Last Call: Fun Friday facts about the Hope Diamond curse

Photo: PAUL J. RICHARDS (Getty)
Last CallLast CallLast Call is The Takeout’s online watering hole where you can chat, share recipes, and use the comment section as an open thread. Here’s what we’ve been reading/watching/listening around the office today.

I saw the Hope Diamond yesterday. It was fine. I had gone to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum with my kids to check out some fossils and mummies, and it turns out the Hope Diamond is there, too. Figured I should check it out while I was there, and honestly, I was expecting more. When I think of a gigantic diamond I’m expecting it to look like a Ring Pop, and unfortunately that candy has given me unrealistic expectations about diamonds. Plus, even though I really like most shiny things (who doesn’t, really?), I’m not much into jewelry. There was stuff at the museum that was far cooler, like a preserved piece of mammoth jerky, the world’s oldest known rock, and a small vial of microdiamonds that are older than our entire solar system, but people would rather create a mob scene around a small, 45.52 carat sparkly rock. Go figure.

One thing I did find interesting, though, is the supposed “curse” that the Hope Diamond carries. Its origin story is most likely complete bullshit: it’s said that the original stone it was cut from, the 115.6 carat Tavernier Blue diamond, was stolen from a sacred a Hindu statue by French gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. Once they discovered the gem was missing, the priests put a curse on whoever possessed it and, since the diamond’s history goes back to 1666, there’s a decent number of people who have owned it. Here they all are, in chronological order:

Owner One: Jean-Baptise Tavernier

Records from the 17th century aren’t the most reliable sources of information, so he either died at the ripe old age of 84, or he contracted a high fever after stealing the diamond, died, and had his corpse ravaged by wolves.

Owner Two: King Louis XIV of France

The infamously ostentatious Sun King bought the stone and had it recut into what was then known as the “French Blue.” He died painfully of gangrene.

“Owner” Three: Nicholas Fouquet

Foquet was the superintendent of finances of King Louis XIV, and while he never personally owned the diamond, he was allowed to wear it for a special occasion. Shortly after, he fell out with the king and was kicked out of France entirely. Then the king had a change of heart, had him brought back, and locked him in a prison for the next 15 years, where he died.

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Owners Four and Five: King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

I think you already know how this story ended.

Owner Six: Marie-Louise, Princess de Lamballe

Marie-Louise was a member of Marie Antoinette’s court and her closest confidante. During the French Revolution she was killed by an angry mob that allegedly raped her, cut off her breasts, and disemboweled her before chopping off her head, impaling it on a pike, and bringing it to Marie Antoinette’s prison window like history’s more terrifying puppet show.

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Owner Seven: Wilhelm Fals

Dutch jeweler Wilhelm Fals was murdered by his son, who then killed himself.

Owner Eight: Simon Maoncharides

Simon Maoncharides was a wealthy Greek merchant who drove his car off a cliff, killing himself, his wife, and his child.

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Owner Nine: Evalyn Walsh McLean

The Washington Post heiress lived a wonderful, charmed life, and then she bought the Hope Diamond. Her son died at nine years old, her husband left her for another women, and her 25-year-old daughter died from a drug overdose. Eventually her fortune dwindled, forcing her to sell her family’s newspaper (she tied in an exorbitant amount of debt). Her surviving children sold the diamond to famed jeweler Harry Winston.

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Owner Ten: Harry Winston

Winston only held onto the diamond for nine years before he sold it to the Smithsonian for the price of $157.44— $2.44 for the postage, $155 for the insurance. If the diamond caused any sort of trouble for him, he kept it well under wraps.

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“Owner” 11: James Todd

James Todd was the mailman who delivered the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian. Shortly thereafter, his leg was crushed in a truck accident. Later, he suffered a head injury in another accident. Then his house burned down.

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Owner 12: The Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian is the official museum of the United States of America, and Donald Trump is its president.

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About the author

Allison Robicelli

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, host of The Robicelli Argument Clinic Podcast, the author of three books, and a swan meat influencer.