French Blue

Real Stone
Replica

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French Blue diamond replica

Specifications

Weight:

68.9 carats*

Dimensions:

31.00 x 24.81 x 12.78 mm

Color:

Blue

Weight of Rough:

Origin:

Date Found:

Cut in 1671

Current Location:

Cut into the Hope in the earlier 1800's

*67 1/8 old carats.

Details

Famous Diamond Replicas by Scott Sucher © 2006

Dimensions of the French Blue per Morel (1986) where he cites Brisson's “Imprimerie Royale,” Paris, 1787, p. 68 and 69, says the French Blue (FB) is 31 x 24.81 x 12.78 and weighs 69.00 modern metric carats. The historical drawing of the Golden Fleece shows a stone too narrow (30.96 x 26.19) and does not support Brisson’s measurements of 31 x 24.81.

The templates used to cut the FB replica were generated by starting with a line drawing of the stone in the Golden Fleece, and then stretched to satisfy Brisson’s measurements. Successive iterations result in a template measuring 30.96x24.87, an error rate of around 0.2% compared to the reported 31x24.81. This keeps the stone to Brisson’s dimensions, as I consider the drawing less accurate compared to the measuring equipment at the time.

 

French Blue Drawing                     French Blue Stretched Model
Drawing of French Blue from Fleece                                Stretched Model


Another point of contention: Others feel that the break facets, those along the girdle, are vertically split, so where you see one facet there are actually two. This is based on her stone-cutter’s judgment as the break facets on the pavilion are split, and this allows them to match up. Because the French Blue was cut so perfectly, this maintains a certain artistic symmetry.

I disagree. The drawing clearly shows that the break facets are not split.  The Golden Fleece drawing is extremely detailed, and inferred to be accurate.  If the break facets were split, they would have been drawn that way. However, in the discussion above, I feel the drawing is clearly in error in the stone’s proportions, so perhaps the artist made a mistake here also. I’m not thinking so, as getting the proportions slightly off is easy. Indicating split facets is extremely easy, just the addition of one line per facet, so these would have been included if observed.

French Blue Split Breaks

Split breaks version

Others say split, I say unsplit. This demonstrates some of the nuances when attempting to tease reality out of vague historical references, and will continue to be a cause for debate. Again, no right or wrong, just a difference of opinion.

As an aside, the split version is more brilliant than the unsplit version, plus it is easier to cut. Keep this in mind if you intend on cutting a replica.

For more discussions related to the French Blue, see the Hope Diamond and the Tavernier Blue.

 

December 2007

My wife, Karen, and I traveled to London for the opening of the “The Vault” exhibit at the Natural History Museum in London, and then went on to Paris to take care of some business with the very gracious and accommodating Dr. Francois Farges, Professor of Mineralogy at the Museum national d’Histoire naturelle (Paris). Francois was our tour guide for the four days we spent in Paris, and he made our trip absolutely wondrous.

One morning Francois escorted us to Versailles. It was scheduled to be open at 9 am, but by 10:30 it still hadn’t opened (due to a civic function). We decided to tour the magnificent gardens.

At one point during our walk, Francois made the comment that it was unfortunate that we didn’t have the CZ replica of the French Blue diamond with us (his museum was currently in the process of acquiring the replica for display). He explained that Versailles was the original site of where Kings Louis XIV through Louis XVI wore the original stone. He thought it would be very philosophically poetic to be able to take pictures of the return of the French Blue to its place of origin. The stone had been stolen in 1792, never to reappear.

My wife, bless her heart, opened her backpack and pulled out a Tupperware container with the replicas I had brought to France (Great Table, Tavernier Blue, French Blue, and Hope). Francois almost cried as he watched the French Blue being unwrapped, as this was a project of great importance to him.  He then promptly scolded my wife for carrying them with her due to their value, but her tongue-in-cheek retort was, “Look at me Francois.  I’m a dumpy looking middle-aged woman American tourist dressed in jeans with a ratty backpack. Does it look like I’m worth mugging!?”

We took a series of pictures of Francois holding the stone with Versailles in the background.  It was fantastic. We were like three kids in a candy store!


French Blue in Garden

Photo by Scott Sucher

As we were walking out of the gardens, we passed a series of fountains and came upon a famous bronze statue of three cherubs. Francois noted that it would be a wonderful picture to place the FB into the cupped hands of one of the cherubs.

I told him we could do that, but he pointed to a sign in French that read “Do not step on the grass” that separated our sidewalk from the statue which was about 6 feet away. I, having very long legs, explained that it would require only one step to place it there, and then that same step retrieve it. The grass hardly would be disturbed. And so, without any fanfare or interruption, we captured the beautiful shot. Thank you, Francois!

French Blue Cherub

 

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Photos by Scott Sucher

April 2009

OK, it’s now official. From Jan 2008 to Apr 2009, I’ve been working with Dr. Francois Farges, professeur, Mineralogie, Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle (Paris), and professor, Geological and Environnemental Sciences, Stanford University (USA) Institut Universitaire de France on a really cool project. During a Paris visit of December 2007 that my wife and I went on, we got into a discussion with Francois about the existence of a French Blue lead replica. I had heard of the existence of this object through some obscure texts, and during the filming of the Discovery Channel show in 2004 we had asked the Louvre about it. They disavowed all knowledge of it, so it was considered a dead issue. However, in talking with Francois, we both got excited about looking for it again. I had mentioned that my research showed that his museum had a great potential for having it. His comment: ”You’ve seen our museum, we have hundreds of cabinets and thousands of drawers. We think there are about 300,000 uncatalogued objects in our museum. Even if we had it, we would never find it.” Another dead end.

Over the next 2-3 weeks, he asked technical questions via email about the diamond, and my response was always “If you want the answer, you need to find the replica.” On Jan 7, 2008, his email contained a note of despair, as the technicians had searched almost everywhere and hadn’t found it, and he was afraid that it had been stolen in the intervening years. But then, on Jan 9, jubilation!

“TAKE A CHAIR!!! I found a lead mold at the Collection. In fact, two. Sending 1st picture. Does it sound familiar to you ???”

This is what he sent

French Blue diamond lead model

Kind of looks like the lower diamond in Hirtz’s picture below, doesn’t it? (The upper large stone is the Bapst/Hirtz version of the Bazu.)

Golden Fleece

What is interesting is that the lead replica was found in a drawer of lead specimens. Whoever placed it there thought it ranked right up there in importance with crystals of galena and cerussite. Now there’s a little “Oops!” At least it waited to be discovered by those that knew what they were looking at. This replica clears up a lot of misconceptions about the diamond, and yet it also creates other issues for the Hope and Tavernier Blue diamonds (see their respective pages).

To make a much longer story as short as possible, the period from Jan 08 to April 09 has been spent researching this discovery and its implications, and getting these into print. The outcome is that we now have the definitive answer as to what the FB looked liked and the rest of its physical attributes. The cutting is far more complex than previously thought, truly a masterpiece of French diamond cutting in the 1670’s. The label attached to the donation implicates Henry Philip Hope in actually owning the French Blue, not after it was cut into the Hope diamond, but the original FB. A very interesting development. This research is described by Farges (2008 and 2009).

  French_Blue_crown_photoreal    French_Blue_pavilion_photoreal

These computer generated images show the appearance of the French Blue diamond. A spectral file of the Hope diamond was imported to generate the exact color of the original diamond. Photoreal image generated using Diamcalc by Octonus (www.octonus.com)

And what about the second mold mentioned in Francois’ email? Go to the Mirror of Portugal page.

November 2009

The dust has settled a little bit, now to stir it up again.  The discussion below was a joint effort between Dr. Farges and myself.  The opinions are purely my own as I'm not about to state Francois' beliefs for him.  He discovered some of the facts, I discovered some, and this is the culmination of these efforts.

As mentioned above, the label attached to the French Blue lead model implicates Henry Philip Hope in owning it ("A diamond remarkable for its clarity belonging to Mr Hope of London").  An interesting little development, as this is NOT a scenario in the history books.  One school of thought is that Lord Brunswick was diverted from attacking Paris during the French Revolution by being bribed with the French Blue, where it subsequently found its way to London and recut into the Hope.  The other is that George IV somehow acquired the stone.  Although the circumstantial evidence supports both theories, I personally believe both are wrong.  So when in doubt, reanalyze the facts to find the answer. Let's start with what is actually known about the Hope. 

  1. The French Blue was stolen in 1792, never to be seen again.
  2. The Hope diamond appeared in September 1812 being announced by Francillon's note implicating Daniel Eliason:
    "The above drawing is the exact size and shape of a very curious superfine deep blue diamond.  Brilliant cut, and equal to a fine deep blue sapphire.  It is beauty full and all perfection without specks or flaws, and the color even and perfect all over the diamond. 
    I traced it round the diamond with a pencil by leave of Mr. Daniel Eliason and it is as finely cut as I have ever seen a diamond.
    The colour of the drawing is as near the colour of the diamond as possible.
    Dated:  19th Sept 1812     John Francillon"
  3. The Hope disappears for another 27 years, reappearing in 1839 in the inventory of Henry Philip Hope (HPH) after his death.

What are the facts concerning the family business, the banking firm of Hope & Co?

Hope & Co., founded by HPH's father Thomas in 1726, was one of the two most powerful banking firms in Europe until 1813 when it was bought out by Barings.  The firm was very well connected doing business with the following governments:

1.  Russia - Imported sugar, exported timber and wheat.  Thomas Hope did so much business that Catherine the Great wanted to give him lands and a title of nobility for his services to the Russian Crown.

2.  Portugal - Diamond sale concession.  The King was so thrilled with Thomas Hope's business that he gave the banking firm sole authority to market Brazilian diamonds in Europe.

3.  England - War funding.  Hope & Co. funded the English during their little skirmish with Napoleon.

4.  France - Louisiana Purchase.  Hope & Co. and Baring's put together the financials for the Louisiana Purchase.

All this means is that the Hope's had contacts with the royalties of Europe and Russia during the late 1700's and very early 1800's and would have inside knowledge of important facts and events not available to others.

Now, let's take a look at HPH himself.

  1. Friends and business partners
    1. Achard - Charles Achard made the donation of the lead replica in 1850. His ancestors were entrusted by Napoleon to locate the former French Crown Jewels. They were also one of the finest Parisian lapidaries for 150 years. Father Achard and Hope did business together. If there was anything of importance concerning jewels in Europe around 1800, Achard and hence Hope would know about it.
    2. Eliason - He was mentioned in Francillon's note. He had diamond mining interests in Brazil funded by HPH personally. He was also a London diamond dealer. If there was a significant diamond on the market, he would know about it and could easily tell Mr. Hope of it.
    3. Hauy - He was the Curator of Gems and Minerals at the Natural History Museum in Paris in the early 1800's. He wrote two books, and in the dedication of each he only mentions two people - Achard and Hope. He had his own connections (due to his position), and anything he knew, Hope could know.
  2. We also know that HPH was a wealthy gem connoisseur. He had the finest privately held gem collection in Europe. He had the money to purchase anything he wanted. By virtue of his personal and professional connections, he was powerful enough to enjoy a certain element of protection from the equivalent of the French Secret Service going throughout Europe quietly eliminating those they thought were involved with the theft and illegal distribution of the French Crown Jewels.
    1. Hope & Co originally had their offices in Amsterdam, and then moved to London when the French army was marching on the city. Both cities were major diamond cutting centers of the time. It would be very easy for a stolen diamond to be recut at either location.
    2. HPH was very secretive concerning his blue diamond. Where did it come from, how much did he pay, who did he buy it from? He kept meticulous records for his other stones, but for some reason omitted these details concerning the Hope diamond. If you were a powerful banker and acquired a stone of a rather dubious history, wouldn't you do the same?

 

So what about the competing theories concerning Lord Brunswick or George IV? 

Lord Brunswick - When he was marching on Paris, he outnumbered the French 3:1 in soldiers with an excellent logistics train that kept his army well supplied.  The road was clear all the way, yet for some reason, he turned his army around and went home.  Some think he was bribed with the French Blue.  But is this the only reason for turning around? No, it is not.  The king at this time had decided to visit the battlefield and had his own opinion on how the war should be fought that were contrary to what his General thought.  Lord Brunswick knew that a split command was the path to failure, so rather than risk this, he decided to leave the field.  He was already well-established back home, he had nothing to lose.  He had his own gem collection, but there is no record of him ever owning a blue diamond.

George IV - The only indication that George owned the Hope is a painting done in 1822 of him wearing a large blue stone.  Some think this was the Hope diamond, and since he was wearing it, he owned it.

Again, when in doubt, look at the facts.  Let's assume it IS the Hope diamond.  Does that mean he had to own it?  No, and the history books never show this.  The Hope is not mentioned in any inventory of the British Crown Jewels, so it was never a part of the official regalia.  George IV could have personally owned it, except that he was quite profligate in his ways and was essentially broke.  Plus, there is also no record of him owning it, although good inventories of the Crown Jewels and personal jewels had to be maintained so others understood who owned each piece.  So how could the Hope (if that is what it really is) get into the painting?  Remember, HPH was well connected professionally and personally with the crowns of Europe, so perhaps George asked to borrow it for the purposes of the painting.  Not implausible, several diamonds were loaned for such a purpose in the past by other notable personages.   

Looking at the facts from a new angle provided by the clue in the museum donatiion note, it is a reasonable conclusion that HPH actually owned the French Blue. 

  1. He had method, motive, and opportunity). 
  2. He could have acquired it some time after 1792, hearing about it either through one of the European royals, Achard, Eliason, or Hauy.
  3. It was probably cut prior to 1804 due to Napoleons decree at this time establishing a 20 year statute of limitations for crimes committed during the French Revolution.  The French Blue would probably have not be recut after this as all any owner would have to do is wait until 1812 and the diamond was theirs). 
  4. The note in 1812 does not prove that either Francillon OR Eliason owned the diamond.  Rather, it could have been a sales prospectus with Eliason as the front man to sell the Hope. 
  5. Hope & Co had a reversal of fortune, and in 1813 was sold to Barings.  HPH could have been trying to sell the Hope diamond in late 1812 to raise cash to stave off these proceedings.  Perhaps he could not find a buyer, perhaps he changed his mind that owning such a magnificent diamond took precedence over saving the business.  He still had a significant fortune, but only HE had such a stone!  Once he couldn't find a buyer, he kept it until his death.   But would he keep such a magnificent gem and not tell anyone?  Perhaps not, but do you know who currently owns the Centenary diamond or the Idol's Eye?  They too have disappeared, along with many other famous diamonds, so it is easy to believe HPH did the same with his special stone. 

Feel free to disagree, my conclusions are only opinions, but the facts are the facts.  Do your own research and make your own conclusions.  Regardless, the above information makes a fascinating story that has been unknown and untold until now. 

July 2010
Well, a 6 ½ year journey with the three blue diamonds (Tavernier Blue, French Blue, and Hope) looks like it is finally done.  But what a finish!  Years of research and the writing of several peer-reviewed articles has resulted in duplicating the legendary Toison d’Or de la Parure de Couleur, or “Golden Fleece of the Colored Adornment” of King Louis XV of France.

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Front and back of the Golden Fleece as drawn by Lucien Hirtz (Bapst, 1889)

The last year and a half has been involved with the production of a documentary on the French Blue (due out early 2011 I think).  As a part of the show, the sponsor wanted a reproduction of the Golden Fleece to show what a magnificent piece of jewelry it truly was.  Dr. Francois Farges (professor of mineralogy and curator of minerals and gems at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) in Paris, and consulting professor at the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University) drove a major part of this effort due to his in-depth research and personal interest in the Diamant Bleu de la Couronne (Blue Diamond of the Crown, or French Blue diamond).  Herbert Horovitz (Geneva) was contacted and gracious enough to take on the monumental task of funding and coordinating the actual production of the masterpiece known as the Golden Fleece. 

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Francois
Herbert

For those not aware of the particulars, the Golden Fleece was created for Louis XV and was the finest piece of jewelry in Europe during the 18th century.  The metalwork was gold, possibly gold plated, a common practice then and now to reduce the cost of production.  The stones consisted of the 32 carat Bazu diamond, 108 ct Cote de Bretagne spinel carved in the shape of a dragon, the French Blue diamond, three yellow sapphires, five diamonds of around 10 carats each, and over 400 diamonds of about 3-5 points each.  Imagine reconstructing this from a single line drawing and making it all come together and you can imagine the issues facing Herbert.


I was contacted to cut the Bazu and French Blue out of CZ, and modeled the other larger diamonds and sapphires with cuts that emulated those in use at the time.  These were subsequently cut in India from synthetic materials.  The spinel was recreated from red glass by Etienne Lepelier, one of the finest glass artisans in France.  The difficulty of this task was immense, as of many waxes sent to Etienne only one resultant glass would have the level of quality to be used.  The hundreds of smaller diamonds were acquired in India.  The metalwork and stone setting was done by Jean Minassian (Geneva).  (I'm sure there were others involved, but these are the ones I am aware.)The process of bringing all of this together took about 1 ½ years.  This does not include any research time, which for me seriously started in Dec 2003 for the Discovery Channel documentary.

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Jean

This monumental effort culminated in a ceremony 30 June 2010 at the Garde Meuble in central Paris where the Golden Fleece was unveiled to an invitation-only crowd of about 100 people.  What made it historically poetic is that the original ornament was stolen from this very building in September 1792.  Although building use then could best be described as a warehouse, it is now known more commonly as the Hotel de la Marine, used by the French Royal Navy for administrative purposes.  (Due to this, all guests had to go through a security screening several days in advance, with all sorts of personal information that had to be provided.)  The exterior is classical French with rows of large columns along the front and very imposing.  The interior is reminiscent of the decorations at Versailles – high roofed rooms with very ornate gilded trim, elegant halls, and large staircases.

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Exterior of Garde Meuble

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Hallway Reception room

Thierry Piantanida (Paris, the documentary producer), Stephane Begoin (Paris, the documentary director), Francois, the film crew, and I had met earlier that morning for some last minute filming and lunch.  Once that was done, we headed over to the venue.  Although I had no part in the afternoon activities, only those in the evening, I wanted to scope out the area so there were no surprises later.  We had to go through security, and I got a badge that later turned out to be somewhat special (it was actually labeled as Special Guest).  We were escorted upstairs and the film crew got started discussing shooting angles, lighting, and the rest of the technical details.  As I just wanted to check things out, and had no real activities to do, my stay was somewhat short.  It was now back to my room for a quick shower, change into my suit, and arrive a little early for the ceremony staring at 1700.

Thierry, his family, and I arrived a little early at Security.  I flashed my badge and was waved right in, poor Thierry had to submit more paperwork for his entry.  Amongst good friends, this results in the usual jesting of who is more special than whom, and this was pointed out several times (by me of course) over the next few days when any occasion arose.

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Thierry, John (one of the cameramen), and Herbert

The ceremony was opened by Stephane and he introduced Francois.  I would love to comment on Francois’ 20 minute speech, but unfortunately my French is 40 years old and a little rusty, so I could not understand it.  Herbert followed with a speech of similar length.  While they were talking, the Golden Fleece was hidden in its glass display case with a red cloth covering it, and everyone was getting anxious to view it.  Finally, Herbert pulled back the cover and invited everyone up.

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Stephane introducing Francois, with the covered display Herbert giving his presentation

My, what a piece!  It was one of those times when you realize the physical description described by Hirtz does not do justice to the reality!  The central theme is the dragon, spitting red flames around the French Blue.  The flames are diamonds painted red on the back just as in the original.  The hanging fleece has diamonds painted yellow.  As Francois is publishing more information about the symbolism of the rest of the stones, I won’t go into it here, but you can read more about it in Farges et al (2009).

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Golden Fleece front Golden Fleece back
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Ram front Ram bac

All photos by Scott Sucher, published with permission of Herbert Horovitz.

The piece is approximately 6” tall and weighs about six ounces (186 grams).  These are only approximations as there were no measurement tools available.  This should give you some idea as to its size.  Note that the back is patterned after the illustration by Hirtz.

Everyone initially crowded around the glass case, admiring the Fleece from a distance.  While they were busy, I walked over to Herbert and thanked him for bringing a 6 ½ year effort on my part to a very successful conclusion.  I didn’t realize how emotionally attached I had become to this project until I noticed that there were a few tears running down my cheeks.   I was vaguely aware of the film crew, so this may have been captured on camera.  Oh well, ones faults exposed for all to see.

After a while, Herbert removed the Fleece from the case and placed it around Francois’ neck.  Francois looked like a proud father, admiring a newly born son.  Then, it was my turn.

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(Left to right) Herbert, myself, Francois, and Tarun Adhalka (a gem dealer and expert concerning the Moguls)

After the excitement had gone down a bit, it was time to mingle.  I had asked Herbert who had done the metalwork, and he pointed me in the direction of Jean.  I introduced myself and we talked about the creation of the Fleece, some difficulties in setting the stones, and other topics.  Jean exuded that Old World charm, a very classy individual.  It was a pleasure meeting him, and I hope that in the future we will work together on another project.

The evening was an appropriate ending to many years of work.  At no time could this type of special conclusion have been planned, as a whole series of unforeseen activities had to occur to make it possible.  An unexpected call in 2003 from Jeff Kaufmann, the Discovery Channel producer, started the in-depth study of the three blue diamonds.  Jeff Post of the Smithsonian was of great assistance from the start, and allowed me to handle the Hope for filming during the documentary.  Then Francois contacted me in 2007 concerning his passion surrounding the French Blue, with his phenomenal research skills adding immeasurably to the historical record. He was also instrumental in contacting Stephane in 2008 for a documentary, and Herbert to act as a project manager in funding and creating the Fleece. Finally, Jean used his skills for an extremely complex piece of metalwork.  This was truly a huge effort with international involvement, and I thank everyone for allowing me to participate in making this project possible.