Lost but Found: The French Blue Diamond

By  //  May 6, 2021

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Diamonds are usually priced for their clarity grade and their sparkle as colorless gems but the French Blue Diamond was one of the first diamonds to defile this rule.

The gem did have a brilliant sparkle to it and like many other diamonds was as clear as day, but it was way different from conventional diamonds in that it had a very deep blue hue. Since such a deviation was quite strange then, it’s intriguing how the gem experts of that time were still able to determine that the Blue Stone was a diamond.

Discovered in India, the massive 115 carat diamond stone was transported to France when it was bought by a traveler and merchant, Jean Baptiste Tavernier. In France, the strange diamond got into the hands of Francis Louis XIV in 1668. Louis had it customized to a shape that depicted the Sun King and the gem was mounted on his crown. By then, the Blue Diamond had been drastically reduced to 69 carats of diamond due to the cutting and reshaping.

The unexpected happened when 40 years later, the stone was declared stolen from the Royal Storehouse. This happened at a time when France was under attack from neighboring countries, there was therefore little or no monitoring for the storehouse, and many of the Crown Jewels were carted away alongside the blue diamond.

Later on, most of the French Crown Jewels were recovered but the Blue Diamond was never among them. Some historians strongly believed that the gem was stolen from the royal house so that it would be given to another Duke as blackmail to turn his back and accept defeat during the prevalent wars at that time.

Through the Duke, the gem landed in London and went under a long hiatus until 1812 when it was rediscovered with one dealer, Daniel Eliason. By then, the stone was now valued to be a 45.52 carat gem. The next time anything was going to be heard of the French Diamond was 1839 when Henry Philip Hope acquired it.

From that point on, the blue diamond was regarded as the Hope Diamond and was in no way reconciled to the blue diamond stolen from France hundreds of years before. The Hope family had the gem sold in 1901 to Evalyn Walsh McLean, an American heiress who died in 1947. After her death, her jewels were bought by Harry Winston, a jeweler who then had the diamond donated to the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History in 1958.

For donating the gem to a museum, Winston deserves more than enough accolades as no one who have been able to trace the history of the stone and confirm the rumors that had been going around concerning the gem. In 2005 and 213 years after the theft, it was finally proved that the French blue diamond was not forever lost and that it was now the Hope Diamond that was quite popular in English society.

The test ran by jewelry experts concluded that the hope diamond was the same original blue diamond that was brought to France from India although it had then undergone two recuts and was far lesser in value than the original version.

Today, the French blue diamond is still commonly referred to as the Hope Diamond and is still kept at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of National History.

Tourists and curious people from all over the world come around to see the amazing gem with a fascinating history and a unique color. The Hope Diamond appears blue to the naked eyes due to the traces of boron found in its crystal structure

. The blue diamond is also known to reflect a strong red color when exposed to ultraviolet light with a short wavelength. This is deeply tied to the phosphorescent ability of colored diamonds and is another thing that has always captivated the mind of those who have owned the diamond at one time or the other.

At the moment, the French Blue Diamond tops the list of the world’s famous diamonds and is probably one of the gems that the exact value in US dollars will never be accurately quantified.

Since the diamond’s coming to be at the Museum, it has only been shifted four times for exhibition purposes to France, South Africa, and New York. The fourth time the Blue Diamond was moved was so vital cleaning and restorative work could be carried out on it.

Much more than just being a gem with a peculiar history, jewelry experts have also announced that the lost but found colored diamond could be a highly important scientific tool for looking into the characteristics of colored diamonds.

Other authorities have highlighted that the fact that the gem was mined in India years ago might be a way of communicating that there still exists tonnes of other similarly colored diamonds yet to be untapped in India and other parts of the world.      

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