The world’s largest museum complex and research organization and one of the world’s largest multimedia retailers have joined forces at last. Last week, the Smithsonian Institution and the QVC home shopping network announced a licensing agreement to make and sell a line of jewelry modeled after and inspired by the Hope Diamond and other pieces in the National Gem and Mineral Collection at the National Museum of Natural History.
Reaction from the Washington press corps has been lukewarm at best:
Who hasn’t gone to the National Museum of Natural History and stared longingly at the 45.52 carat monolith that is the Hope Diamond, hoping to someday place that gaudy-ass pendant around their own neck? (Erin Petty, Washington City Paper Arts Desk)
The QVC version of the Hope Diamond won’t be quite as massive, Smithsonian rep Linda St. Thomas told The Washington Post’s TV Column, since nobody wears jewelry that big any more. St. Thomas also noted that “with all of our licensed products, everything is reviewed and approved by curators in advance.”
As part of the deal, curators will also record interviews to be aired on QVC. The line is slated to launch this fall with about 30 pieces of primarily costume jewelry and semiprecious stones, with prices starting at $85. (The Smithsonian officially says the real Hope Diamond is priceless, but estimates range from $350 million to $500 million.)
Carol LeBlanc, director of consumer products for the Smithsonian Enterprises business unit, tried to spin the deal as educational, promising they “will create jewelry that is not only fashionable, but also serves to educate the public about the Smithsonian and the jewelry, gems and minerals found in its collections.” In the announcement of the deal, QVC merchandising director Debra Puzio went for notes of democratic ideals: “Now our customers can share these national treasures in a very personal way as we give them access to owning jewelry based on items of great historical significance.”
While terms of the deal were not revealed, the Smithsonian’s revenue will come from sales royalties. It is not the Institution’s first foray into replicas or television, as they’ve licensed replicas of furniture and other items, and started a joint TV venture with Showtime in 2006.
[image: Smithsonian archives]