History and the Curse of the Hope Diamond

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SPEAKER: Richard Kurin
EVENT DATE: 11/16/2007
RUNNING TIME: 55 minutes
TRANSCRIPT: View Transcript (link will open in a new window)


They say diamonds are a girl's best friend. Yet, one such gem has been more foe to those it has touched, allegedly cursing some of them to their demise. From the diamond mines of India and royal palaces of Europe to the jewelers of Fifth Avenue and halls of the Smithsonian, Richard Kurin uncovers the mystery and the true story of the world's most infamous bauble.

Kurin, director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, discussed and signed his book "Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem" as part of the Books and Beyond series hosted by the Center for the Book.

A cultural anthropologist, Kurin has spent more than a decade learning about the history of the legendary gem. From its discovery in 17th-century India through its donation to the Smithsonian in 1958 by the jewelry firm of Harry Winston Inc., the Hope Diamond has been shrouded in mystery and steeped in intrigue. Kurin's groundbreaking work moves between ancient religion and modern magic, royal power and class rivalry, revenge and greed, to bring the story up to the present.

Speaker Biography: A former Fulbright fellow with a doctorate from the University of Chicago, Richard Kurin joined the Smithsonian staff in 1985. As the director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, he oversees the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and other cultural heritage programs. On October 1, he became the Smithsonian Institution's acting undersecretary for history and culture.

SERIES: Books & Beyond

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