Monday, October 6, 2008

Cartier's brief yet powerful connection to The Historic Hope Diamond.

In Washington DC, the Smithsonian museum of Natural History displays a vivacious blue Diamond set in a circle of white diamonds, hanging from a splendid diamond chain. Its history is long, and ,at times, quite mysterious as the diamond is said to be cursed. Cartier had this diamond for a short period, and yet this stone was the source of one of the first of Pierre Cartier's greatest transactions. Pierre Cartier had bought the stone from Salomon Habib in 1909. Mounting the stone in its stunning setting, Pierre Cartier lent it to one of his loyal customers for the weekend, the wealthy heiress of the Washington Post and a well-known American personality, Mrs Evalyn Walsh McLean. As Pierre Cartier hoped, she became quite attached to the diamond and made the purchase.

The legend has it that this intense steely blue diamond, triangular in shape and crudely cut, was mined from the Kollur mines near Golconda, India It was placed either on one of the eyes of an Indian idol or on its forehead. It was stolen by an Indian priest who was captured and tortured for the theft. In 1642, the 112 3/16 carat blue diamond was purchased by a French jeweler, Jean Baptiste Tavernier on one of his numerous trips to India. He sold the diamond to Louis XIV "the sun king" in 1668 for a small fortune. His son squandered the money and so Travernier ,once again, set out on one of his lengthy journeys, to find fortune. In Russia he was attacked by a pack of wild dogs and died. Was this the curse of the diamond?

In 1673 Louis XIV had Sieur Pitau, the court jeweler, re-cut the diamond to enhance its brilliance and reduced it size to 67 1/8 carats. Louis XIV officially named the stone "Blue Diamond of the Crown". He often wore it on a long ribbon around his neck. In 1791, Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette tried to flee France and the blue diamond was turned over to the government. In September 1792, during a week long looting of the crown jewels, the French blue was stolen.

The stone resurfaces in 1812, in the possession of a London diamond merchant, Daniel Eliason. Possibly acquired by King George IV of England but sold after his death in 1830 to pay for his enormous debts. In 1939 the diamond is in the possession of Henry Phillip Hope who after much family feuding the diamond was passed from his nephew to his nephews grandson Lord Francis Hope. The Hope Family fortune dwindled and he was forced to sell the diamond. A London dealer bought the stone and quickly sold it to Joseph Frankels and Sons of New York City. Needing cash, they sold it to Selim Habib who sold it to Pierre Cartier in 1909 who ,in 1910, showed the diamond to Evalyn Walsh McLean at Cartiers in Paris. She did not like the diamond setting. However, Cartier knows its customers and its settings. They reset the diamond in a ring of sparkling white diamonds and lent it to her for the weekend. She could not part with the diamond and wore it extravagantly until her death in 1947.
In 1949, Harry Winston Inc. bought the diamond from her Estate and on November 10th, 1958, Harry Winston Inc. donated the diamond to the Smithsonian Institution where it is a popular attraction.

Cartier's stunning setting sold the Hope Diamond with its package of mystery and intrigue. Cartier continues to create exquisite watch and jewelry creations, fusing gem and metal in unique works of art.

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