History Photography Travel

The Hope Diamond

The Hope Diamond is a 45.52-carat diamond originally extracted in the 17th century from the Kollur Mine in Guntur, India. It is blue in color due to trace amounts of boron.

The earliest records of the diamond show that French gem merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier purchased it in 1666 as the Tavernier Blue. The stone was cut and renamed the French Blue (Le bleu de France); Tavernier sold the stone to King Louis XIV of France in 1668. 

On September 11, 1792, while Louis XVI and his family were imprisoned in the Square du Temple during the early stages of the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, a group of thieves broke into the Royal Storehouse—the Hôtel du Garde-Meuble de la Couronne (now Hôtel de la Marine)—stealing most of the Crown Jewels in a five-day looting spree. While many jewels were later recovered, including other pieces of the Order of the Golden Fleece, the French Blue was not among them and it disappeared from history.

In 1812, a deep blue diamond described by John Francillion as weighing 177 grains (4 grains = 1 carat) was documented as being in the possession of London diamond merchant, Daniel Eliason. Strong evidence indicates that the stone was the recut French Blue and the same stone known today as the Hope Diamond.

Several references suggest that it was acquired by King George IV of the United Kingdom. At his death, in 1830, the king’s debts were so enormous that the blue diamond was likely sold through private channels.

The first reference to the diamond’s next owner is found in the 1839 entry of the gem collection catalog of the well-known Henry Philip Hope, the man from whom the diamond takes its name. Unfortunately, the catalog does not reveal where or from whom Hope acquired the diamond or how much he paid for it.

Following the death of Henry Philip Hope in 1839, and after much litigation, the diamond passed to his nephew Henry Thomas Hope and ultimately to the nephew’s grandson Lord Francis Hope. In 1901 Lord Francis Hope obtained permission from the Court of Chancery and his sisters to sell the stone to help pay off his debts. It was sold to a London dealer who quickly sold it to Joseph Frankels and Sons of New York City, who retained the stone in New York until they, in turn, needed cash. The diamond was next sold to Selim Habib who put it up for auction in Paris in 1909. It did not sell at the auction but was sold soon after to C.H. Rosenau and then resold to Pierre Cartier that same year.

In 1910 the Hope Diamond was shown to Mrs. Evalyn Walsh McLean, of Washington D.C., at Cartier’s in Paris, but she did not like the setting. Cartier had the diamond reset and took it to the U.S. where he left it with Mrs. McLean for a weekend. This strategy was successful. The sale was made in 1911 with the diamond mounted as a headpiece on a three-tiered circlet of large white diamonds. Sometime later it became the pendant on a diamond necklace as we know it today. Mrs. McLean’s flamboyant ownership of the stone lasted until her death in 1947.

Harry Winston Inc. of New York City purchased Mrs. McLean’s entire jewelry collection, including the Hope Diamond, from her estate in 1949.

For the next 10 years the Hope Diamond was shown at many exhibits and charitable events world wide by Harry Winston Inc., including as the central attraction of their Court of Jewels exhibition. On November 10, 1958, they donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution, and almost immediately the great blue stone became its premier attraction.

(Sources: Wikipedia and the Smithsonian)


Major First Round Showdown in New York

The Guardian reports that defending US Open Champion

Emma Raducanu has been handed one of the toughest possible first-round draws at the US Open this year as she begins her title defence against the veteran Frenchwoman Alizé Cornet.

Cornet is ranked number 37 in the tournament and is one of highest ranked unseeded players in the draw. Cornet has been playing well.

Raducanu is ranked number 11. According to Forbes, the 19 year old Raducanu is the sixth highest paid tennis player in the world with earnings of $21.1 million: $3.1m on the court and $18m off the court.

Raducanu and Cornet will face one another Tuesday, August 30th, at 7 pm, New York time. It should be a great match.

Photography Travel

Paris Photographers

Paris is a beautiful city and attracts many talented photographers. These are among the photographers who capture the essence of this extraordinary city:

Peter Turnley

Paris Street Photography by Michael Erimo

Nico Geerlings on Flickr

Sophie on Instagram

MagS on Instagram – Paris and travel photography She also has a nice color account on Instagram.

Paris Insolite (en français)

I will add to this list over time and welcome suggestions of other photographers to add to this list.

Last updated: September 20, 2022

History Photography

Pittsburgh’s Concordia Club Now Part of the Pitt Family of Buildings

The Concordia Club was a noteworthy part of Jewish life in Pittsburgh from the late 19th century until 2009.

In 1874, a group of approximately forty Jewish men, primarily of German origin, met to organize an association, whose purpose, according to its charter, was “to promote social and literary entertainment among its members.” The first president of the Concordia Club was Josiah Cohen, a prominent teacher, lawyer, and judge. Jacob Eiseman was president in 1884, when the club was chartered. The majority of the Club’s early members and almost all of its early officers were members of Rodef Shalom Congregation.

Establishments such as the Concordia Club sprang up across the United States at a time when Jews were typically denied membership in prominent social and business clubs. Such discrimination was common in most major cities in the United States, including Pittsburgh. The Duquesne Club, in downtown Pittsburgh, did not begin to admit Jews until 1968. The Concordia Club was sometimes called the “Jewish Duquesne Club.”

Duquesne Club, Pittsburgh – © 2022, David H. Enzel

The Concordia Club’s first location was a rented home on Stockton Avenue in Allegheny City, now the North Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh. At that time more than 95 per cent of the Club’s membership lived in Allegheny City. By the late 1870s the club had grown sufficiently to need a dance hall, which was created through renovation of the original structure. The Stockton Avenue clubhouse property was purchased by the club in 1890 but a new building was later erected on the same Stockton Avenue site, at a cost of approximately $75,000. At that time the club had 175 members.

During the next 20 years, the Concordia Club became a significant social institution for the Jewish community, even as the community’s demographic center was shifting from Allegheny City to Pittsburgh’s East End communities, particularly Squirrel Hill. By 1913, when the Concordia Club moved to its new location on O’Hara Street in the Schenley Farms district of Oakland, more than 95 per cent of its members lived in Squirrel Hill. The new clubhouse was dedicated on Christmas Day, 1913, with a gala banquet. The building contained a banquet hall, ballroom, library, lounges, sleeping quarters, billiard rooms, and bowling alleys.

When the Concordia Club moved into its building on O’Hara Street in 1913, it was described as one of city’s most opulent with notably elegant china, crystal and linens along with profuse flower arrangements. A 1915 article in the Jewish Criterion commented that the new club was “entirely complete with billiard rooms, banquet hall, rest and lounging parlors, reading quarters and sleeping accommodations.” Later the club would add to its interior by installing elaborate dark-stained oak paneling rescued from the Fort Pitt Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh when the hotel was demolished in 1967.

The Club over the years staged elaborate themed dances, vaudeville performances, musical stage revues, amateur theatrical productions and holiday parties. Private social functions of all sorts were held in the clubhouse, which continued to be a gathering place for Pittsburgh’s Jewish community. At its peak, the club had nearly 300 members.

After 135 years, the Concordia Club voted to sell the historic building to the University of Pittsburgh due to declining membership and financial shortages. It closed its doors on December 14, 2009.

Pitt undertook $5.8 million in upgrades, preservation, and renovations that were completed in April, 2011 and provided almost 35,000 square feet (3,300 m2) of space in order to help alleviate shortages in student group event, meeting, and office space at the William Pitt Union.

Upgrades included tearing out walls, updating the heating and cooling systems, replacing the roof, and upgrading the lighting. The first floor contains the oak paneled space for studying or socializing as well as a dining room that can double as a meeting room. A staircase, with original wood railings, leads to a second floor contains a 450-person capacity, sound system-equipped ball room — shown above — that includes an open balcony, arched windows, and a small stage. From a previous renovation more than 50 years ago, the ballroom contains three chandeliers, one larger than the others, and a number of sconces. Renovations to the ballroom included restoring access to the balcony, applying gold leaf trim to the wall panels, and a restoration of the chandeliers, including replacement of the light bulbs with LEDs, by the original lighting fabricator located in Pittsburgh’s Strip District.

The former Concordia Club, now the O’Hara Student Center, at Pitt- Wikipedia

The basement of the Student Center is used as a storage area for student groups. The facility also houses the Math Assistance Center, the Freshman Studies Program, and the student Writing Center.

Pitt’s renovation of the Concordia Club was very respectful of the Club’s history. The University preserved the Club’s gorgeous oak paneling and its elegant ballroom which continue to be enjoyed by the Pitt community, which now dominates the Oakland section of Pittsburgh.


Senator John Heinz History Center


Historic Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle

History Photography Travel

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, films and video, audio recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts in its collections. The Library is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.

Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress, Washington, DC (2022)
Photography Podcasts Travel

Paris: ‘Magical, Beautiful, and Mysterious’

When I “met” Paris at the tender age of 18, it was love at first sight.  She was magical, beautiful, and mysterious.  I fell under her spell and had no desire to break it, promising myself that I would return as frequently as possible!  I’ve been lucky enough to fulfill that promise, falling more in love with her on each visit.

Michelle Keel, Paris Gone By