Little Bits of History

Hope For the Crown Jewels

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 11, 2014
Hope Diamond

Hope Diamond

September 11, 1792: Most of the French Crown Jewels are stolen. The Hope Diamond is also called Le Bijou du Roi or Le Bleu de France due to its striking color, the result of trace amounts of boron within its crystal structure. The gem’s first known owner, Jean-Baptiste Tavenier, was a French gem merchant. He claimed the diamond came from the Kollur mine in the Guntur district of India. The stone was still uncut when it arrived in Paris. The large stone weighed either 115 or 112.23 carats before it was cut. Tavernier wrote a book containing sketches of several large diamond he sold to Louis XIV in 1668 or 1669 without specifically mentioning this diamond but it is highly speculated it was among the gems sold to the king.

In 1678, Louis XIV commissioned Sieur Pitau, the court jeweler, to recut the Tavernier Blue and the newly cut stone was listed as a 67.125 carat stone called Blue Diamond of the Crown of France. The stone was set on a golden cravat pin. The jewel was supported by a ribbon and worn by the king during ceremonies. Louis XV had the diamond reset into a more elaborate pendant for the Order of the Golden Fleece. Andre Jacquemin used red spinel of 107 carats shaped as a dragon breathing flames along with 83 red-painted diamonds and 112 yellow-painted diamonds shaped as a fleece. It fell out of use after Louis XV’s death, but Louis XVI retained possession.

Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were confined to the Palais des Tuileries on this day, early in the French Revolution. While they were retained, thieves broke into the Garde-Meuble and stole most of the jewels stored within during the next five days. When both King and Queen were guillotined the next year, it was said to be part of the Blue Diamond curse. The exact stone was never seen again as it was cut while it was in the hands of unknown thieves. It was said to have been cut into at least two pieces with the larger one becoming known at the Hope Diamond.

Today, the Hope Diamond is part of the collection of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, D.C. It is now 45.52 carats. It is unknown who cut the diamond as it now exists but it was slightly reshaped by Harry Winston between 1949 and 1959. It is estimated to be worth between $200 and $250 million. The measurements are given as 1 inch x 7/8 inch x 15/32 inch. The color is described as “fancy dark greyish-blue” or “dark blue in color” by various people. The cut has been described as “cushion antique brilliant with a faceted girdle and extra facets on the pavilion.” Although diamonds are considered to be the hardest natural mineral on Earth, there are weak planes in the bonds which make it possible for them to be shaped by jewelers.

You cradle the 45.5-carat stone—about the size of a walnut and heavier than its translucence makes it appear—turning it from side to side as the light flashes from its facets, knowing it’s the hardest natural material yet fearful of dropping it. – Ron Edmonds

Add to this a varied history which includes being owned by King Louis XIV, stolen during the French Revolution, sold to earn money for gambling, worn to raise money for charity, and then finally donated to the Smithsonian Institution. – Jennifer Rosenberg

The media is convincing people that if you have that ‘next thing,’ that diamond, the right car, then you’d be happier. – Hill Harper

I am a bit sickie happy. I am prone to black clouds too, but… I am embarrassed about them. It’s like: ‘My diamond shoes are too tight. My money clip doesn’t fit all my fifties.’ I mean – really. Shut up. – Olivia Colman

Also on this day: There She Is, Miss America – In 1954, the Miss America pageant is televised for the first time.
Milwaukee Mile – In 1903, the first race was held at the Wisconsin speedway.
World Religions – In 1893, the Parliament of the World’s Religions opened.
Treasury – In 1789, Alexander Hamilton became the 1st US Secretary of the Treasury.

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