November 10: The Hope Diamond

Hope DiamondThe Smithsonian Institute is home to many important historic and cultural treasures, including George Washington’s military uniform, the Ruby Slippers from The Wizard Of Oz and the Star Spangled Banner. However, the most valuable item in the Smithsonian’s collection is probably the famous Hope Diamond, which was donated on this day in 1958 by famed New York jeweler Harry Winston.

Prior to arriving at the Smithsonian, the Hope Diamond, also known as “Le Bijou du Roi” (“the King’s Jewel”), had a fascinating journey around the world. We know that the stone the diamond was carved from was probably discovered in a mine in India. From there, we know that French merchant  Jean-Baptiste Tavernier either bought or stole the stone and had it carved. From there, the diamond became part of the collection of the French Monarchy. After the French Revolution, the diamond bounced from jeweler to jeweler and eventually wound up in the hands of  Lord Francis Hope, 8th Duke of Newcastle. After a few more exchanges, the diamond eventually arrived in Winston’s possession. Winston took it on tour around the United States, and eventually mailed it to the Smithsonian in the hope that the other people would follow his lead and donate their precious stones to help build the museum’s gem collections.

Of course, as with most things that have gone through multiple owners, there is a curse associated with the Hope Diamond. Those who believe in the curse cite a variety of incidents as evidence of a curse: One owner killing himself, a few owners were murdered for it, Hope himself went bankrupt and was forced to sell the diamond, and of course Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were beheaded during the French Revolution. However, I think it’s safe to call bunk on this alleged curse. After all Tavernier lived to the ripe old age of 84, Winston lived to be 83, and people come from all over the world just to see the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian.

Since we already featured the Diamond Blue when we discussed Tiffany & Co., let’s instead sip on a Diamond Fizz. It’s a basic but wonderful champagne cocktail that’s perfect for all celebratory occasions.

Diamond Fizz

  • 2 ounces Gin
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • chilled Champagne

Shake the gin, lemon juice and sugar with ice, and strain into a highball glass with ice. Top with champagne.

Tomorrow: It’s Veterans Day, and we’ve got a cocktail created by a Marine.

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