1912The McLeans buy the Hope Diamond
In 1912, Pierre Cartier sold the Hope Diamond to an American couple, Ned and Evalyn Walsh McLean. The sale was the result of two years of work.
Pierre identified the McLeans as potential buyers shortly after Cartier purchased the Hope Diamond. Both Evalyn and Ned were heirs to American fortunes, Evalyn's from mining and Ned's from newspapers. They were previous, big-spending clients of Cartier, having purchased the 94.8-carat Star of the East Diamond from Cartier in 1908 while they were on their honeymoon. Pierre arranged to meet with them in 1910 while they were on vacation in Paris. He presented his embellished tale of the Hope Diamond’s extraordinary provenance to the McLeans, including the curse that brought bad luck to all who owned it. Evalyn was fascinated with the story and told Pierre that she believed objects that brought bad luck to others would bring good luck to her. Despite her interest, she initially declined to purchase the blue diamond because she did not like its setting (McLean 1936).
Pierre, a persistent man, did not let an old-fashioned setting prevent him from securing the sale. He took the Hope Diamond to New York, where he had it reset into a contemporary mounting. In the new mounting (essentially the same mounting it is in today), the Hope was framed by 16 colorless diamonds and could be worn as part of a head ornament or a diamond necklace. Pierre returned to Washington and left the newly set Hope with Evalyn and Ned over a weekend.
Pierre's strategy was successful—Evalyn adored the Hope Diamond, and several months later agreed to purchase it from Cartier, settling on a price of $180,000 (Patch 1999) plus the return of an emerald and pearl pendant with diamond necklace that she no longer wanted (McLean 1936). The Hope Diamond became Evalyn Walsh McLean’s signature in the high society of Washington, D.C. She wore it frequently, layered with her other important gems and jewelry, to events and the lavish parties she hosted. Evalyn would even let her Great Dane, Mike, wear the Hope Diamond on his collar.
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