'The Curse of the Hope Diamond',
Channel 4, 8pm, 24 May 2010
Are diamonds a girl's best friend? I don't think so.
The Hope is the world's most famous blue diamond, and can be found in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. I had the pleasure of taking part in a film telling the diamond's story, made by the company Blink Films, with Mark Radice as director and Laura Jones and producer.
So this diamond has rather a dark and unhappy history, which has led many people to think it bears a curse.
The diamond emerged from the Golconda mines of India in the seventeenth century. Workers at these dangerous mines even had to have their eye sockets examined at the end of each day to check that they weren't smuggling gems out.
A Frenchman sold it to Louis XIV, the Sun King, whose love of light in all its forms included a passion for diamonds. He was so keen on them that he essentially created the European diamond market. Once it was part of the French Crown Jewels, though, the diamond seems to have brought nothing but trouble to its owners.
Louis XIV's successors, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, ended their lives on the Guillotine, and the diamond was stolen from the royal jewelhouse in a daring heist. (You can still see the hole cut in the shutters by the daring Revolutionary jewel thieves!)
Then the diamond disappears. We think it might have been bought by the gluttonous, depressive and alcoholic George IV of Great Britain, another man whose love of jewels was greater than his love for his fellow human beings.
Then it was bought by Henry Hope, nineteenth-century banker ... and remained in his family until they frittered away his fortune.
May Yohe, the showgirl wife of Lord Francis Hope, blamed the diamond for the family's misfortunes, and even starred in a Hollywood film about its story.
Now it was bought by Evelyn Welsh MacClean - but she tragically lost her young son in a car crash, her daughter committed suicide, and her marriage broke down.
Its next owner, jeweller Harry Winston, gave the diamond to the Smithsonian Institution, where it remains an awesome exhibit.
So, do I believe that the diamond truly has malign and dangerous powers which ruin its owers' lives?
For this film I had the chance to visit the Versailles of Louis XIV, the building from which the French Crown Jewels were stolen in 1792, and the Wallace Collection and British Library to examine the evidence about George IV as its possible owner.
Also, dressed as a flapper, I even attended a recreation of one of Evelyn Walsh McClean's famous 1930s cocktail parties, where she used to let her Great Dane wear the diamond round his neck! That's me, and my fellow curator Deirdre from Historic Royal Palaces, having our make-up done. We danced the Charleston for five whole hours.
And after all this, I decided that I do believe in the curse ... in the sense that I believe all diamonds are cursed. If you are rich enough to own one of the most famous diamonds in the world, then you're probably going to suffer from the envy and greed of others.
You will struggle to know what to do with your money and your life: you will find it hard to live happily, simply, and with contentment.
In my opinion, you're better off without diamonds.
© 2013 Lucy Worsley