Legendary jewels

Heart of the Ocean

The famous necklace worn by Kate Winslet in the film “Titanic” is fictitious but inspired by a real jewel. It has a fascinating history.

The Hope, as it is now known, is a blue diamond originating from India. It weighted more than 110 carats before it was re-cut several times.

According to the most common legend, a thief was struck by lightening as he was leaving the temple where he had just stolen the diamond from the statue of a goddess. Some see in him the first of a long series of victims among the owners of the Hope. This precious stone has a bad reputation. Some say it might be cursed.

The traveller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier brought it to France during the 17th century. He sold it to Louis XIV himself, who had it re-cut in the fashion of the time to be set in a brooch he wore on festive occasions. During re-cutting, the stone was reduced to around 68 carats and it then became known as the "Blue Diamond of the French Crown" or "French Blue".

Louis XV inherited the stone when Louis XIV died. He had it included in a spectacular jeweled setting surrounding his insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece. However, in 1791, the vast majority of the French Crown jewels were stolen during a spectacular robbery. The French Blue was among the loot.

A 45 carats blue diamond appeared twenty years later in England, just 48 hours after the time limit for prosecution for this theft had expired. A number of experts agreed in saying that it was the French Blue that had been re-cut again.

The banker Henry-Philip Hope had just bought it, and it became known as the Hope diamond from then on.

It remained in the banker’s family until 1901 before changing hands several times. It would appear that several of its successive owners came to a tragic end. It was Harry Winston, a famous American jeweler, who bought it for the last time in 1949. He donated it to the Smithsonian Institute of Washington ten years later. It is today the second most visited objet d’art in the world, just behind the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.

There is therefore little hope for those who would like to be seen wearing it. However, Maison Leysen has kept among its treasures fabulous diamonds that will easily outshine, around your neck, the adornments of many American actresses.

Photos: Hope -Chip Clark // Blue Moon - Sotheby's