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The Hope Gems

The Hope Diamond
The Hope Diamond

Most gemstone enthusiasts have heard of the Hope Diamond. It is a beautiful, blue 45.52-carat diamond that was purchased by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who sold the Diamond to King Louis XIV of France, from whom it was stolen. It was later owned by a London banker and gemstone collector named Henry Philip Hope (from whom it acquired its name) and his descendants before being purchased by a Washington lady; Mrs Evalyn Walsh Maclean. The famous jeweler, Harry Winston then purchased the stone and donated it to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where it is displayed. The Hope Diamond has traveled around the world, both on its journey to the USA and also for exhibitions. The Hope Diamond is mounted in a pendant and surrounded by 45 white diamonds.

The Hope Diamond is believed by some to be cursed. This goes back to when Tavernier acquired the diamond in India, where it is said by some that he removed the Diamond from the forehead of a statue of a Hindu goddess, and thus elicited bad luck. The curse was further reinforced when misfortune befell several of the Diamond's owners. One of the most interesting properties of the Hope Diamond is that after being exposed to ultraviolet light, it fluoresces red. The Hope Diamond has been admired by millions of people, and its exhibition along with the legends of it being cursed has made it a world famous diamond. Not so many people have heard of another rare jewel from the same collection, which is known as the Hope Spinel. The 50-carat Hope Spinel is a rare pinkish-red, octagonal gem which was believed to have been mined from Tajikistan. Like the Hope Diamond, it is also mounted in a pendant and surrounded by white diamonds.

The Hope Spinel
The Hope Spinel

Like the famous Diamond, the Hope Spinel was owned by Henry Philip Hope, and passed to his descendants before being sold. It is not clear who bought the gemstone, but the Hope Spinel was later owned by Lady Mount Stephen, whose husband was Canadian. Following her death, the Spinel was given to her Canadian niece, Elsie Reford, and then to her granddaughter. The Hope Spinel stayed in the family until very recently, when it was auctioned in London on 24 September 2015 by Bonhams. The pre-sale estimate was $240,000 to $310,000, but the Hope Spinel achieved almost $1.5 million. The Hope Spinel is just one of several spinel gems which were in the collection of Henry Philip Hope. During his time, reddish spinels were often mistaken for rubies. In fact, they were often referred to as "Balas" or "Balais rubies" (after the ancient name of the source; Badakhshan in Northern Afghanistan). The Hope Spinel was described by German jeweler, Mr Bram Hertz as a "Balais ruby of fine claret colour".

The Hope Pearl
The Hope Pearl

Henry Philip Hope owned many pearls, but the most remarkable in his collection was the Hope Pearl, which is a natural, saltwater 1,800-grain (454-carat) baroque pearl, which is an irregular pear shape and ranges in color from white to bronze. The Hope Pearl is around 2 inches long and approximately 3 to 4 inches in circumference at each end. Its narrower, white end is set into a gold and red enamel crown cap, which is studded with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. The Hope Pearl is thought to be a blister pearl, which means that it was attached to the inside shell of the mollusk that produced it. Evidence of this can be seen by an area where it was attached, which has been polished to blend in with the rest of the Pearl. At one time, the Hope Pearl was considered to be the largest baroque saltwater pearl in the world, until it was eclipsed by other, larger pearls, such as the Pearl of Asia, the Arco Valley Pearl and the 856.58-carat Danat Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak (Mother of the Nation) Pearl. The Hope Pearl was sold by Christie's in 1886 to Messrs. Garrard & Company of London, and many years later acquired by H. E. Mohammed Mahdi Al-Tajir, Ambassador of the UAE to Britain and France. It is currently in the possession of a private British owner who also owns the Pearl of Asia. The Hope Pearl was under the same roof as the Hope Diamond in 2005, when it was exhibited in "The Allure of Pearls" exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.

Henry Philip Hope owned some 700 gemstones, including a blue sapphire of over 100 carats and an equally large emerald. His collection was catalogued in 1839, shortly before his death by Mr Bram Hertz, a German jeweler. In just one of the sixteen drawers which housed the incredible collection was the Hope Diamond; the Hope Pearl; the Hope Spinel; a 133-carat blue sapphire; a 133-carat emerald that had been worn as a turban decoration by Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore; an enormous cat's eye chrysoberyl that had belonged to the last king of Kandy (Sri Lanka); and an aquamarine sword hilt that had belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte's brother-in-law. Henry Philip Hope was one of the greatest gemstone collectors of the 19th century. He spent many years acquiring some of the most remarkable stones in the world. The jewels did not stay in the family, but since Henry Philip Hope died childless, his collection went to his nephews, after which many were sold by his nephew's grandchildren, including the legendary Hope Diamond and the Hope Spinel. While it is sad that the collection was not preserved in its entirety, it is fortunate that many others have been able to admire some of the Hope gems, which may have otherwise been hidden away from jewel lovers.

  • First Published: April-08-2016
  • Last Updated: April-26-2017
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