A Temporary Setting
From timeless and classic to new and bold, the Hope Diamond's special Harry Winston setting celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the donation of the gem.Watch Video
Mystery of the Hope Diamond: Sneak Peek
Witness the Hope Diamond's epic journey, spanning eons, crossing three continents, and passing from kings to thieves to millionaires and into the halls of the Smithsonian.
See how our open call to design a setting for America's crown jewel inspired some dazzling ideas.
Curses, burdens or just bad luck? Kings, queens and millionaires flirted with disaster and despair by owning the Hope.
See how science is literally shedding new light on the world's most mysterious gemstone.
Harry Winston Slideshow
See the works of an artist who made his name by working on the most expensive canvas known to man.
You Design: Slideshow
We invited viewers to design a new setting for America's crown jewel, and our call for submissions garnered an incredible array of ideas - some edgy, some elegant, and some, well, kind of wacky!
Daemon Rowanchilde Designs: Slideshow
Daemon Rowanchilde, one of the world's most renowned tattoo artists, harnessed his creative energy to re-imagine the Hope Diamond and create several new designs.
A Temporary Setting for a Timeless Gem
The Hope Diamond has been through many changes in its life.
It has traveled through the depths of the earth and around the world. It has been downsized by more than half its original size, stolen under cover of night and blamed for any number of tragedies. It has been passed around, passed down, re-set and ultimately immortalized on a pedestal in Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Now the museum is celebrating the Hope's 50th anniversary at the Smithsonian, in style, with an elegant new temporary setting.
The American people voted online for their favorite design, and the winner is the dazzling necklace called "Embracing Hope."
Top designers from Harry Winston, the firm that donated the Hope to the American people, gave their time and talent to celebrate the diamond and create a temporary modern setting. They've taken into account the gem's rich history and American symbolism to design a new setting that emphasizes the diamond's brilliant blue color and impressive size. The setting includes more than 300 baguette diamonds, totaling over 60 carats.
The Hope Diamond will of course return to its original setting after a period of time on public display in its 50th anniversary "party dress." While some believe the stone should always remain in its original setting, many see this as an opportunity to celebrate a gem often referred to as America's crown jewel.
The temporary setting will be on the display at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. Don't miss this rare opportunity to view the Hope Diamond in a dazzling new light.
Many of you voiced strong opinions about the appearance of the Hope Diamond. Some asked that the setting remain unchanged, while many had their own grand visions for a totally new look. We invited viewers to design a new setting for America's crown jewel, and our call for submissions garnered an incredible array of ideas - some edgy, some elegant, and some, well, kind of wacky!
A panel of judges selected five designs for their creativity and originality. Winners received a $200 American Express Gift Card. The winning designs are featured at right.
From glamorous brooches to flashy hubcaps, there are many visions of the Hope that we could never have dreamed up. Click here to see a sample of the submissions.
Bringing Clarity to the Hope Diamond's Red Glow
In the back rooms of the National Museum of Natural History, mineralogist Jeffrey Post demonstrates an eerie characteristic of one of the museum's most intriguing objects. With the help of an ultraviolet light, the famous Hope Diamond is radiating a fiery red glow. To witness the world's largest deep-blue diamond radiate blood red is to be reminded of the many secrets the Earth still holds. But while the Hope retains many secrets, its fiery red glow, or phosphorescence, is no longer a mystery.
Colored diamonds are the result of trace amounts of elements or other imperfections found within the gems. In the case of the Hope's brilliant blue color, that impurity element is boron. Post and fellow researchers revealed that once exposed to ultraviolet light, the boron interacts with carbon and another element to produce the intense red afterglow. (The full explanation of this effect can be seen in our special, Mystery of the Hope Diamond.) With the help of a spectrometer, Post and other researchers examined over 75 blue diamonds, both real and man-made, under ultraviolet light and discovered that each diamond produces its own unique phosphorescence spectrum. That unique phosphorescence can be used as a sort of "fingerprint" to identify individual diamonds, and to detect real from fake.
Post has seen the phosphorescent afterglow in many blue diamonds, but none is quite like that of the Hope. In fact, there isn't a gem in the world quite like the 45.52 carat blue diamond. To learn more about the Hope Diamond, visit the National Museum of Natural History's website.
Curses, Burdens, or Just Bad Luck?
"The fabulous Hope Diamond, a stone of beauty and ill fortune, is about to pass from a New York gem merchant to the Nation," read the 1958 New York Times article.
For as long as it has captured the adoration of the public, the Hope Diamond has also stoked superstition. Smithsonian mineralogist Jeffrey Post, the keeper of the Hope, is highly dubious that the stone has any supernatural powers, but the legend persists that the diamond is cursed.
Jean Baptiste Tavernier, the trader who brought the original 115-carat stone from India to France, was allegedly mauled to death by dogs after desecrating a Hindu idol to obtain the rock. But this tragic tale was simply a myth. In reality, Tavernier made a tidy sum selling jewels to royalty and retired to Russia where he died a peaceful death.
What of the Hope's subsequent owners?
The European Royals
Louis XIV had the original gemstone cut down to enhance its brilliance. The new 69-carat version, known as the French Blue, became a part of the French King's crown jewels. The Sun King seemed to avoid the wrath of the curse, but his heirs, Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, would not be so lucky. Both the new queen and king lost their heads to the guillotine and all of the crown jewels were lost to thieves during the French Revolution. Years later, some would blame the diamond for those events.
Naming the Stone
After the greatest jewel heist in history, the French Blue was never seen again. But two decades later, another, slightly smaller blue diamond with an eerie resemblance to the French Blue's distinctive color mysteriously appeared in London. In 1839 it was acquired by financier Henry Philip Hope. To this day the diamond bears his name, but it appears to have caused the banker no strife. Perhaps, as in France, the legendary curse was biding its time to strike a later generation. In 1887, 21-year-old Lord Francis Hope inherited the famous diamond. Thanks partly to a relationship with an American showgirl, he managed to squander the entire family fortune. Eventually, the Hope Diamond ended up in the possession of jeweler Pierre Cartier.
Though Cartier seemed determined to relieve himself of the Hope, he himself avoided any real curse. He redesigned the setting and sold the stone to Washington socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean in 1912.
A glamorous figure since her finishing school days in Paris, McLean, the newly married socialite, wore the lavish diamond with pride and loaned it out in hopes of establishing the gem as a good luck charm. Yet McLean's efforts might have been in vain, for there is no doubt that she led a tragic life. Her young son was struck by a car and killed, her daughter committed suicide and her husband ended up in an insane asylum. More than anyone, Evalyn Walsh McLean became the poster child for the Hope Diamond's legendary curse.
Harry Winston, America's foremost jeweler, purchased the Hope from McLean's estate in 1949 and promptly sent it on a nationwide tour. Refining the image of the priceless gem, he continued to loan out the diamond just as McLean had during her lifetime.
A New Home
In November 1958, Winston sent the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution by certified mail with $1 million in insurance. With this windfall, the National Museum of Natural History established the National Gem Collection, also known as "America's Crown Jewels." [WATCH: Smithsonian curators reveal the original packaging that delivered the Hope.]
A columnist at the time noted wryly, "the Hope Diamond has brought nothing but grief to anyone who ever owned it. Whoever accepted it on behalf of the United States did this country a great disservice."
Though the Smithsonian appears to have maintained the Hope curse-free, James G. Todd, the postman who delivered the stone, did not escape so easily. He was hit by a truck and survived, only to be widowed before his dog died and his home caught fire. Even so, Todd insisted that no real curse followed the diamond. And curators at the Smithsonian would no doubt agree. For 50 years, the Hope Diamond has brought the Institution nothing but good luck -- and an endless stream of visitors.
The Faces Behind the Facets: Meet the Diamond Designers
Top designers from Harry Winston, Inc. donated their time and talent to celebrate America's crown jewel. Taking into account the Hope Diamond's history and America's historic journey, they designed a new setting that celebrates the gem's brilliant blue color and impressive size.
Meet the Designers:
Sandrine De Laage
Vice President of Design
Sandrine de Laage is a native of France who joined Harry Winston in 2007. As Vice President of Design, she has led the Winston design team in the creation of notable jewelry and timepieces. Prior to joining Harry Winston, de Laage ran her own design business for six years in Paris and consulted on jewelry design, advertising and visual merchandising for a variety of luxury goods companies, including Chanel, Van Cleef & Arpels and Cartier. Before that, she worked for Cartier for more than 10 years in Hong Kong and Paris.
Maurice Galli has more than 60 years of professional experience designing and manufacturing jewelry. As the only designer who worked directly under Harry Winston and designer Ambaji Shinde, Galli has a unique understanding of the history of the brand and the heritage of Winston's design DNA. Galli became involved with jewelry design through the guidance of his family, several members of whom were in the jewelry business. He earned his graduate degree in jewelry design, Bijouterie Joaillerie Orfèvrierie (BJO) from the Institution for Jewelry in Paris in 1948. Galli is the author of three books: "Designing Jewelry: Brooches, Bracelets, Necklaces and Accessories," "The Art of Jewelry Design: Principles of Design, Rings and Earrings," and "Creative Variations in Jewelry Design.
Rie Yatsugi joined the Harry Winston design team in 2003. Prior to joining the company, she spent many years working as a freelance jewelry designer, honing her skills and designing fashionable jewelry. Yatsugi became involved in jewelry design after working as a gemologist, studying the science and art of identifying and evaluating gemstones. She moved to the United States in 1995 to study at the Gemological Institute of America, where she earned her Graduate Gemologist degree.
The Blessed and Cursed Life of Evalyn Walsh McLean
When the famous jeweler Pierre Cartier showed Evalyn Walsh McLean the Hope Diamond in 1910, the newly married Washington socialite was dazzled by the stone's color, size and story, but she didn't like the setting. Two years later, Cartier brought the re-set diamond to America. After a weekend loan, Evalyn bought the gem.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Sweet Fire of Youth
Washington Post society columnist Sarah Booth Conroy described the young Miss Walsh as brazen and beautiful. She had moved from Leadville, Colorado to the nation's capital after her father's gold business made the family rich.
The relocation thrust her into the bustle of high society, complete with its elaborate fashions, extravagant parties and seemingly bottomless bank accounts. By the time Evalyn was sent to France for finishing school, she had already cultivated expensive tastes in clothing and jewelry. At first, her father's fortune did little to dissuade her indulgent tendencies, but after two years of high living in Paris, Thomas Walsh's patience and credit began to wear thin. He summoned his daughter home.
Once back in the states, Evalyn continued to cause her parents problems. A fly-by-night wedding to Edward Beale McLean no doubt compounded their grief. She and the Washington Post heir took an epic three-month honeymoon after they eloped. Armed with her father's credit, Evalyn continued her prodigal ways. It was in Paris, on the couple's last stop, that Evalyn visited jeweler Pierre Cartier and first laid eyes on the Hope Diamond.
A Legend Emerges
Evalyn was enchanted by Cartier's stories about the massive blue stone's mystifying past: how it was stolen from a Hindu statue and brought calamity to previous owners, including Marie Antoinette. But it wasn't the legendary curse that discouraged her from acquiring it. Rather, it was the stone's setting.
Cartier was known as an adept salesman as well as a master craftsman. His skill is still evident in the continued success and prominence of his design house. It's no real surprise that in 1912, Cartier visited Evalyn in Washington, D.C. armed with a redesigned setting. When he left the nation's capital, Evalyn was the proud owner of the Hope Diamond.
The Hope added sparkle to an already glamorous life, but was soon overshadowed by the tragedy that ultimately befell Evalyn. Her husband, the man who once inspired her to elope and travel the world, left her. He died alone in a sanatorium. Her children too perished, her son a victim of an auto accident, her daughter a suicide. In the end, the Hope was about the most remarkable thing she had left.
Living Out Hope
Evalyn was a woman persistent in her optimism. She was determined to make the gem a good luck charm for herself and others. Faced with an unforgiving fate, she chose to celebrate her own best intentions and the jewel's potential to symbolize true hope by loaning out the diamond to other women during the Great Depression.
Evalyn was not without her eccentricities. Photos from the National Museum of Natural History show Evalyn wearing the stone while rocking a baby. The stone was not just reserved for special occasions. Reportedly, she would wear the Hope while gardening and use it as a collar for her dog. Before a major surgery, her physician pleaded with her to take off the necklace, but she refused.
Though some of Evalyn's quirks are of questionable authenticity, a gem of such power as the Hope was certainly a talisman. Whether it betokened evil or held it at bay - or neither - remains unknown, but to Evalyn it may well have served as a reminder of everything she had lost.
After her passing in 1948, Harry Winston bought the Hope Diamond along with the rest of her extraordinary jewels, and a new chapter in the Hope story began.
Harry Winston: From the Red Carpet to the Blue Diamond
Harry Winston. The name is synonymous with glamorous jewelry and show-stopping gems. His designs have graced the necklines of fabulous starlets for years. But while his jewelry shone under the flashing lights on the red carpet, Harry Winston himself shied away from the spotlight. A quick image search reveals tons of sparkling gems but nary a sign of the man himself. Winston clearly calculated his presence and let his work speak for itself.
An Eye for Design
Under the watchful eye of Harry Winston, a gem revealed its true assets. With no formal training as a gemologist, Winston built his career on the strong foundation of knowledge passed down from his father, a Ukrainian immigrant and self-trained jeweler. After opening his first namesake store in New York in 1932, refined and timeless styles quickly became Winston's trademark, building a lasting reputation for first-class quality. But perhaps one of Winston's most overlooked talents was product placement. He clearly understood the need for the general public to appreciate the beauty and value of a diamond. In order to accomplish this, diamonds needed to be visible. Enter Hollywood.
Silver Screen Style
Winston once said, "People will stare: make it worth their while," and that's exactly what he did for the leagues of fans staring at Hollywood's leading ladies. He began lending jewelry to Hollywood studios free of charge. Winston became the first jeweler to loan diamonds to an actress for the Academy Awards. In 1943 he dressed Best Actress winner Jennifer Jones in his signature diamonds. Subsequently, his gems appeared on the necklines of starlets both on screen and off. The ladies of the big screen were more than willing to don the luxurious jewelry, and, without the use of flashy ads or billboard signs, Winston's creations were on display for the general public.
Today, it's assumed that Hollywood's hottest starlets donning the most elegant jewelry at high-profile events are wearing Harry Winston's creations. From Marilyn Monroe to Madonna, Winston's diamonds have been an integral part of Hollywood's glamorous history, solidifying his status as Jeweler to the Stars. When Marilyn Monroe crooned the lines "talk to me Harry Winston, tell me about it" in the classic song "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend", she wasn't just name-dropping, she was seeking serious gem advice. If diamonds truly are a girl's best friend, then Winston is a soul mate.
A Timeless Donation
Admittedly, not everyone stares at the starlets on the silver screen. But if the bright lights of Hollywood don't entice you, how about the renowned halls of the Smithsonian Institution? The addition of Specimen #217868 to the collection of the National Museum of Natural History is perhaps one of Winston's most laudable contributions to the American people. The specimen, known to the public as the Hope Diamond, is seen by millions of visitors each year and has become simply iconic.
Winston owned and shared many of the world's most valuable jewels, including the Blue Heart Diamond, the Smithsonian's second largest blue diamond, but none captured the attention of visitors quite like the Hope. Whether because of its size and color or stories of its mysterious past, the stone brings visitors from all over the world and has transcended the halls of history to obtain pop culture status. The jewel remains the most popular attraction at the National Museum of Natural History.
Rowanchilde: A world-famous tattoo artist takes on the Hope Diamond
Daemon Rowanchilde is one of the world's most renowned tattoo artists. Consider some of his clients: He designed the elaborate facial tattoos on the superhero Nightcrawler in the X-Men movies. He's tattooed Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton. And even though his studio is in the small town of Fergus, Ontario, about an hour and a half west of Toronto, he's got a six-month waiting list.
I met Daemon recently on a shoot for the Smithsonian Channel program Tattoo Odyssey. After admiring both his artistry and his intense approach to finding the perfect image for his clients, I couldn't resist telling him about our plans for the Hope Diamond. Already, ace designers from the legendary jeweler Harry Winston were hard at work on new settings for a 21st century Hope.
To my surprise, Daemon announced that he'd like to take a stab at a new design for the diamond. It occurred to me that when Harry Winston donated the gem to the Smithsonian, he was really giving it to the American people. In many ways it's become America's crown jewel, so why not provide a forum for other visions of the Hope?
It's not just Daemon's art that fascinates. His process is unlike anything I had encountered before. He calls his signature style "Daemonic Energy Wave." Here's how he describes it:
"I approach everything as a map, but the map is not the territory. The process allows me to go deeper into my experiences in art with maximum freedom and minimal restriction. I approached this project in the same way that I do all my art. Intrigued by the history and mystery of the Hope diamond, I chose to do an 'as if' experiment, in this case to balance the so-called negative energy (or curse) associated with the Hope diamond." "I began by treating the Hope diamond the way I would treat a client. By bypassing the emphasis on brainwave activity in favor of the receptivity of the heart, I open to the language of the heart. The past and future positions of the brain/mind dissolve and I am no longer 'going to' or 'acting upon' or acquiring or 'trying' to create a design; I allow the design to come to me. Whether the Hope diamond was ever out of balance or not is irrelevant, what was important to me was the question, 'what is the Hope diamond's energetic state of balance?' These energy patterns came to me and I laid down the maps without editing. This is selection of the information that I received. When I stepped back to look at the map, my brain perceived the grid as a complex multi-tiered, multi-dimensional torus schematic. To my limited perception, this represents the natural unlimited energy field of the Hope Diamond. My design creations grew from there."
To see Daemon's art and tattoo designs, visit urbanprimative.com.
There's MORE to the story. Discover the inspirations, see the artifacts and meet the experts of the Smithsonian Institution.
A VERY SPECIAL DELIVERY
When he donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958, jeweler Harry Winston sent the fabled gem by registered first-class mail. Visit the National Postal Museum's special collections to see how much it cost to deliver the world's most famous diamond.
Connect to Smithsonian: National Postal Museum
DIAMONDS ON DEMAND
They don't have the help of volcanoes, but technicians are actually growing diamonds in labs. Practically indistinguishable from mined diamonds, scientists and engineers see a world of possibilities.
Connect to Smithsonian: Smithsonian Magazine
THE NATIONAL GEM COLLECTION
Can't get enough of that sparkle and shine? Visit the Smithsonian's Gem Gallery to see highlights from the National Museum of Natural History's treasured gems and jewelry collection.
Connect to Smithsonian: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
FROM INDIA TO INFAMY
Passing through the hands of kings and queens to the halls of the Smithsonian, the Hope Diamond's 350-year journey is legendary. Rumors and myths gathered along the way but the Smithsonian is the source for all of the historical facts.
Connect to Smithsonian: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
How are diamonds formed? How do they travel to the earth's surface? Learn all of the scientific specifics from diamond expert Jeffrey Post.
Connect to Smithsonian: Smithsonian Magazine
ALL YOU EVER NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT HOPE
Want to learn more about the history of the Hope Diamond? Visit the Smithsonian's online store to purchase the book and discover the true story behind the most famous stone in the world.
Connect to Smithsonian: Smithsonian Store