Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem

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9780060873516: Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem

Since its discovery in seventeenth–century India, the Hope diamond, a glimmering deep blue gem weighing over 45 carats, has been shrouded in mystery and steeped in intrigue. In this groundbreaking work, Dr. Richard Kurin goes beyond the speculation to reveal the truth behind a legendary stone.

Kurin, a cultural anthropologist, spent more than a decade on the trail of the legendary gem. But the 'curse' that surrounds it, which Kurin puts to rest once and for all, is only one small piece of a long and lustrous story that moves between ancient religion and modern magic, royal power and class rivalry, revenge and greed. Richly illustrated, Hope Diamond works in a grand historical tradition––depicting the specific to reveal the universal.

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About the Author:

Dr. Richard Kurin is the director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage where he oversees the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, and other cultural heritage programs. A former Fulbright fellow with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, he is the author of Reflections of a Culture Broker: A View from the Smithsonian. Dr. Kurin has been awarded the Smithsonian Secretary's Gold Medal for Exceptional Service and the American Folklore Society's Botkin Prize for lifetime achievement.

From Publishers Weekly:

In this authoritative history of the Hope Diamond (also known as the French Blue), Kurin describes how the 112–carat deep blue diamond came into the hands of Louis XIV through diamond trader Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who in turn had bought it from an Indian mine. (Although rumors persist that Tavernier took the gem from the eye of a Hindu idol, Kurin says there's no evidence to support this action—Tavernier was a respected dealer.) The diamond was recut (reducing its size by half) and kept by the French monarchy until it was stolen during the revolution. It resurfaced, unrecognizable after being cut again, in the possession of London merchant Daniel Eliason in 1812. Some years later, it came into the hands of Henry Phillip Hope, was inherited by his wife and sold to several other owners, before being donated in 1958 to the Smithsonian Institution. There its mystique is grounded by "scientific discourse" and study. During his chronicle, the author, director of the Smithsonian's national programs, describes the history of the diamond trade, how precious stones were classified, the long-circulating myth that a curse was attached to the Hope diamond and royal politics of the times, for a serious but fascinating look at cultural and gemological history. B&w photos. (May)
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