent, many ancient civilizations associated the diamond with fire or lightning, some attributing their creation to the thunderbolt.
Perhaps one of the most famous diamonds is the mysterious Hope Diamond – a gem surrounded in intrigue. From the moment it was allegedly stolen from the eye of a Hindu idol, the stone and all those who have owned it are said to be cursed. The first know precursor to this remarkable stone was the Travernier blue - a blue triangular cut stone of 115 carats.
This stone was sold to King Louis XIV of France who had the stone recut by his court jeweller to a 67 1/8carat stone, renamed the Blue Diamond of the Crown or simply the French Blue. Legend has it that King Louis XIV's wife, Marie Antoinette (to the right) wore the diamond around her neck as she was beheaded upon the guillotine. However, the fate of the stone was far less blood thirsty. While the King and Queen were confined in their palace during the early stages of revolution, the diamond along with many of the other crown jewels were stolen by thieves believed to have been hired by the leaders of the revolution. While many of these gems were recovered, the French Blue was never seen again.
Almost 20 years later, a blue diamond weighing 45.52ct. appeared in a published catalogue of gem collector Henry Phillip Hope. While speculation about the Hope Diamond having been cut from the missing French Blue has always existed, it was only in the earlier part of the 21st century that researchers using CAD technologies were able to confirm this suspicion.
Through bankruptcy and death, the stone was sold from rich families to tycoons, crossing the Atlantic on several occasions. This rocky past combined with a false report in the New York Times, was pounced upon by jeweller Phillip Cartier who embellished these lurid tales to intrigue Evalyn Walsh McLean into buying the Hope Diamond in 1911. The 20th century saw the birth of the Hope Diamond Curse, with legends abounding about jewellers, owners, and even delivery boys meeting an untimely demise at the hands of the gem.
Since arriving at the Smithonian Museum of Natural History, no unusual accidents have been related to it.