The Hope Diamond is known for both beauty and intrigue. The 112-carat jewel is big (once compared to “a good-sized horse chestnut”) and beautiful, with a deep blue color that comes from trace amounts of boron. It also glows red in the dark after exposure to short-wave ultraviolet light.
Sometimes called “the most famous diamond in the world,” the well-traveled gem's history is as colorful as its depths. Originally mined in India, it was brought to France, where King Louis XIV added it to the royal collection. On Sept. 11, 1792, while King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were imprisoned during the French Revolution, a group of thieves broke into a storehouse and looted it along with the other crown jewels.
The diamond disappeared for decades, emerging recut in London. It was sold several times, crossing the Atlantic to America.
Today, the Hope Diamond belongs to everyone, in a sense. At least, anyone can visit it. It’s in the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, having been donated by diamond merchant Harry Winston in 1958.
Although people throughout history have believed the diamond is cursed, the Smithsonian has suffered no ill effects from possessing it – not yet, anyway.