The Hope Diamond is one of the most well-known diamonds in world history. It is associated with myths, kings, and even some superstitions. This fancy deep greyish blue diamond, which weighs 45.52 carats, has a history that cannot be matched and possesses an extraordinary combination of physical properties. Throughout its long history, it has come into contact with various members of the French monarchy, specifically Kings Louis XIV through XVI, and most likely with King George IV of the United Kingdom. It has been owned in the past by affluent merchants as well as some of the most well-known individuals in the world of jewellery, such as Pierre Cartier and Harry Winston.
The tale of how the Hope Diamond came to be.
Henry Philip Hope, a wealthy British banker who was an avid collector of gems and paintings, is credited with being one of the first owners of the Hope Diamond. The Hope Diamond got its name from him. When Hope passed away, he left behind a number of possessions, including this diamond, which remained in this family until 1901, when it was finally purchased by a jeweller. After that, it changed owners a few times, before being purchased in 1912 by Evalyn Walsh McLean, a socialite in Washington, District of Columbia. She was the owner of the property until her passing in 1947. The Hope Diamond was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1958 by its previous owner, Harry Winston, who had owned it for the previous eleven years. This precious jewel now belongs to the people of the United States.
The history of this famous diamond begins with a question: how did it come to be? Everything can be traced back to the Tavernier Blue, a blue diamond weighing 115 carats that was transported from India to France in 1673 and bought by King Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King. The stone was reworked by his royal jeweller into the 69-carat French Blue, and it was fashioned with a gold backing that made it possible for the sun to shine within the blue field that is at the stone's centre.
The stunning blue diamond pictured here was taken during the Revolutionary War in France in 1792. Twenty years later, in London, a blue diamond of 45 carats, which was significantly smaller but still spectacular, was discovered. It wasn't until just a few days after the twenty-year statute of limitations for crimes committed during the French Revolution had passed that this diamond, which would eventually become known as the Hope Diamond, was discovered. On the other hand, there is scant evidence to suggest who might have been responsible for the re-cutting of the gemstone. It wasn't until the middle of the 2000s that credible evidence emerged to support the theory that the Hope Diamond and the long-lost French Blue Diamond were actually the same precious gem. This theory had been widely discussed for many years.
What was it about the Hope Diamond that caused it to garner the attention of such prestigious individuals, including royal families? The Hope Diamond was evaluated by the Gemological Institute of America in 1988 and 1996, and both times it was given the following characteristics: it had a cushion shape, antique brilliance, VS1 clarity, and a fancy deep grayish-blue colour (the result of an incredibly high concentration of observable boron impurities).
99% of all diamonds, contain significant levels of nitrogen impurities, while the remaining 1% contain very little to almost no detectable nitrogen at all. Boron can be found in less than 0.1% of diamonds, which includes the Hope Diamond. Of these diamonds, the vast majority have lower quantities of boron than the Hope Diamond, the majority of them having less than 0.5 parts per million. Boron can be found in the Hope Diamond. Therefore, any natural diamond with such a high quantity of boron is exceedingly unusual, and the occurrence within such a large diamond is truly rare.
The fiery red phosphorescence of the Hope Diamond is yet another one of its extraordinary characteristics. When ultraviolet (UV) light is shone on the diamond, it will glow for longer than one minute like an ember that is still burning. Boron was incorporated into the diamond during the formation of the gemstone, which is responsible for both the blue colour of the diamond as well as the red phosphorescence that it exhibits. These boron atoms interact with other impurities within the diamond when the diamond is subjected to short-wave ultraviolet light, which is what causes the gemstone to emit visible light. This characteristic of the diamond is quite distinguishable due to the brilliant red glow that it emits and the length of time that it remains active.
Despite the fact that the history of the Hope Diamond has been shrouded in superstition and rumours of a curse for decades, scientific investigations of the diamond, particularly over the course of the last twenty years, have revealed many of its long-guarded secrets. These more recent research endeavours include computer modelling that convincingly demonstrated its origin as the French Blue, spectroscopic details and origins of its phosphorescence, as well as determination of both its total boron concentration as well as its observable boron concentration.
It is fortunate that this diamond got its name from one of the first documented owners, Hope, despite the fact that it went through many owners before ending up in the Smithsonian, where it will continue to captivate millions of visitors. The feeling of hope is something that is shared by all people on the planet, and it is an apt descriptor for this priceless gem.
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