Removed from its Setting, The Hope Stands Alone

Celebrating the 50th-anniversary of its arrival at the National Museum of Natural History

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The Hope Diamond, the Smithsonian's rock for all ages, that wonderful indigo blue 45.52 carat gem stone, is once again in the spotlight. Today, as part of the diamond's on-going 50th-anniversary celebration of its arrival at the National Museum of Natural History, curators will remove the diamond from its classic Cartier-designed platinum setting and put the naked stone on exhibit for the next six months.

Meanwhile, a new, temporary setting is being hand-crafted by the renowned New York jeweler, Harry Winston Inc, and the Hope will go on view in April 2010 dressed up its new attire. The new design, also announced today, and pictured at left, was selected in an online voting poll by more than 100,000 voters. The winning setting, Embracing Hope, is the brainchild of French designer Maurice Galli, who has been with the Winston firm for nearly two decades. Three rows of baguette diamonds encircle the Hope Diamond at the center. "The idea there was to create the very strong contrast between the brilliance, the life of the Hope itself and the look of the baguettes," Galli says.

The Hope's history is a long and storied affair with enough twists and turns to fill a Danielle Steele potboiler. Herewith, we bring you Ten Things We Bet You Didn't Know About the Hope Diamond.

1. The Sun King, Louis XIV of France, liked to wear the Hope around his neck suspended from a light blue ribbon.

2. The most unlikely wearer of the Hope Diamond was a dog. Washington Socialite Evalyn Walsh Mclean actually put it on her dog's collar once for a party. She also would wear it herself to do chores like gardening.

3. Although the Hope was owned by her husband, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette apparently never got a chance to wear it. Don't blame the diamond for sending her to the guillotine!

4. King George IV of England may have been wearing the Hope when he posed for a portrait, commissioned for his mistress, the Marchioness Conyngham, in 1822.

5. Rather than wear the gemstone, merchant Henry Philip Hope, the diamond’s namesake, preferred to house it in the 16th drawer of a mahogany cabinet, along with other larger stones.

6. Actress May Yohe, who secretly married into the Hope family in 1894 once boasted that she wore the famous diamond, "blazing about my neck" to a London dinner party.

7. Many average Americans actually got a chance to wear the Hope in the 1950s. Shortly after he acquired it, jeweler Harry Winston created a "Court of Jewels" that toured the United States and visitors were invited to wear the gemstone.

8. Pierre Cartier designed the current setting for the Hope in 1910 to be worn as both a necklace and a bandeau, or head ornament.

9. The last famous person to wear the Hope? Actress Michelle Pfeiffer, who put it on for Life magazine in 1996 1995. It was supposed to be the cover shot, but events foiled the plan. Ethel Kennedy Rose Kennedy died the week the magazine was going to press, and her photo supplanted Michelle and the Hope. (Thanks for catching our error, Susan!)

10. During the war years, the best sporting event in Washington, D.C. involved the Hope. Evalyn Walsh Mclean reportedly encouraged soldiers recovering at Walter Reed Army Hospital to toss the famous blue diamond around the ward in a game of catch.

(For more fun facts about the Hope, see Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem by Richard Kurin, Smithsonian Books, 2006. Next spring, the Smithsonian Channel will premier "Mystery of the Hope," a high-definition documentary detailing the full story of the Hope Diamond.)

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