The Hope Diamond is like none other. It has inspired legends, is believed to be cursed, and has been worn by royalty. The gem has been stolen, recovered, sold and resold, cut and recut. Since it arrived at the museum, in a plain brown wrapper, the rare diamond has been one of their premier attractions. The history of the stone which was eventually named the Hope Diamond, is thought to have begun in the Kollur mine in Golconda, India. When first found, it was triangular in shape and crudely cut. A French merchant adventurer, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, found the diamond and is the first recorded owner. At that time weighed 112 carats. Legend says at some point in time, the stone was pried from the eye of an Indian idol, thus the origins of the curse. Tavernier took it out of India and sold it (among other jewels) to Louis XIV of France, where it was known as the French Blue Stone. For more than a century, the gem graced the throats of French Kings and Queens. The stone was set in gold and suspended on a neck ribbon, which the king wore on ceremonial occasions. It's said Marie Antoinette (who lost her head to the guillotine) often wore the stone.
With the coming of the French Revolution, all royal jewels, including the French Blue Stone were confiscated and turned over to the revolutionary government. But on the morning of September 17, 1792, the entire collection was stolen. Forty years passed and the whereabouts of the stone are unclear.
Next, around the year 1830, an oval diamond of sapphire blue mysteriously appeared in London. The gem was taken there by a young Dutchman who stole it from his father, or so the story goes. The father, a diamond cutter, supposedly died of grief over the loss. Next, records indict it had several owners, who suffered misfortune and early death.
The gem landed eventually in the hands of a gentleman named Henry Hope, from whom the diamond takes its current name. It passed to at least three generations of the Hope family. More misfortune followed. Early in the 1900s the gem had more owners including a Turk who promptly drowned. Here, things get murky, but somehow the diamond found it's way back to France where in 1910, it was shown to Evalyn Walsh McLean. She purchased the stone for $154,000. With it came tragic events. Mrs. McLean's daughter died, her son was run down by a car and her husband became mentally unbalanced. Once large, the family bank account dwindled. Through her troubles, Evalyn held the gem, until her death in 1947.
In 1949, Harry Winston purchased the diamond, among other jewelry and donated the stone to the Smithsonian in 1958. Today the gem weighs 45.52 carats, surrounded by sixteen white diamonds, both pear-shaped and cushion cuts.