WASHINGTON — For the first time, the famed and feared Hope Diamond is on display au naturel. The doors were locked. Tense looking security guards took their positions. In rolled a cart, a white cloth covering its contents. Smithsonian Institution officials lifted the cloth. "The Hope Diamond naked," proclaimed Jeffrey Post, curator of the National Gem Collection.
The world's largest blue diamond went on public display Wednesday, for the first time without its ornate setting.
Perched atop a light gray display post, the 45.5-carat, walnut-size diamond will be on view by itself for several months while a new setting is prepared.
Called "Embracing Hope," the new setting will surround the star gem in a ribbon of white diamonds. It was chosen from three proposals in an online vote, winning 45,000 out of a total 110,000 votes cast, said Cristian Samper, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
The new display is part of a celebration of the Hope Diamond's half-century at the museum. It was donated in 1958 by jeweler Harry Winston, whose firm is preparing the new setting.
Russ Feather, left, Museum Specialist Gemologist, and Kelly Carnes
from Public Affairs Office, unveil the Hope Diamond at the
Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009.
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