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Is the hope diamond red?

The legendary Hope Diamond is one of the most famous diamonds in the world. Currently housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C., the Hope Diamond has captivated the public for centuries with its large size, rare deep blue color, and intriguing history. But is the Hope Diamond actually red? Let’s examine the evidence.

History of the Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond’s history can be traced back to the 17th century, when it was mined from the Kollur mine in Golconda, India. Originally shaped into a 112.50-carat diamond, it was purchased in 1666 by French gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier. Tavernier sold the diamond in 1668 to King Louis XIV of France, where it was recut to a 67.50-carat stone called the “French Blue.” The French Blue was stolen during the French Revolution and subsequently recut into the 45.52-carat Hope Diamond in the 1830s. The Hope Diamond then went through several owners before being donated to the Smithsonian in 1958.

Descriptions of the Hope Diamond’s Color

Throughout its history, the Hope Diamond has been described with some variability as blue, deep blue, violet blue, and steely blue. Here are some notable descriptions of the diamond’s color over time:

Year Description of Color
1691 “beautiful violet color”
1702 “fine blue color”
1776 “a superb blue color”
1839 “rich deep blue”
1850 “rare sapphire blue”

As we can see, the historical descriptions emphasize blue hues rather than red. The first known description explicitly describing the Hope Diamond as red didn’t appear until 1908.

The Controversial 1908 Description

In 1908, an article in The New York Times described the Hope Diamond as being colored “red.” This anomalous description sparked debate and controversy for decades. Some theorists believed the Hope Diamond had transformed from a blue to a red color, attributing magical or ominous properties to the gem. However, research has shown that the 1908 description was likely due to error or differences in terminology:

  • The description appeared in a casual society gossip column, not a formal jeweler’s assessment.
  • The author may have used “red” loosely to mean any raspberry, purplish-red or violet shade.
  • Some sources indicate the Hope Diamond briefly appeared more red after being cleaned in 1908.
  • Cleaning a blue diamond can alter its color temporarily.

While intriguing, the 1908 account seems to be either mistaken or not referring to a pure red coloration when examined in context. All other historical records consistently describe the Hope Diamond as blue.

Scientific Analysis of the Hope Diamond’s Color

Objective scientific analysis has also confirmed the Hope Diamond’s blue color:

  • Spectral analysis shows the gem absorbs yellow and red light, while emitting blue and violet wavelengths – consistent with a blue diamond.
  • Trace elements like hydrogen and boron have been detected that influence its blue color.
  • The diamond’s cut, especially the cushions and facets on its pavilion, optimize its rare blue color.

In summary, physics and chemistry findings support the Hope Diamond possessing an inherent blue coloration and structure optimally designed to bring out that blue hue.

Could the Hope Diamond Change Color?

Diamonds are the hardest known natural substance, rated 10 on the Mohs hardness scale. Their rigid crystal structure gives diamonds remarkable resistance to change. While surface cleaning can temporarily alter appearance, a dramatic intrinsic color change is essentially impossible after a diamond is cut:

  • Heating/irradiation procedures can turn some brown and yellow diamonds blue, but have no effect on an already blue diamond.
  • High pressure or deformation might modify color, but would fracture or shatter a cut diamond.
  • Surface coatings like paint or dye could create a red appearance, but are easy to detect under magnification.

In other words, it is highly implausible for the Hope Diamond to transform from its original blue color into red intrinsically. The only way to turn the Hope Diamond meaningfully red would be via an artificial external coating – which would be obvious upon inspection.


Based on all available evidence – from historical records to scientific analysis – the iconic Hope Diamond has always been a blue diamond. The single 1908 account describing it as red was likely erroneous or referring to a temporarily altered appearance. While hypnotizing and mysterious, dramatic intrinsic color changes in gemstones go against everything we know about the physics and chemistry of diamonds. Powerful stories might claim otherwise, but the legendary Hope Diamond remains resolutely and beautifully blue.