Two Famous Diamonds At Smithsonian


Friday, October 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) — Two of the world's most famous diamonds can now be seen together.

The 41-carat Dresden Green diamond went on display Thursday, joining the blue 45-carat Hope diamond at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

It's the first trip to the United States for the stone from the famous Green Vault Museum in Dresden, Germany. It will remain on show until late January.

``It's rare, very rare, that you see two diamonds like this together. In fact it's probably the one and only time it will happen,'' said Museum Director Robert Fri.

New York jeweler Ronald Winston arranged the visit of the Dresden Green. Winston's father, Harry, donated the Hope diamond to the museum.

Both stones have brilliant color, became known in Europe at about the same time, share somewhat similar histories and both are believed to originate in India's Golconda Mines.

While boron included in the stone produces the Hope's blue color, the green tone of the Dresden is the result of exposure to natural radiation.

First reports of the Dresden Green occur in London in 1726. It was purchased by Friedrich Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, in 1741.

In 1742 Augustus had it mounted in a special badge of the Order of the Golden Fleece, an organization founded in 1429 to encourage virtue and faith among nobility.

Six years later King Louis XV of France had a blue gem, believed to be the one now known as the Hope Diamond, set in his own badge of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

In the intervening years, the Hope Diamond has been recut and moved from owner to owner, developing a legend of bad luck along the way.

Not so the Dresden Green. It has spent most of its time in safekeeping at the Konigstein Castle in wartime and the Green Vault in peace. However, after Saxony lost in the Seven Years War the stone was pawned in Warsaw, Poland, being redeemed in 1764.

World War II bombing destroyed the original Green Vault Museum but the stone was safe in the nearby castle.

After the war it left Saxony — now a state in southeastern Germany — carted off by the Soviet Trophies Commission. It was returned in 1958.

Today, surrounded by 350 white diamonds in a hat ornament, it is kept in the Green Vault section of Dresden's Albertinum Museum.

While it hasn't developed the sinister reputation some attribute to the Hope Diamond, the Dresden Green may not be all that lucky either.

A letter written by Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, recalls an incident when Augustus was asked to supply heavy artillery for a siege and refused due to the scarcity of money, having spent a large sum to buy the green diamond.

———

On the Net:

National Museum of Natural History: http://www.mnh.si.edu

Green Vault Museum: http://www.staatl-kunstsammlungen-dresden.de/english/musgrg.htm