The curse of the Hope Diamond

This must be one of the most famous gemstones in the world. The notoriously cursed Hope Diamond. The 45.52 carat deep blue diamond passed through my family’s hands in the early 20th century when Pierre Cartier (pictured right) bought it to sell in his newly opened American branch of Cartier and made it into a necklace.

He thought – rightly as it turned out – that even if the sale didn’t make him much profit (which it didn’t) news of the famous stone being sold by Cartier would be the perfect type of marketing in a country where the French jeweller was still relatively unknown.

The problem was, being cursed, the diamond proved pretty tricky to sell. Previous owners had reportedly succumbed to fates as diverse as being eaten alive by wild dogs, being beheaded and forced into abdication. My grandfather remembered being terrified when he found out that his Uncle Pierre had bought it – what if the curse would hit his family too?

Fortunately there was one rather rich society lady who didn’t fear the curse and simply loved enormous gemstones. Mrs Evalyn Walsh McLean (pictured left wearing the Hope), a recently married multimillionaire heiress, bought the diamond in 1911 when she was just 25 years old. She loved showing off her new purchase – at her infamous parties she would play “Hide the Hope” in the garden with all her guests, or she would put it around the neck of her great dane, Mike!

My great-great-uncle Pierre was right – the stone regularly made the gossip columns, and with it Cartier’s name too. But it didn’t work out so well for Mrs Evalyn McLean.

Whether it was the curse that followed her or whether she was just unlucky, her family suffered a succession of terrible misfortunes: her son tragically died in a car accident, her husband ran off with another woman and ended up in a sanatorium, her daughter killed herself and their family paper The Washington Post, went bankrupt.

Despite all that, she never believed the Hope curse was anything more than fiction. Still, I can see why my grandfather was worried…

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