The Hope Diamond was the one display I was most excited to see at the National Museum of Natural History...yet the most disappointing. The display case was quite grand, all in glass and in the center of the first room we walked into. The display stand rotated so many could stand around the case to catch a stunning glimpse of the world's largest deep blue diamond as it slowly rotated. Um, deep blue? My camera captures are identical to what I actually saw...totally blah and ugly.
I was more impressed by the smaller white diamonds than the Hope Diamond. The white diamonds beautifully caught the light as the stand rotated and were a wonder to behold.
I was surprised to see a more stunning rendering of the Hope Diamond on the cover of one of the books in the bookstore. Now that is gorgeous! If only that color was on display!
The early history of the "original" 112 3/16 carat diamond was purchased by a French merchant in the 17th century who described it as "un beau violet"..."a beautiful violet" diamond. He sold the diamond to King Louis XIV of France in 1668. It was recut to 67 1/8 carats in 1673. Royal inventories described it as the "Blue Diamond of the Crown" or the "French Blue." The king himself wore this huge gem suspended by a ribbon on ceremonial occasions. After another resetting by King Louis XV in 1749 and the turmoil of the French Revolution under King Louis XVI, the gem was stolen.
In 1812 a deep blue diamond surfaced in England, a bit smaller than the French Blue diamond, yet it is thought that this was the amazing blue diamond of the French kings. After a bit of obscurity, an amazing blue diamond was found in an 1839 journal reference of Henry Philip Hope...the diamond bears his name today. The gem stayed in the Hope family until 1901 when it was sold to pay debts.
From London to New York City to Paris, the blue diamond was sold again and again to pay off debts. By 1911 it was sold to a Mrs. McLean of Washington DC, reset as a tiara...and then later as a pendant as we see it today.
Ownership changed again when McLean passed away in 1947. By 1958 the blue Hope diamond was donated for the Smithsonian collection.
See that itty bitty part sticking out from the bottom? Mrs. McLean used to hang the Star of the East diamond from the Hope Diamond. (see slide 4 if the link doesn't take you directly to the photo of Mrs. McLean wearing this stunning combination.)
Although seeing the diamond was a bit lackluster for me, learning its history restored some of its brilliance. (I also understand that there is probably a scientific reason why the display was not brilliant but I couldn't find that bit of info.)