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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The Curse of the Hope Diamond

Is the Hope Diamoned cursed? Of course not! But where did such a story originate? The story of a curse is a recent part of the diamond’s history, apparently having its origins in the early 20th century. One early account appeared in the Washington Post on January 19, 1908 in the article “Remarkable Jewel a Hoodoo—Hope Diamond Has Brought Trouble to All Who Have Owned It.” The article began:

Deep behind the double locked doors hides the Hope diamond. Snug and secure behind time lock and bolt, it rests in its cotton wool nest under many wrappings, in the great vault of the great house of Frankel. Yet not all the locks and bolts and doors ever made by man can ward off its baleful power or screen from its venom those against whom its malign force may be directed (Washington Post 1908)

The author of the article presents a selective history of the Hope Diamond, sketching out the unlucky histories of former owners of the gem, beginning with Jean-Baptiste Tavernier and continuing through recent owners, including Lord Francis Hope and Simon Frankel, who suffered personally and financially after acquiring the Hope (Kurin 2006). Later accounts of the curse follow a similar pattern.

Several of those who contributed to the rumors of a curse could be accused of doing so for their own gain. Pierre Cartier, for example, likely embellished the stories as a sales tactic when he was trying to sell the Hope Diamond to Ned and Evalyn Walsh McLean. May Yohé, who was once married to Lord Francis Hope, offered her own account of the curse in a book and film released in 1921. In addition to sensationalizing other accounts of misfortune, she claimed the Hope Diamond was the cause of her failed marriage and the loss of the Hope family fortune (Gates 1921). Pieces of her elaborate tale were picked up by newspapers, helping establish the curse of the Hope Diamond as a popular modern legend.

A list of misfortunes associated with the Hope Diamonds from May Yohe's account of the curse. The list is wildly inaccurate, but representative of the stories swirling around the Hope in the early 1900s.

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