The hope diamond has led many lives and had many names since it was first discovered in 17th century India. The original stone was a 112ct natural blue rough that was acquired by renowned diamond dealer Jean-Baptiste Travernier who fashioned the stone to 67ct and named the stone the ‘Tavernier Blue’.
The newly cut stone was now valued at approximately 3.6million dollars in today’s money and fit for royalty. Meaning there was only one buyer in Travernier’s mind: Louis XIV. Where the diamond then became known as the ‘French-Blue’, the second of its grand aliases.
The opulent French king wore the ginormous blue diamond on a brooch or around his neck for many years, passing it onto his predecessors who cared for it until the French monarchy was overturned in the revolution, at which point the diamond and other French crown jewels were displayed to the public before being stolen in 1792, whereupon the hope disappeared for over 20 years.
There are many theories of what happened to the French blue during this time. One of the thieves of the French crown jewels un-set the French blue from its golden fleece setting, he attempted to sell the other stones in the piece, but the French blue was no-where to be seen. Instead, it is suspected that the French blue was used as a bargaining chip with the Prussian Duke of Brunswick in order to halt their invasion of France.
The diamond remained in hiding until in 1815 a diamond dealer named Daniel Eliason produced a smaller 45.52ct blue diamond of a similar saturation. Seemingly coincidentally that this diamond surfaced a mere two days after the statute of limitations lapsed for prosecuting war crimes of the French revolution.
This smaller stone would change hands several times before being purchased by wealthy entrepreneur Henry Hope, where the diamond gets its final name, to heiress Evalyn Walsh McLean and finally to the Cartier family, who donated it to the Smithsonian.
But how do we know that this is indeed the famed French Blue that was found in the 17th century. Well firstly the Smithsonian undertook detailed computer modelling and laser scanning of the Hope diamond and painstakingly compared it to the original French Blue. But if this wasn’t enough a lead casting of the original French blue was found in the Paris Natural History Museum in 2009, along with a tag that read “belonging to Mr. Hoppe of London”; suggesting he owned and re-cut the diamond from the original French blue to hide its identity.
The hope diamond is currently estimated at 350 million dollars.