The History of the Hope Diamond and its Relation to Bar Harbor – Part VIII

published april 3, 2024 | written by emily cough | edited by bhhs staff

Part 8 – Across the Pond

By now, the Hope Diamond had made its way across the Atlantic.

Simon Frankel, who originally and reportedly bought it for “business purposes” through his family’s company, Joseph Frankel’s Sons & Co. of New York, was finding difficulty in selling it (The New York Times 1901).

Due to a litany of setbacks, including a worldwide financial crisis with The Panic of 1907 and “[facing]…potential liquidation” of the company’s assets after accruing debt to “build up their inventories,” Frankel wasn’t able to sell the diamond until 1908 (Kurin 2017).

Kept in a lockbox until he found a buyer, Frankel then sold the diamond to Turkish diamond collector Selim Habib, who brought the Hope Diamond back to France for a short time.

Habib purchased the diamond for less than what Frankel paid for, which was around $200,000 or $6.7 million in today’s dollars (if you recall last week’s Way Back, Frankel had purchased the diamond for roughly $9 million in today’s dollars). It was said that Habib had bought it for the Sultan of Turkey, although that claim has no foundation (The New York Times 1908).

A Curse?

Having owned the infamous diamond for only a year, Habib was already facing financial burden, according to Richard Kurin (Kurin 2017). Though, if the unfounded claim could be believed, the Sultan, when his “throne began to totter,” gave the gem back to Habib in order to sell it (The New York Times 1911).

On June 24, 1909, Habib sold the Hope Diamond, along with his extensive collection, at auction to settle his own debts. And despite not having it for very long, Habib had already become embroiled in its notorious storyline.

Details about how the curse supposedly affected him are scarce and largely anecdotal, not to mention inaccurate.

For instance, The New York Times reported that Habib “was among the passengers drowned in the shipwreck of the French mail steamer Seyne at Singapore” (The New York Times 1909). When La Seyne had collided with the British India Steam Navigation Company’s steamer the Onda, it supposedly took with it 93 people, including Habib and the Hope Diamond (The Advertiser, Adelaide 1909).

However, there was already a glaring discrepancy with the claim: Habib had previously sold the diamond in June, months prior to the shipwreck where it was said he was on with the diamond. However, the Smithsonian does note that “another man named Selim Habib did apparently drown in the shipwreck,” which could be the cause for the inaccurate assertion (“History of the Hope Diamond,” n.d.). Are we sensing a pattern here with unreliable claims?

Two Owners Hold the Diamond for an Interim 

A new decade brought forth a new, temporary owner for the famous blue-hued stone. Purchased in 1909 from Habib, Frenchman Rosenau held onto the stone until he then turned around and sold it to French jewelry house Cartier in 1910 (Patch 1999).

In Paris on vacation, Ned and Evalyn Walsh McLean were called upon by Pierre Cartier to meet with him. Cartier had his sights on the wealthy Walsh McLeans to sell his diamond to, as they were previous clients of Cartier, and he wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity.

There, Cartier began to spin the web of truth and false accounts of the diamond, in order to entice Evalyn into purchasing it. NPR quotes Jeffery Post, whom we’ve introduced in Part II, “’It seems that the whole story of the curse developed about the time that Pierre Cartier was trying to get Evalyn Walsh McLean interested in buying the diamond’” (NPR 2009). However, even Cartier himself, as Evalyn writes in her memoir, didn’t believe the stories. He called them “baseless” and only relayed the stories to her simply because he thought them to be “amusing,” and had aided in the allure of the diamond (McLean 1936).

However, Evalyn wasn’t so initially keen on the diamond upon seeing it, not liking the outdated setting.

Undeterred by her initial rejection, Cartier called upon the Walsh McLeans again, after they had returned to their New York residence. Leaving them with the diamond, now in a newer setting, to hold onto for three days, Cartier had hoped that having it for a few days would convince Evalyn into buying it.

His tactic ended up working and a few short months later, Evalyn purchased the diamond for the “alleged sum of $180,000” in 1912 (Patch 1999).

Now that the Hope Diamond met its new owner, our story now leads us to the most seemingly unlikely corner of the world: Bar Harbor, Maine.

References

“History of the Hope Diamond.” n.d. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. https://naturalhistory.si.edu/explore/collections/hope-diamond-history.

Kurin, Richard. 2017. Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem. Smithsonian Institution.

McLean, Evalyn Walsh. 1936. Father Struck It Rich. Little, Brown And Company.

NPR. 2009. “A New Look for the Hope Diamond.” NPR, August 23, 2009. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=112116481.

Patch, Susanne Steinem. 1999. Blue Mystery: The Story of the Hope Diamond. Abradale Press.

The New York Times. 1901. “GREAT ‘HOPE DIAMOND’ HERE.; Gem for Which $250,000 Is Said to Have Been Paid Arrives on a Liner as Freight.,” November 27, 1901.

The New York Times. 1908. “HOPE DIAMOND IS SOLD.; Sultan Said to Have Paid $400,000 for Famous Gem.,” May 6, 1908.

The New York Times. 1909. “HOPE DIAMOND’S OWNER LOST; Famous Unlucky Stone Also Said to Have Gone Down with the Seyne.,” November 17, 1909.

The New York Times. 1911. “J.R. M’LEAN’S SON BUYS HOPE DIAMOND; $300,000 for Jewel Owned by Louis XVI. and Worn by Marie Antoinette and May Yohe.,” January 29, 1911.

The Advertiser, Adelaide. 1909. “THE WRECK OF THE LA SEYNE. COLLISION NEAR SINGAPORE. 93 LIVES LOST.,” December 9, 1909.