The Star of the East

After their marriage in 1908, Edward B. McLean and his bride Evalyn travelled to Europe for their honeymoon. Each had received $100,000 from their respective fathers as a wedding present. Among the countries they visited was Turkey where Evalyn McLean expressed a wish to see the treasures of the jewelry-loving Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Abd al-Hamid II. When the American ambassador heard of her wish he told her: "He may tap you for his harem," to which she replied: "The way they tap a boy for some society at Yale? Is that the way he gets them?"

When the couple reached Paris Mrs. McLean was able to buy the wedding present which her father had told her to get. Pierre Cartier showed her the Star of the East, a fine 94.80-carat pear-shaped diamond, mounted on a chain below a hexagonal emerald of 34 carats and a pearl of 32 grains, which may have belonged to the Sultan Abd al-Hamid. "Ned," she said to her husband, "its got me. I'll never get away from the spell of this." Her husband - who was unimpressed by jewels - replied "A shock may break the spell. Suppose you ask the price of this magnificence." But Evalyn refused to listen to him and purchased the Star of the East for $120,000, in the process using up some of his wedding gift money. Mrs. McLean pointed out the diamond's merits as an investment and that she could tell her own father that it represented a double gift to cover both her wedding and Christmas presents.

On her return home the following exchange between Thomas Walsh and his daughter Evalyn took place:

Thomas: "Did you buy a wedding present?"
Evalyn: "Yes"
Thomas: "Did you pay the duty?"
Evalyn: "No, I smuggled it."
Thomas: "You take the cake."

The Star of the East in its original necklace
setting with the hexagonal emerald and pearl.

Later Thomas Walsh said: "Don't worry. I'll send my lawyer down tomorrow and let him declare the trinket. Hell, I'm glad to buy it for Evalyn. There won't be a bit of trouble. I'll send the word to the Customs that she is not all there."

The Star of the East remained in Evalyn Walsh McLean's ownership for 40 years or so. On one occasion she was photographed wearing the diamond as an aigrette with what appeared to be a feather from some exotic bird in a diamond bandeau. The Hope lay somewhat lower lower as a pendant to a pearl necklace. After her death, Harry Winston bought both diamonds and in 1951 he sold the Star of the East and a fancy colored oval cut diamond to King Farouk of Egypt. By the time of the King's overthrow in 1952, Mr. Winston had still not received payment for the two gems, but three years later an Egyptian government legal board entrusted with the disposal of the former royal assets, ruled in his favor. Nevertheless, several years of litigation were needed before he was able to reclaim the Star of the East from a safe-deposit box in Switzerland.

In 1969 Harry Winston sold the Star of the East, the new owner asking him to remount the gem as a pendant to a V-shaped diamond necklace to which two flawless matching pear shapes could be attahced. The Star of the East was displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1978, at a reception marking the 50th anniversary of Harry Winston Inc. Six years later the diamond came back into the ownership of Harry Winston Inc. Its present whereabouts are unknown.

Sometime after the V-shaped necklace was assembled with a pair of matching pear-shaped diamonds, apparently a pair of matching pear-shaped emerald attachments were also made. They are each surrounded by white diamonds and are visible in the top photo.