The Hope family is said to have been tainted with the diamond's curse. According to the legend, the once-rich Hopes went bankrupt because of the Hope diamond.
Is this true? Henry Philip Hope was one of the heirs of the banking firm Hope & Co. which was sold in 1813. Henry Philip Hope became a collector of fine art and gems, thus he acquired the large blue diamond that was soon to carry his family's name. Since he had never married, Henry Philip Hope left his estate to his three nephews when he died in 1839. The Hope diamond went to the oldest of the nephews, Henry Thomas Hope.
Henry Thomas Hope married and had one daughter; his daughter soon grew up, married and had five children. When Henry Thomas Hope died in 1862 at the age of 54, the Hope diamond stayed in the possession of Hope's widow. But when Henry Thomas Hope's widow died, she passed the Hope diamond on to her grandson, the second oldest son, Lord Francis Hope (he took the name Hope in 1887).
Because of gambling and high spending, Francis Hope requested from the court in 1898 for him to sell the Hope diamond (Francis was only given access to the life interest on his grandmother's estate). His request was denied. In 1899, an appeal case was heard and again his request was denied. In both cases, Francis Hope's siblings opposed selling the diamond. In 1901, on an appeal to the House of Lords, Francis Hope was finally granted permission to sell the diamond.
As for the curse, three generations of Hopes went untainted by the curse and it was most likely Francis Hope's gambling, rather than the curse, that caused his bankruptcy.
The Hope Diamond as a Good Luck Charm
It was Simon Frankel, an American jeweler, who bought the Hope diamond in 1901 and who brought the diamond to the United States.
The diamond changed hands several times during the next several years, ending with Pierre Cartier.
Pierre Cartier believed he had found a buyer in the rich Evalyn Walsh McLean. Evalyn first saw the Hope diamond in 1910 while visiting Paris with her husband. Since Mrs. McLean had previously told Pierre Cartier that objects usually considered bad luck turned into good luck for her, Cartier made sure to emphasize the Hope diamond's negative history. Yet, since Mrs. McLean did not like the diamond in its current mounting, she didn't buy it.
A few months later, Pierre Cartier arrived in the U.S. and asked Mrs. McLean to keep the Hope diamond for the weekend. Having reset the Hope diamond into a new mounting, Carter hoped she would grow attached to it over the weekend. He was right and Evalyn McLean bought the Hope diamond.
Susanne Patch, in her book on the Hope diamond, wonders if perhaps Pierre Cartier didn't start the concept of a curse. According to Patch's research, the legend and concept of a curse attached to the diamond did not appear in print until the twentieth century.5
Evalyn McLean wore the diamond all the time. According to one story, it took a lot of persuading by Mrs. McLean's doctor to get her to take off the necklace even for a goiter operation.6
Though Evalyn McLean wore the Hope diamond as a good luck charm, others saw the curse strike her too. McLean's first born son, Vinson, died in a car crash when he was only nine. McLean suffered another major loss when her daughter committed suicide at age 25. In addition to all this, Evalyn McLean's husband was declared insane and confined to a mental institution until his death in 1941.
Whether this was part of a curse is hard to say, though it does seem like a lot for one person to suffer.
Though Evalyn McLean had wanted her jewelry to go to her grandchildren when they were older, her jewelry was put on sale in 1949, two years after her death, in order to settle debts from her estate.
The Hope Diamond is Donated
When the Hope diamond went on sale in 1949, it was bought by Harry Winston, a New York jeweler. Winston offered the diamond, on numerous occasions, to be worn at balls to raise money for charity.
Though some believe that Winston donated the Hope diamond to rid himself of the curse, Winston donated the diamond because he had long believed in creating a national jewel collection. Winston donated the Hope diamond to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958 to be the focal point of a newly established gem collection as well as to inspire others to donate.
On November 10, 1958, the Hope diamond traveled in a plain brown box, by registered mail, and was met by a large group of people at the Smithsonian who celebrated its arrival.
The Hope diamond is currently on display as part of the National Gem and Mineral Collection in the National Museum of Natural History for all to see.
1. Susanne Steinem Patch, Blue Mystery: The Story of the Hope Diamond (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1976) 55.
2. Patch, Blue Mystery 55, 44.
3. Patch, Blue Mystery 46.
4. Patch, Blue Mystery 18.
5. Patch, Blue Mystery 58.
6. Patch, Blue Mystery 30.