Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem

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9780060873516: Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem

Since its discovery in seventeenth-century India, the Hope diamond, a glimmering deep-blue gem weighing more than 45 carats, has been shrouded in mystery and steeped in intrigue. In this groundbreaking work, Dr. Richard Kurin goes beyond the speculation to reveal the truth behind a legendary stone.
The Hope diamond's history is tied to the French Revolution, the machinations of British King George IV, the Gilded Age in America, and a number of adept jewelers, including Pierre Cartier and Harry Winston. In the twentieth century, the story of the Hope diamond's curse made it more famous than ever before; some six million people visit it every year at the Smithsonian Institution. But this legend, which Kurin puts to rest once and for all, is only one small piece of a long and lustrous story that moves between ancient religion and modern magic, royal power and class rivalry, revenge and greed.
Kurin, a cultural anthropologist, has spent more than a decade on the trail of the legendary gem. His narrative is filled with fascinating places and people - from the fabled diamond city of Golconda to the fabulously rich heiress Evalyn McClean to Jackie Kennedy and her role in one of the Hope's few twentieth-century trips abroad. Richly illustrated, Hope Diamond works in a grand historical tradition - depicting the specific to reveal the universal.

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About the Author:

Richard Kurin is the director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

From Publishers Weekly:

In this authoritative history of the Hope Diamond (also known as the French Blue), Kurin describes how the 112–carat deep blue diamond came into the hands of Louis XIV through diamond trader Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who in turn had bought it from an Indian mine. (Although rumors persist that Tavernier took the gem from the eye of a Hindu idol, Kurin says there's no evidence to support this action—Tavernier was a respected dealer.) The diamond was recut (reducing its size by half) and kept by the French monarchy until it was stolen during the revolution. It resurfaced, unrecognizable after being cut again, in the possession of London merchant Daniel Eliason in 1812. Some years later, it came into the hands of Henry Phillip Hope, was inherited by his wife and sold to several other owners, before being donated in 1958 to the Smithsonian Institution. There its mystique is grounded by "scientific discourse" and study. During his chronicle, the author, director of the Smithsonian's national programs, describes the history of the diamond trade, how precious stones were classified, the long-circulating myth that a curse was attached to the Hope diamond and royal politics of the times, for a serious but fascinating look at cultural and gemological history. B&w photos. (May)
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