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Hope Diamond dons new setting for anniversary

To commemorate the Hope Diamond's half-century, Harry Winston Inc. designed a new, modernized setting for the giant blue gem.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The famous Hope Diamond is getting dressed up to celebrate its anniversary.

The giant blue diamond was unveiled Thursday in a modernized necklace, a setting designed by Harry Winston Inc., in New York to commemorate the gem's half-century on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

It was Harry Winston who donated the diamond to the Smithsonian, sending it from New York to Washington by registered mail more than a half-century ago.

The new necklace, entitled "Embracing Hope," was chosen from three possibilities in an online vote of more than 100,000 people.

Traditionally the Hope has been in a necklace displayed in an oval setting surrounded by a series of white diamonds. Embracing Hope places the diamond in a wider triple-strand necklace that curves around the blue gem, embracing it and reuniting at the bottom.

The Hope will be shown in this setting for a year before being returned to its traditional one.

The 45.52-carat diamond was long thought to have a curse, bringing bad luck to its owners, but Smithsonian officials say it has been kind to them, drawing throngs of visitors. It attracts an estimated seven million visitors a year, the museum reports.

Formed more than a billion years ago, the diamond was mined in India and later is believed to have been part of the French crown jewels, having been stolen during the French Revolution. It later came into the possession of Henry Philip Hope, a prominent British banker from the early 1800s whose name it now carries.

In addition to placing the gem on display in the new setting, the Smithsonian Channel plans a broadcast special Sunday entitled "Mystery of the Hope Diamond."

As part of the anniversary celebration, the Harry Winston Foundation announced a $1 million grant to the Smithsonian to support mineral sciences education.