The Smithsonian is home to the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond, the world’s largest deep blue diamond. The gem has a long and mysterious past—and some people even think it is cursed!
Scholars believe that King Louis XIV of France bought the Hope Diamond in 1668. After King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette attempted to flee France in 1791 during the French Revolution, the diamond was turned over to the French government. The next year it was stolen. It wasn’t until 1812 in London that the diamond appeared again. Though evidence indicated it was the same stone, there is no way to be completely sure. It passed through several owners before an American heiress named Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean brought it to the United States. She added its current setting—it is now surrounded by 16 white diamonds and hangs on a chain of 45 diamonds.
After Mrs. McLean died, jeweler Harry Winston bought the diamond and donated it to the Smithsonian. And how did he send it? Winston simply placed the priceless diamond in a plain brown paper wrapper and sent it by registered first-class mail. He said, “It’s the safest way to mail gems. I’ve sent gems all over the world that way."
Today the Hope Diamond is one of the most visited museum objects in the world. And is it really cursed? Most curators don’t believe so. In fact, the Smithsonian has always looked at the Hope Diamond as a source of good luck!
The source of this story is the book Odd Tales from the Smithsonian (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1986), written by Peggy Thomson and Edwards Park.