A New Chapter in the Hope Diamond’s History

The National Museum of Natural History’s most famous gem gets a modern update

The diamond’s current setting, once described by Evalyn Walsh McLean as a “frame of diamonds,” was originally created by Pierre Cartier and has remained largely unchanged since the early 1900s. (NMNH, SI)

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But which setting will be chosen? In an unusual move, museum officials say, the selection will be decided by the public, in a first-ever popular vote.

Between now and September 7, visitors will vote for one of the three designs through an online poll, hosted by the Smithsonian Channel, whose new documentary "Mystery of the Hope Diamond" is in production and due out next spring.

Alas, the new setting, unlike the diamond, isn't forever. After a limited-time, the diamond will be returned to its original, historic setting. Even the team at Harry Winston can't argue with that logic. "I think the setting is part of the heritage, it's part of what the Hope diamond is today," de Laage says.

The Hope Diamond wasn't known by that name until the 1830s, relatively late in the diamond's long history, when it was owned by the Hope family in London. The stone's journey began in India more than 300 years ago, when it was purchased by a French merchant. For generations, the stone traveled from France to London to New York and back again and then in 1910 it came to Washington, D.C., where the diamond's so-called curse evolved. It began as a tall tale that jeweler Pierre Cartier concocted to entice the interest of the wealthy and prestigious Evalyn Walsh McLean. She purchased the stone in 1912. Harry Winston bought the stone in 1949, two years after Evalyn's death, and the rest is history.


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