The Hope Diamond: The 'cursed' blue gemstone coveted by royalty

A large blue diamond encircled with smaller white diamonds as see at a museum.
The Hope Diamond gets its blueish color due to trace amounts of boron, a chemical element, in the stone. (Image credit: Wirestock, Inc. via Alamy)

Name: Hope Diamond

What it is: A 45.52-carat brilliant blue diamond

Where it was found: It was long believed that the diamond was extracted from the Kollur Mine in Guntur, India. However, new evidence has revealed that it, along with other Golconda diamonds, may have come from the Wajrakarur kimberlite field in Andhra Pradesh, located about 186 miles (300 kilometers) from where they were mined. 

What is its value: The diamond is worth more than $250 million, according to the Chicago Diamond Buyer.

What it tells us about the past:

The stone itself has changed hands numerous times since its discovery in the 17th century. It was supposedly purchased by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a French gem merchant, in its uncut form. Over the years, the piece has also been owned and modified by royalty, including Louis XIV (Louis the Great), and jewelers, including Harry Winston of New York City, who later donated it to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. in 1958, according to the Smithsonian.

It's been said that the diamond is cursed and that Tavernier never actually bought the stone, but rather — in an example of archaeological looting — he allegedly stole it off of a Hindu statue at an Indian temple. Once the temple’s elders discovered the diamond was missing, they are said to have put a curse on whoever was in possession of the item, according to the Cape Town Diamond Museum in South Africa. Over the years, many who owned the diamond supposedly fell under the curse's spell and led to unexpected deaths and misfortunes. Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette were just two of the curse’s supposed victims. In 1839, the diamond was acquired by a precious gems collector named Henry Philip Hope, for whom the diamond is now named. 

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 Today, the diamond pendant is ringed by 16 white diamonds and is affixed to a chain decorated with 45 white diamonds, according to the Smithsonian. Despite its similarity to another fictional diamond — the Heart of the Ocean, worn by Kate Winslet's character Rose DeWitt Bukater in the 1997 movie "Titanic"  — the Hope Diamond never sailed on the fateful ship.

It's currently held at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Jennifer Nalewicki
Live Science Staff Writer

Jennifer Nalewicki is a Salt Lake City-based journalist whose work has been featured in The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, Scientific American, Popular Mechanics and more. She covers several science topics from planet Earth to paleontology and archaeology to health and culture. Prior to freelancing, Jennifer held an Editor role at Time Inc. Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin.