Chris's Reviews > Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem

Hope Diamond by Richard Kurin
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Cursed or not cursed, that is the question. On one hand, cursed means more tourists coming to see, which means more money.

But cursed doesn't seem likely.

The Hope Diamond is one of the draws to Smithison Natural History museum. It forms part of a gem collection and is always surronded by people, most of whom just look at it because everyone else is. Or they think it is the biggest diamond in the world. (I like the mammal better myself, though there is something about the Hope).

Kurin's book is as much a history of the Hope as you can get, and I hardly need to point out that he debunks the curse story (and he isn't the first). He does seem to take great glee, however, in relating stories from the modern era (ie when give to the museum) and the curse.

The tour starts with the proable sale of the diamond to a Frenchman who journeyed to India (blue diamonds weren't highly valued there at the time). Kurin not only relates about the valley where the Hope came from, he also relates how diamonds are formed. The book ends with the Hope in the recent Harry Winston Gallery. (Hey, you discover why Monroe mentioned Harry Winston).

The attraction of the book is the shear amount of detail that Kurin gets and the fact that not once does he sound boring (or bored). It seems he finds the Hope amazing, and this is transmitted to and infects the reader. In addition to the history of the gem itself, the reader is treated to detailed and fasinating look at how diamonds were viewed in Europe and how the diamond engagement ring got its start in the US.

The idea of the curse seems to have started around the time Cartier's gained the gem, just before they sold it to the McLeans, whose tragic and inspiring story forms part of the book and adds to the curse. I found Harry Winston, the last private owner of the diamond, to be the most fasinating figure, not just because of how he transported diamonds but because of his marriage, and the fact that his photo makes me seem to be a person who you would like to have a drink with. One of the best parts of the book relates Winston's attempt (and eventual success) to give the Diamond to the Smithison. It took awhile and was complicted by the IRS (another reason to hate them). Winston, thankfully, wanted people to love and respect gems the same way he did. Kurin actually includes letters from the parties in this section of the book as well as in the section where the French wanted to borrow the diamond.

Kurin includes a list of infromation that he would like to find more about, like for instnace did the Cartiers know Collins The Moonstone and did that lead to the curse.

In debunking the curse, Kurin presents a far more interesting, gripping, and intelligent story. Even better than the curse because it's true.
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