Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Halloween Edition: The Curse of the Hope Diamond

By Jennifer Conley

The Hope Diamond has fascinated those who have had the pleasure of gazing upon its immense blue beauty as well as those who have been intrigued by the urban legend that the diamond is cursed.

In the early 1900s, the Diamond came into the spotlight and stories about the tragedies that have befallen those who have possessed or worn the diamond started appearing in newspapers. The Curse of the Hope Diamond was formed from those stories and, to many, is still believed today.

The Diamond was said to originally be 112 carat (currently at 44.5 carats) and stolen from a statue of the goddess Sita in India in the middle 1600s. Sita is the Hindu Goddess noted for her devotion to her husband Rama, a manifestation of Vishnu, and is associated with the feminine virtue of all women.  As a sacred statue to the Hindu faith, stealing from the statue would lead to unfortunate consequences, which is the foundation of the curse.

The first “victim” of the curse is Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a French gem merchant, who procured the stone in 1642 during his five year gem excavation in India. Jean-Baptiste Tavernier died in Russia at age eight-four, supposedly after being mauled by wild dogs.  

King Louis XIV of France bought the diamond from Tavernier in 1668 and named it “Bleu de France” (French Blue). King Louis XIV’s rule was long and prosperous but tragedy did befall the great French king. His son and heir, Louis “Le Grand Dauphin”, died of smallpox in 1711. Less than a year later in 1712, King Louis XIV grandson, Louis “Le Petit Dauphin”, died after getting measles. The eldest son of “Le Petit Dauphin” would also catch and die from measles.

While it was in King Louis XIV’s possession, it was rumored that he allowed a few courtesans and his superintendent of Finances, Nicolas Fouquet, to wear the diamond. All fell out of favor with the king, supposedly after wearing the stone and would be noted as “victims” of the curse. Fouquet was tried for treason and imprisoned till his death in 1680. Fouquet’s misfortune would appear to link to the curse; however, if one looks at a timeline of his misfortune, it is clear he is not a victim at all. King Louis XIV did not purchase the “Bleu de France” till four years after Fouquet had already been imprisoned, making it impossible for him to have worn the legendary diamond.

After outliving all of his sons and grandsons, King Louis died of gangrene in 1715. Inheriting the throne and the “Bleu de France” diamond was King Louis XV.

The rule of King Louis XV was fairly long and filled with military success but, as his forefathers before him, misfortune befell him and his family members. King Louis XV, similarly to his great grandfather, would outlive all of his children. His heir, Louis, would die in 1765 of tuberculosis. He would also outlive his wife and his favorite mistress who died shortly after his son. His eldest grandson, Louis XVI, was named his heir and took the throne upon the death of his grandfather in 1774. King Louis XV died of smallpox and left his successor, not only a throne, but tax policies and debts that caused public displeasure of the monarchy and would eventually lead up to the French Revolution.  

King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, are some of the more well known victims of the Hope Diamond curse. King Louis XVI, allegedly, thought the diamond was cursed and refused to wear it. His wife on the other hand, indulged in the best France had to offer, which included the magnificent “Bleu de France”.  France was already in deficit when King Louis XVI took the throne from costly wars and the excessive spending of the French but King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette continued the monarchy’s lavish spending and involvement in costly wars (like the American Revolution). To fund their exorbitant lifestyle they exploited their people forcing them, the lower and middle class, to pay higher taxes. France had lost its faith in the monarchy and unrest turned to anger in 1792 after food shortages plagued the country.  By summer, mobs had stormed Versailles and the royal family was imprisoned in the Square du Temple in Paris.

Marie Antoinette’s closest confidant was Marie Thérèse Louise of Savoy, Princesse de Lamballe. After remaining loyal to the monarchy during the French Revolution, she was stabbed and beheaded during what today is called, the September Killings of 1792. After her brutal murder, her head was placed on a spike to be displayed in front of the Temple where Marie Antoinette was being held. Antoinette was said to have let the Princesse de Lamballe wear the “Bleu de France” on several occasions prior to the Revolution.

King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed in 1793. During the French Revolution the “Bleu de France” was looted and would end up in the possession of a Dutch jeweler, Wilhelm Fals. Fals re-cut the diamond when it came into his possession, to which many believe to be its size and shape that it is today. He was murdered by his son who subsequently stole the diamond and committed suicide in 1830.

Nine years later, Henry Philip Hope comes into possession of the Diamond where it is called from then on, The Hope Diamond. Henry Philip Hope dies after featuring the diamond in his gem catalog and leaves the stone to his nephew Lord Henry Thomas Hope.  Lord Hope, unlike many of the other owners of the diamond, lived a successful and peaceful life. After he and his wife died, the diamond was passed on to his grandson, Lord Francis Hope.

Lord Francis married May Hope in 1894 and both, similarly to King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, lived an overindulgent lifestyle despite not having the funds to support that lifestyle. Lord Francis went bankrupt and May left him for Captain Bradlee Strong. Lord Francis sold off the diamond to help alleviate some of his debt; however, he died before getting out of debt.  His ex-wife May would also die in poverty following a mediocre career as an actress.

The next owner of the Hope was Simon Frankel, who purchased the diamond from Lord Francis in 1902.  The Frankels would have the diamond in their possession till 1908 when they would begin negotiations to sell it to the Turkish Sultan, Abdul Hamid II. The Frankels didn’t have any noted tragedies while the diamond was in their possession but did have some trouble during the Depression with their finances which isn’t saying very much because it was the Great Depression and everyone faced some sort of financial struggles!  

The next “victim” of the Hope was Simon Montharides, the broker of the deal between the Frankel’s and the diamond merchant, who died when he drove his car off a cliff.  He and his entire family died on impact. There are some who believe he drove off the cliff on purpose.

Sultan Abdul Hamid II sold the Hope diamond in 1909 to Pierre Cartier. He was overthrown that same year and would go down in history as the last power governing Sultan of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

Evelyn Walsh McLean, a very wealthy heiress, bought the diamond from Cartier in 1911. She publicly claimed not to believe in the curse. She regularly wore the diamond and some even claim she would occasionally put the diamond on her dog’s collar.

Many of her family members, like others who have possessed the stone, died rather unfortunate deaths. Her ex-husband, Edward Beale McLean, struggled with mental illness and died from a heart attack while at a sanitarium. Her son Vinson died after being hit by a car and her daughter overdosed at the young age of 25. All died within the thirty-six years the diamond was in her possession.

Over time, Evelyn, went bankrupt and had to sell many of her possessions including her ex-husband’s newspaper, The Washington Post. She did not, however, sell the diamond.

The diamond would be sold with the rest of Evelyn’s estate after she died in 1847 from pneumonia.

Harry Winston purchased the diamond at the jewelry estate auction and was the final owner of the stone before he generously donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian in 1958. Harry Winston was not affected by the “Curse”, however, the mail carrier who delivered the diamond to the Smithsonian on Winston’s behalf might have been. He was in a car crash that crushed his leg after he delivered the diamond and his house burned down shortly after that.  

Is the Hope Diamond really cursed? Or are the misfortunes of those who have owned it just a coincidence, amplified and told for human amusement? As beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, the answer lies in the beliefs of our readers.

I hope you all have a Happy Halloween and, if you haven’t had a chance, stop by the gallery to see Eve’s newest series Sacred Geometries” which was release Saturday October 27th!

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Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

“Sacred Geometries”

Eve’s New Series

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Eve J. Alfillé Gallery & Studio announces the opening of the new “Sacred Geometries” series of fine art jewelry on Saturday October 27th from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., 623 Grove Street, Evanston.  Tel.  847-869-7920.

 

Eve, a French-born artist, archeologist and gem expert has been designing unique jewelry for over 40 years.  Her new series draws inspiration from age-old shapes and beliefs dating back to prehistoric times.  Influenced by the “Heavenly Bodies” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which examined fashion’s engagement with the traditional practices of Catholicism, Eve has explored that idea much further with shapes and traditions of the Celtic World, Islam, Japan, of medieval alchemy and magic as well as Stone Age cultures. “Geometry’s use is to describe the world. When we feel awe at nature and the Creation, geometry becomes sacred. “States Eve as she describes her work.

 

She playfully intertwines basic circles, squares and triangles with sapphires, diamonds, garnets and rubies, creating at once modern and ancient jewels that would not be out of place in a ‘Game of Thrones’ universe. “What I design is wearable art, but I want each piece to tell a story, and if you see yourself in that story, it makes me immensely happy” says Alfillé.

 

Co-sponsored by Chicago Magazine, this event features a raffle for a Chopping Block Gift Basket valued at $200 and an Eve Alfillé “Sacred Geometries” necklace.

 

Please join us for a glass of wine, snacks and immersion into a mystical world!

sacredears

Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Quartz: History and Lore

By Jennifer A. Conley

Quartz is commonly found all around the world and due to its abundance is not typically valued today, but Quartz was once an important part of fashion, as well as the beliefs of people all over the world.

Quartz & Scottish history: Those who have studied Scottish history, or know a bit about Scottish lore, know that the Scots tended to be very superstitious. From luck charms to omens, Scots believed gemstones possessed a greater spiritual power.  Quartz was often carried by soldiers before battles, for it was a common belief that quartz had healing powers that could aid an injured soldier. Quartz was also passed down from one “wise woman” or healer to another healer after death. The new owner would take the quartz, place it in a large bowl of water and proceed to soak their feet in the water because water was often believed to charge the powers of the quartz. This would allow the transference of wisdom and healing power to the next wise woman.

In 2009, a four thousand year old tomb was discovered which is believed to belong to a Bronze-Age Scottish ruler1. Inside the tomb was a bed of white quartz, which historians believe was used to guarantee the rebirth of the ruler into the next world.  From royalty to everyday people, quartz played an important role in the spiritual beliefs of Scots for thousands of years.

Ancient civilizations have also valued quartz, and throughout history quartz gems were often worn as protection against supernatural forces as well as fashion statements. Quartz would be set in gold and worn throughout Greece, Egypt, and Western Asian cultures.  Early Western Asian cultures paired quartz with another dark stone, to be a symbol of balance, very similar to the Yin/Yang symbol in China. Grecian women would wear gold hair pins that featured clear quartz, and other forms of quartz such as amethyst.  High born Grecians would wear quartz diadems set in gold as markers of their status. Interestingly Grecians believed that quartz was a varying form of permanent ice, which is where its nickname “Greek ice” originated.

Quartz reached its peak  fashion popularity in the Byzantine Era, as well as the High Medieval and Renaissance periods; and the 17th & 18th century.  Quartz throughout its history was used as more than just a fashion statement: as a means of protection and healing for various ailments.

Rose Quartz was used as a love charm as well as a fertility stone.

Rutilated quartz, often referred to by Romans as the “hair of Venus”, is still to this day believed to help with depression.

Smoky quartz was often believed to help overcome grief.

Phantom quartz is also, still to this day, believed to help with mediation and act as a protection talisman.

Chalcedony, a microcrystallization of quartz, was very popular during the Antiquities and was often used in figurines and goblets.

Agate, a microcrystallization of quartz, helps with pregnancy ailments, dizziness, and impaired balance.

Onyx, a microcrystallization of quartz, aids in mediation and mindfulness

Jasper, a microcrystallization of quartz, helps with kidney, liver, and gallbladder pains. Ancient Egyptians believed Jasper increased sexual energy and used it as an aphrodisiac. Today, Jasper is still used to help with fertility.

Amethyst, another variation of quartz, often used to help with migraines

 

1. Keys, David. “Ancient Royal Tomb Found in Scotland” The Independent. UK News. August 14th, 2009. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/ancient-royal-tomb-found-in-scotland-1771875.html

Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

“Unwrapping” Just Desserts by Eve J. Alfille

The new series will be revealed Saturday, May 5, 2018 from 1:00 p.m – 7:00 p.m. at the Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio, with guests enjoying festive refreshments, live music, winnable prizes, and Evanston-made art jewelry.


 

How We See Sweets

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All jewelry by Eve Alfille.

There are a few things in life that are as universal as they are self-evident: food is one.

We eat to live.

But…wait…what about sweets???

It seems that Nature has explicitly directed that sweet things go directly to the head of the pleasure line, perhaps ahead of all others. And humans acknowledge this by giving immoderate veneration to their desserts, by cosseting them in special decorative vessels, by adorning them to the point of extravagance, by giving them a special place in the processional order of the meal.

We shake our heads when told of the wondrous goings-on at the palace in Versailles: the lineup of waiters, each bearing an ever-higher dessert, the pastry chefs vying for who could create a more teetering ‘pièce montée’ of candied fruits, pastry and fondant.

But hey, just behold the petit-fours at the bakery! Who can say that Versailles isn’t still with us? The unapologetic cuteness, the unnecessary swirls of frosting, the poufs of sweet cream! You know, I just think that desserts, to us, are the jewelery of the meal!

The Jewelry of the Meal

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All jewelry by Eve Alfille.

There is the old rationale for the emergence of jewelry in human culture: originally perhaps as a marker of transcendence, then a talisman for protection, to become a beacon of status. You don’t need jewelry, but it gives you a boost in many ways–it occupies a special place in human cravings, and we expect it to be exquisitely formed.

Well, doesn’t the same go for our sweet indulgences? If it’s your birthday, and an unadorned slab of cake appears; what a disappointment! Here is the sundae I ordered…what, no nuts or cherry on top? If it’s dessert, it must be somehow fancied-up!

True that sugar can appear in main dishes as well, sweet and sour pork or sauces. But this only shows that it is not just the sugar, but the social constructs.

The Power of Sweets

We do not need sweet foods, but they mesmerize us…we idolize them, wrap them in bright foils and frilly skirts, hold them out as rewards, turn to them in consolation, acknowledge them as guilty pleasures. Even use them, sometimes, to trade for personal safety.

Four years of my childhood were spent under war conditions–rationed foods, dark bread, no meat, butter, or sugar. We lived under assumed identities.

My forward-looking mother had somehow managed to stash away a few pieces of wrapped candy: I was told I could have one once a year for my birthday, and you can imagine how I anticipated the little ceremony of unwrapping it and sliding it slowly into my mouth.

But one time, as I was tossing and catching a ball, it veered off, and broke a neighbor’s window. These were the dark years, no telling if the neighbor would be understanding, or report us to the Gestapo. My mother, when she heard, seemed very upset. She immediately went to her special closet, brought out two of the precious candies, wrapped them in a newspaper cone and instructed me directly to take them to the neighbor and make my excuses.

I was furious, and bawling! Me, she only gave me one a year, and here the neighbor would get TWO! And what seven-year old wants to go ‘make excuses’ (i.e. apologize)?!

I don’t remember how the neighbor received the apology–I think my mother ended up going with me, and I felt plenty guilty when I finally understood it could have been a matter of life and death for us.

-Eve J. Alfille


Please send RSVPs to either 847-869-7920 or contact@evejewelry.com. To learn more about Eve Alfille and see more of her works, visit http://www.evejewelry.com.


 

All jewelry by Eve Alfille.

Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

The Rough in the Diamond

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The Cullinan Mine in South Africa

We all know that diamonds are precious treasures…but did you know that they can also carry even rarer treasures within themselves? This is precisely what was discovered by Graham Pearson, a professor from the University of Alberta, during his time spent in the already-famous Cullinan Mine.

Calcium silicate perovskite, while seemingly abundant as the world’s fourth-most-common mineral, was actually only proven to positively exist when discovered trapped within a single diamond discovered by Pearson. The mineral, perovskite, is so amazingly delicate that it cannot withstand conditions above ground. According to Pearson, “Nobody has ever managed to keep this mineral stable at the Earth’s surface. The only possible way of preserving this mineral at the Earth’s surface is when it’s trapped in an unyielding container like a diamond.”

The Cullinan mine, which produced a pair of some of the most famous diamonds in the world that currently reside in the British Crown Jewels, has now become known as a place of great scientific significance. Pearson’s find “provides fundamental proof of what happens to the fate of oceanic plates as they descend into the depths of the Earth.” The formation of the perovskite within the diamond indicates this, and also the fact that this diamond formed over 400 miles beneath the surface of the earth (most diamonds form only 100 miles down)! …Talk about performing under pressure.