We’ve all heard that there are some things money can’t buy, and we call these items “priceless”. Like the Mona Lisa painting in the Louvre, or the Hope Diamond on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. The priceless tag we place on these items is something that we all just take for granted as a fact about the world. Certainly the Mona Lisa has earned its status as priceless since it’s the world’s most famous painting by our most famous painter, Leonardo DeVinci, and it is irreplaceable. But can we say the same about the Hope Diamond? Is this cherished, blue stone truly one of a kind like the Mona Lisa is? As it turns out, the Hope Diamond may not be as rare as you probably think.
The unique blue color of the Hope diamond is the main reason why most people believe it to be priceless. The thought behind this belief goes something like this: diamonds are almost always colorless stones which, on very rare occasions, can be found in nature to have a color; like blue, in the case of the Hope. Actually, most diamonds have at least a slight color to them. Most commonly, diamonds are naturally yellow or brown. Truly colorless diamonds, in fact, are quite rare and rest at one-end of a color spectrum; at the other-end of which are yellow diamonds.
Fancy Colored Diamonds
Colored diamonds that are not on the colorless-to-yellow spectrum are called “fancy colored diamonds”. There are several fancy colors that occur naturally and they are grouped into categories by their respective rarity. In order of increasing rarity, the categories are as follows:
1. Brown, Grey, and Black
3. Pink, Blue, and Green
4. Red, Purple, and Orange
So, if red, purple, and orange diamonds are all more rare than blue diamonds, where does this leave our precious Hope diamond? Is it truly deserving of the priceless tag we place on it when it’s lustrous blue color isn’t as rare as we thought?
Well, there’s much more that goes into its value than its color. For one thing, the Hope’s staggering size is a feature that draws crowds. At a cut weight of 45.52 cts. (and a rough weight of 110.50 cts.) the Hope is way ahead of its game in terms of size. However, its size isn’t what gives the Hope diamond its status either.
The Curse of the Hope Diamond
Behind every diamond is a story, and the Hope diamond has a great one. Originating in India at the beginning of the 17th century, the Hope made a tremendous journey, bouncing around from country-to-country and exchanging hands several times over the course of nearly 400 years before ending up in Washington D.C. It had a few famous owners, including King Louis XIV in France and, of course, Henry Phillip Hope (the man who gave the diamond its name) in London; although, the least likely owner of the diamond, Pierre Cartier, who only owned it for a mere 10 years in the early 1900’s, is the man responsible for its value. Cartier would go-around Paris telling made-up stories of the diamond’s history, and even a ‘curse’ that follows those who own it, guaranteeing them misfortune for the rest of their lives.
Well, perhaps the curse of the Hope diamond wasn’t enough to establish it as a priceless artifact either, considering that Cartier sold the Hope in 1911 for $180,000 ($4.2 million in 2015) and the next owner sold the Hope again in 1949 for $1.3 million ($12.7 million in 2015).
Every Diamond Tells a Story
Despite the price tags placed on the Hope diamond in the past, we still call it priceless today, and for good reason. Although not the rarest of color, and whether or not there actually is a ‘curse of the Hope diamond’, the Hope made it’s way into social consciousness as a symbol of mystery and rarity. It was, at a time, cherished by some owners for its beauty and, at another time, cherished for its history. Today, it is cherished for a combination of all of these aspects, which make-up the story behind it; for which we call it priceless.