This morning in the Harry Winston Gallery at the Natural History Museum, security guards rolled the heavy gallery doors shut, locking in a crowd of anticipating reporters. Clad in white gloves, Frederic de Narp, President and CEO of the New York jeweler Harry Winston, Inc, carefully revealed the 45.52 carat Hope Diamond in a fancy, new setting.
This setting commemorates the diamond's 50 years on view at Natural History and celebrates the museum's centennial anniversary. Harry Winston intended the design to represent Hope in America. Three finalists were posted online, and 108,000 votes were cast for the winning setting, "Embracing Hope," by the company's veteran designer Maurice Galli (read more here).
As it turned out, says de Narp, the design took thousands of hours to complete. The new necklace has three rows of 340 baguette diamonds that come together in a modern twist. An opening in the center cradles the piercing blue centerpiece, the famous Hope.
"The shape surrounding the stone is like two hands of a child offering hope to the world," says de Narp. This morning, de Narp announced that the new Harry Winston Foundation will make its inaugural gift to the Smithsonian Institution with a minimum donation of $1 million to fund education programs in the museums.
The Hope Diamond has been seen by more than 200 million visitors during the gemstone's 50 years at the Smithsonian, putting it on par with Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa as the most visited museum object in the world. Curator Jeff Post says the Hope is "truly one of Earth's most rare creations, and perhaps one of the most beautiful."
David Royle of the Smithsonian Channel counters, "The lure of the Hope Diamond is not simply its beauty, but the extraordinary history that lies behind it. Hollywood couldn't make up a story like this." The Smithsonian Channel's documentary on the famous gem, "Mystery of the Hope Diamond," airs this Sunday at 8 PM EST. It tells of the diamond's many owners, including Washington DC socialite Evalyn Walsh McLean, who was known to drape the diamond around the neck of her great dane.
The Hope will remain in its new setting for the next year. It will then be placed back in its original Cartier setting, the circle of 16 white diamonds attached to a diamond necklace. Harry Winston, Inc will then send the new setting on a world tour, replacing the Hope with another blue stone at its center. The plan is to offer it for sale and then the company says it will donate the proceeds back to the Smithsonian Institution.
"We wanted to give people the chance to see the Hope Diamond in a way they've never seen it before," says Post. "But looking at the diamond, I have to say it seems pretty happy in its new party dress."
"Embracing Hope" is now on view in the Harry Winston Gallery in the Natural History Museum.