The most valuable item known to have been shipped by U.S. mail was the Hope Diamond. It was shipped from a New York City jewelry store on November 8, 1958, and sent to the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum in Washington, DC. The Hope Diamond has long been rumored to be cursed. According to legend, the diamond was stolen from the eye of a statue of the goddess Sita. The legend really began to pick up steam in the early 20th century, so when it was shipped to its new home, the event garnered a lot of attention from the press.
The 45.552 carat diamond, worth an estimated $200-250 million, cost $145.29 in postage to ship. Of that, $2.44 was for the shipment, and the remainder was to insure the package for $1 million.
It arrived safely at the Washington, DC city post office, where letter carrier James G. Todd took possession of the package and delivered it to the Natural History Museum without incident. A bevy of reporters were on hand to document the diamond’s arrival, and they noted that distinct absence of any curses.
Only after the delivery of the diamond did some of its fabled bad luck begin to materialize. One year after delivering the diamond, James Todd endured several misfortunes: two separate automobile accidents, resulting in a crushed leg and a head wound; his wife died of a heart attack; his dog was strangled on its leash; and his home was partially destroyed by fire.
For his part, Todd discounted any curse as being the cause of his misfortunes. “I don’t believe in any of that stuff,” he said, noting that he actually experienced good fortune in that all of his children were outside of the house when it burned.
- Jacques Colet bought the Hope Diamond from Simon Frankel and committed suicide.
- Prince Ivan Kanitovski bought it from Colet but was killed by Russian revolutionists.
- Kanitovski loaned it to Mlle Ladue who was “murdered by her sweetheart.”
- Simon Mencharides, who had once sold it to the Turkish sultan, was thrown from a precipice along with his wife and young child.
- Sultan Hamid gave it to Abu Sabir to “polish” but later Sabir was imprisoned and tortured.
- Stone guardian Kulub Bey was hanged by a mob in Turkey.
- A Turkish attendant named Hehver Agha was hanged for having it in his possession.
- Tavernier, who brought the stone from India to Paris was “torn to pieces by wild dogs in Constantinople.”
- King Louis gave it to Madame de Montespan whom later he abandoned.
- Nicholas Fouquet, an “Intendant of France”, borrowed it temporarily to wear it but was “disgraced and died in prison.”
- A temporary wearer, Princess de Lamballe, was “torn to pieces by a French mob.”
- Jeweler William Fals who recut the stone “died a ruined man.”
- William Fals’ son Hendrik stole the jewel from his father and later “committed suicide.”
- Some years (after Hendrik) “it was sold to Francis Deaulieu, who died in misery and want.”