His story, or his legend, begins hundreds of years ago with a group of farmers from southern India, on the Deccan plateau. There, riverbeds that have dried up over the centuries have provided most of the world’s oldest diamonds. Those farmers discovered a dark, crystalline-looking object weighing just over 20 grams. If the stone had been small it would have traveled to Golconda, where merchants traded the value of diamonds sitting in the shadow of the old fort. In fact, until the beginning of the 18th century, almost all the diamonds in the world passed through there. The trade was made fundamentally with Indonesia, and they were exchanged for camphor, pepper and sulfur. Then they ended up in China or Europe, brought by the Dutch.
But this blue diamond was very large and remained in the possession of the kings of Golconda, who used to “award” themselves the best pieces to wear on their elephants, thrones or clothing. Interestingly, the most crystalline and colorless stones were the most precious, but only the priestly caste of Brahma could wear them. It was thought that the gods guarded the blue ones with extreme zeal, since they had the color of the sky. Legend has it that the Hope was placed in the eye of a Hindu god of unknown identity, and was stolen by a thief under the command of the famous French adventurer and merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who visited Asia six times between 1631 and 1668. His wildly vivid descriptions of his travels and the jewels he claimed to have seen caught the attention of the young Louis XIV. Something striking because Tavernier was a Huguenot and the Sun King hated them, but since he liked diamonds more, he became their biggest buyer. The king bought the gem, which would appear in the royal inventory as the Blue Diamond of the Crown of France. Years later he would have it cut down to 67 carats (13.425 grams).
But the curse of the Hope was not going to wait. In 1685 Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes and thus restarted the extermination of the French Protestants. Tavernier had to flee, abandoning everything, like the master jewelers who had made Paris the center of the European gem trade. These fleeing Protestants settled in Central Europe, more specifically in Amsterdam, Bruges and Antwerp. Meanwhile, Tavernier traveled to Switzerland and then to Moscow, where he is said to have been mangled to death by dogs. The curse was beginning to take its toll. Another of its victims was Louis XIV’s finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet, to whom the king had lent it to wear at a reception: the next day he was arrested for embezzlement and locked up for life.
At this point he is lost track of and does not reappear until he reaches the hands of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, whose fate is well known. The diamond, along with other crown jewels, was stolen from the royal storehouses (the Garde-Meuble). And although most of the objects were recovered, the diamond disappeared. In 1812 one of the same size and color was exhibited in London. Such valuable diamonds usually carry a story with them, but this one had arrived as an orphan. Everyone suspected that it was the French Blue, as it was called in the Anglo-Saxon world: the carving was consistent with what might have been done if it had been cut again. In 1823 it was bought by the Dutch banker Henry Philip Hope, who gave it its name. In the following years, it is said that it was marred by different scandals and in 1910, its spendthrift descendant, Francis Hope, had to sell it to face the many debts that it had acquired. The diamond went to the famous offices of the Cartier brothers, in the Parisian rue de la Paix, who tried to sell it to as many maharajas, European nobles or American millionaires who passed by. In the end it was bought by the daughter of a Colorado tycoon, Evalyn Walsh McLean, thanks to the good mercantile arts of Pierre Cartier. A peculiar woman, who placed the precious and supposedly cursed jewel on her dog when she got bored of wearing it, just to see the look on her guests’ faces. Or at a New Year’s party at his mansion he came downstairs wearing the Hope… and nothing else.
The curse of the Hope took its toll: her eldest son died at the age of 9. Her husband, Edward, became an alcoholic – he once urinated on the Belgian ambassador’s leg during a White House reception. He died in 1933 in an asylum, drowning in debt, his only daughter committed suicide and she was addicted to opiates. The flighty Evalyn died in 1947 at the age of 60 at the hands of a fatal combination of cocaine and pneumonia. In one of his last Times Herald gossip columns he wrote: “It is a strange and scary thing how many people who have touched it have died unnatural and often horrible deaths.”
The life of this poor little rich girl settled the curse of the Hope in the minds of her admirers, except for the New York jeweler Harry Wilson, who bought it and presented it to society as if it were a Hollywood celebrity. And in 1958 he did something that surprised locals and strangers: he donated it to the Smithsonian, in what he said was a sign of gratitude to the American people from the son of a Ukrainian immigrant.
It really is a story according to one of the most beautiful diamonds; Too bad most of it is totally invented. Tavernier died peacefully aged 84, Minister Fouquet was arrested years before Louis XIV bought the diamond, Marie Antoinette probably never carried it, and even Francis Hope survived his bankruptcy and died at the age of 75. Despite all the stories that have been told about the owners of the Hope, the only person who really suffered a fate was Evalyn, and it had more to do with her drug addiction and dissipated life than the diamond she hung from her. his neck.
Interestingly, one of those who most spread and embellished the Hope legend was Pierre Cartier. When he bought it he made a miscalculation: he thought he was going to sell it easily. So Pierre decided to give it a twist: enhance the supposed curse of this jewel, dressing it with all kinds of incredible stories. And Evalyn Walsh stung. Cartier designed the story of the idol and its subsequent theft, but it was not original: in 1910 the story of the great diamonds used to begin in a Hindu statue. This was the case with another great diamond, the Orlov, which had been given to Catherine II of Russia by her former lover Prince Orlov. According to legend, that it was created by a Huguenot shepherd in 1783, it had been stolen from an Indian temple by a French soldier. Such stories were sometimes believed by the merchants themselves, as in this case by Charles F. Winston, who bought it and cut it into three pieces to break the curse. Even the always serious auction houses spread, or believed, these stories. According to an 1865 Christie’s catalog the Eye of the Idol diamond had been purchased by a devout Muslim and placed in the eye of an idol in Benghazi. Apparently, the experts at Christie’s cared little that Muslims had no idols in their worship or that Benghazi was in Libya.