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The Sciences

The Hope in History

By Anne CasselmanJune 5, 2005 5:00 AM


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A team of gem experts assembled at the Smithsonian Institution may have solved the mystery of where the 45.52-carat Hope diamond came from. If they are right, it was cut from the 69-carat French Blue, a diamond stolen during the French Revolution. The French Blue, in turn, was cut from the 115-carat Tavernier, named after the man who sold the Indian diamond to Louis XIV.

The Smithsonian research team made three-dimensional models of the gems, based on photographs of the Hope and historical drawings of the French Blue and the Tavernier. Using forensic geometry, which gem cutter Stephen Attaway calls “using geometric clues to solve a crime,” they found the three diamonds fit together perfectly.

Historians have long suspected the Hope and the French Blue were once one and the same, but evidence linking them was scant. The French Blue disappeared in 1792. But 20 years later, a suspiciously similar 45.52-carat blue diamond was put on the market. By 1839 it was in the collection of London banker Henry Phillip Hope. As gem cutter Scott Sucher puts it, “Lo and behold, seemingly out of thin air, the Hope diamond appeared.”

Still, the evidence is circumstantial. “We can’t conclusively prove [that the Hope was cut from the French Blue]; we can just show it’s more than likely,” Sucher says. “There’s still that little element of doubt even in my mind.”

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