"Evalyn wore the Hope Diamond to distribute sandwiches to World War I veterans and to write letters from home for the wounded servicemen in World War Ii," says her great-grandson proudly. "She let her Great Dane, Mike, wear it around the house. There even were a couple of times when she wore the Hope Diamond on the operating table while having surgery." When she died in 1947, the well-known Washingtonian was reputedly wearing her beloved necklace.
Joseph, raised in Louisville, Kentucky, and Palm Beach, Florida, never met his colorful great-grandmother, but says his mother remembers bits. "Mother teethed on the Hope Diamond and played with it in her sandbox," says Joseph with a smile, thumbing through a family scrapbook, one photo featuring Evalyn in a black patent leather dress (with the necklace in full view). "My mother wants us to know our great-grandmother as a caring philanthropist."
It's Joseph's goal to remember her, period. And to fan the flames of the legend through his new fragrance, developed by Quest International, the company responsible for Gucci and Givenchy scents. "I told the chemist to take a note from every country in which the Hope Diamond has been housed, then to add a hint of Evalyn's favorite dessert—crème brûlée."
What resulted was a mixture of ivy from England, plum and pimiento from Spain, real sandalwood from India, and the crème brûlée flavor. Joseph says it took 150 different combinations before he approved the final fragrance.
With high test-marketing results and beveled, frosted French crystal containers, Fable—which comes complete with the story of Evalyn Walsh McLean is now on the market. Prices range from a signed, numbered, and dated collector's edition perfume at $650 to a 1.7-ounce eau de parfum spray for $75, along with many other items to complete the Fable line. Markets include TIBA de Nuhad Khoury in Nashville, some Sephora stores in the Southeast, Bergdorf Goodman in New York City, Jacobson's chains, and Von Maur department stores.
Joesph is currently on a tour to promote an Evalyn book (see THE BOOK), toting her bejeweled dresses and some pieces of jewelry to signings. And he hopes someday for a made-for-TV film ofhis great-grandmother's life story.
"Evalyn would've loved all this," he remarks of the flurry of attention and the steadily selling fragrance. "People ask me if I believe in the Hope Diamond's curse; I don't. I can't believe in it. I'm putting positive thoughts out there."
-Carolanne Griffith Roberts