Hope Diamond: The Legendary Story of a Cursed Gem

Richard Kurin, Author
Richard Kurin, Author . Collins/Smithsonian $24.95 (388p) ISBN 978-0-06-087351-6
Reviewed on: 03/27/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Paperback - 388 pages - 978-0-06-087352-3
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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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