Fabulous Famous Gems
You may have heard of the Hope Diamond, but have you heard of the Queen Isabella Emerald, the Delong Star Ruby, or the Eagle Diamond? Let’s explore some of these interesting gemstones that made history.
The Hope Diamond
Perhaps the most famous gemstone in the world is the Hope Diamond, a huge blue diamond that weighs 45.52-carat and is reputed to be cursed. It resides in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. Not surprising, this gemstone has many different names including Tavernier Blue, Le bleu de France, and Le Bijou du Roi.
It’s has a long history which started in the 1600s when a French gem merchant named Jean Baptiste Tavernier who bought it from a Golconda Indian mine. It was triangular in shape. in 1668, Tavernier sold the gem to King Louis XIV of France who had it recut. During the looting that occurred in the French Revolution in 1792, the gem disappeared. It may have been bought by King George the IV of England. Officially, however, it reappeared in 1839 when Henry Philip Hope purchased it and renamed it “The Hope Diamond.” Unfortunately for Henry Philip Hope, he died that year. The diamond was sold and resold to various owners and ended up being sold by Cartier to Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean, a rich socialite who wore the gemstone to parties and even had her Great Danes wear the stone. After the McLeans died, her estate sold the gem to a New York diamond merchant named Harry Winston. He eventually donated the gem to the Smithsonian.
Queen Isabella Emerald
Perhaps the most intriguing stone is the Queen Isabella Emerald. Named for the Queen of Spain, Queen Isabella of Portugal, the stone is a whopping 964 carats. It was given to Cortez by the King of the Aztec Kingdom, Montezuma II, when Cortez entered Tenochtitlan city in 1519.
The Aztecs called the emerald the Stone of Judgment. Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god, was to claim this stone. Cortez offered it to Queen Isabella to entice her to convince her husband, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain, to make Cortez the Governor of New Spain and equip him with enough soldiers and weapons to conquer the indigenous peoples. Unfortunately, Charles V was broke and so Cortez gave the Queen Isabella Emerald to his soon to be rich second wife, Dona Juana De Zuniga. She helped finance his conquests.
The story of the stone would stop there except in 1757 the very wealthy descendants of Cortez and De Zuniga sent a ship ladened with treasure, including the Queen Isabella Emerald, to the King of Spain Ferdinand VI to request more lands in the new world. Unfortunately, the ship sank. In 1993, Dr. Benilous, President of Archaeological Discovery Ventures discovered the shipwreck and brought the Queen Isabella Emerald back along with other treasure.
Delong Star Ruby and the Eagle Diamond
The Delong Star Ruby (100.32 carat) and the Eagle Diamond (16.25 carat) have something in common. Both gemstones were stolen by “Murph the Surf” Jack Murphy on October 29, 1964 along with 20 other gemstones from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Crime didn’t pay for these thieves as they were caught but neither the Delong Star Ruby nor the Eagle Diamond were recovered. Eventually some underworld thieves ransomed the Delong Star Ruby and with the help of a billionaire named Jack MacArthur, the Delong Star Ruby was recovered. Eventually, it returned to the museum. As for the Eagle Diamond, it was never recovered and it’s estimated that it was split into several gemstones. A rather unfortunate fate as the Eagle Diamond was the largest diamond found in the United States.