What is it that makes a diamond so attractive, and probably more sought after than any other gem?  It is very hard and durable; yes, being 10 on the Mohs scale.  It facets beautifully, and has industrial uses as well simply featuring in the jewellery trade.  Diamonds can also be found in a variety of colours, including black, brown, yellow, with pale blue, and then red, green, and even pure orange and violet, which are the most rare.  Formed up to 150 km under the ground, millions of diamonds were brought to the surface by the kimberlite pipes of volcanic eruptions.  Eroded over millions of years, diamonds were washed down the Orange River in South Africa, and settled with other sediments at the mouth of the river, or were carried by currents further up and down the coast, or else were gathered up by the waves and mixed with the sand on the shore where at one point in their history they could simply be gathered up by hand.  At other places inland, such as Kimberley, they were easily located within the clearly defined area of the volcanic pipes.  Their crystal system is cubic, with an octahedral or cubic habit, and they have a perfect cleavage.  The crown worn by Queen Elizabeth II of England for the State Opening of Parliament on 25th May this year, contained 2000 diamonds, including the famous Koh-I-Noor which originated in India in 1304.  This stone was 191 carats when first cut and then in 1852 was cut again to 109 carats, before being set into this crown. JW

Reference: Rock & Gem . Dorling Kindersley.

The Hope Diamond

In  1653 gem dealer Jean Baptiste Tavernier bought a 112 3/16 ct blue diamond from India.  In 1668 he sold it to Louis XIV who had it cut to 67 1/8 ct and called it the French Blue.  It was set in a decoration, the Order of the Golden Fleece, and worn by kings alone.  The stone passed on to Louis XV and Louis XVI.  In 1792 the French Revolution broke out.  Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were arrested and had their jewels taken from them to prevent them being used as a means of escape.  The Crown jewels were then locked in the Garde Meuble, the treasury, which was subsequently robbed in the same year.

Also in 1792 the Duke of Brunswick led a large army to invade France, rescue the royal couple and restore order, but he mysteriously withdrew his forces, and it is thought that he was bribed to do so with the stolen French Blue.  Louis and Marie Antoinette were executed in 1793.  The Duke of Brunswick’s daughter, Caroline, married the Regent Prince George of England in 1795, who later became George IV.  The marriage was a failure and the self-centred wastrel George lived apart from his wife.  In 1806 when Napoleon invaded Brunswick, a now re-cut 44 ¼ ct deep blue stone was brought to England.  It was the French Blue altered to make it look different from the stolen gem.  When Caroline was denied an income, she sold the stone in 1812 to Daniel Eliason.  From there the stone was purchased by King George at an unknown date, and renamed the George IV Diamond, and recorded as such in 1823.  George died in 1830 and to repay some of his immense debts his jewellery was sold, and the blue diamond was bought by Henry Philip Hope and renamed the Hope Diamond.  On Hope’s death it became his nephew’s stone and was exhibited at the Crystal Palace during the Great London Exhibition of 1851.  On the death of the nephew, it passed on to Lord Henry Francis Hope who was a gambler and pleasure seeker with large debts.  He married an American actress, May Yohe in 1894.  She later ran off with a Captain Strong in 1901, and in 1914 met and married a Captain Smuts in South Africa, who was related to Jannie Smuts the famous Prime Minister.

In 1901 Lord Hope sold the diamond to a New York dealer and in 1908 it was sold to a Parisian dealer amid newspaper claims of the stone being unlucky.  In 1910 Cartier showed the Hope Diamond to the young, wealthy, spoilt and alcoholic McLean couple – Evalyn and Edward – who were both millionaires in their own rights.  They bought the stone in 1911.  Their marriage failed, they divorced, and Edward lost his fortune and ended up in a lunatic asylum.  A son of theirs was killed in a motor accident, while a daughter died from a drugs overdose.  Edward died in 1941 and Evalyn in 1949, when Harry Winston of New York bought the Hope Diamond.  In 1958 he gave it to the Smithsonian Institution.  In 1965, the Hope Diamond was displayed at the Rand Easter Show in Johannesburg, hung in a golden spider’s web suspended between prickly gold rose bush stems to give it an eerie look.  Stories of the stone being cursed had begun in the early 20th Century and in 1921 May Yohe wrote a book, largely fictitious, called “The Mystery of the Hope Diamond”, and in it stories appeared like jealous Russian Price Kanitovsky lending the stone to his Follies Bergeres lover and shooting her on stage, only to be assassinated himself the next day, and Greek dealer Simon Montharides being killed when the car carrying him and his wife and child swerved over a cliff.  To date no trace has been found of the existence of any of these characters, nor has any record been found of these events.

Another tale tells of Turkish Sultan Hamid being usurped and overthrown by rebels (which did actually happen) and how he shot his favourite wife to save her from their clutches.  There is no evidence however that the Sultan ever owned the Hope Diamond, and there is also little evidence to suggest the stone carries a curse.  Some of the owners like Louis XIV, both George IV and Queen Caroling, Lord Francis Hope and the McLeans were unlucky but their sinful lifestyles no doubt added to their own undoings.  Other owners like Henry Philip Hope led quite normal lives, and Tavernier, said to have been torn apart by wolves in Russia, lived to a ripe old age of 84.  Even the profligate Louis XIV who did his best to bankrupt France outlived his own son and died of gangrene at the age of 77.   TVJ