Program Speaker
Scott Sucher: The Hope Diamond is from the French Blue.
by  Nancy Attaway

Scott Sucher, Steve Attaway, and Nancy Attaway discussed some aspects of their ground-breaking work accomplished in 2004 for the Smithsonian Institution surrounding the Hope diamond. Scott provided a spirited narration, while Steve operated the computer and showed several accompanying
images on the projector screen. Nancy related several stories connected to this series of events that unfolded.

A telephone call from Los Angeles in January provided the starting point for a very remarkable project that would encompass the Hope diamond. Nancy Attaway received this call from a representative of the Discovery Channel who was looking to contact Scott Sucher, a facetor of diamond replicas. Scott had faceted sixteen replicas in cubic zirconia of the world’s famous diamonds about twenty-five years ago. Lapidary Journal published several of Scott’s faceting diagrams, and he became known as a noted facetor of famous diamond replicas. Once Nancy provided Scott’s phone number to the Discovery Channel’s television director, Scott received a most interesting telephone call that led to an exciting research project with the Smithsonian Institution.

The Discovery Channel had initially approached the Smithsonian for an idea for their program. The director was referred to Dr. Jeffrey Post, Curator of the Smithsonian’s gem and mineral collection. After hearing the format of the program, Jeff pitched the idea of making a virtual modeling of the cutting
history of the Hope diamond that would answer the questions about the diamond’s relationship to the French Blue diamond and other pertinent inquiries. The director loved the idea and began his search for Scott Sucher.

The television director for the Discovery Channel planned to shoot a program on the Hope diamond, and he wanted Scott’s research to positively connect the Hope diamond to the French Blue diamond, the diamond that had been cut from the Tavernier Blue diamond. Scott stated that this task would require several very specialized computer programs, with which he was unfamiliar. He suggested Steve Attaway build a geometric model using a variety of computer programs. Scott, Steve and Nancy Attaway formed a research team for this fascinating and challenging project. Smithsonian Curator, Dr. Jeffrey Post graciously offered his assistance.

The television director intended to record some of the segments of his program in the home of Steve and Nancy Attaway over the summer and fall. He wanted to show Scott and Steve discussing the project and gathering information from old texts to study the historical drawings of the Hope diamond, the French Blue diamond, and the Tavernier diamond. The director planned to film Steve showing Scott the computer images (generated from the software programs used) to establish as accurately as possible the models of these historic diamonds. He wanted to film Scott cutting the Tavernier diamond replica and Nancy cutting the French Blue diamond replica, and he wanted to obtain interviews with Scott, Steve, and Jeff. The director also hoped to include film footage inside the vault of the Smithsonian that would depict Scott taking pictures of the unset Hope diamond, temporarily removed from its Cartier platinum and diamond necklace setting.

Scott Sucher related his unique experience photographing the Hope diamond taken out of its jewelry setting last spring. In the Blue Room of the Smithsonian, which encompasses the vault, Scott met Stephen Clarke, a jeweler who has worked many times with the Smithsonian. Stephen was born in England and classically trained in the jewelry arts in Germany. He was the one called upon to remove the Hope diamond from its setting, re-setting the gem later. According to Jeff Post, the Hope diamond has only been removed from its setting for study six times since the Smithsonian acquired the diamond. Scott’s experience marked the seventh time. Scott’s excitement was palpable as he described the experience of actually holding the Hope diamond in his hands. He remarked that an audience of notable members in the gem and jewelry industry had been invited to witness the event. The photography involved shooting a great number of frames of the Hope diamond, placed on a special grid pattern for measurement. The photo information was later inserted into Steve’s computer. Steve used the software PhotoModeler to reconstruct the facet intersections of the Hope diamond. The PhotoModeler software solves for the location of points in three-dimensional space using common points marked in the different photos. The software first solves for the location of the camera locations and then determines the “best” fit in threedimensional space for the points marked on the photos. In all, over 30 photos were used, with over 300 points used to mark the intersections of the facets.

For several months in the spring and summer, Scott, Steve, and Nancy spent many hours around the computer to replicate as accurately as possible models of the Tavernier diamond and the French Blue diamond. The team searched extensively for pictures and written descriptions of these historic diamonds. A great deal was learned from books, such as Tavernier’s Travels in India. These books and other publications provided the carat weights and measurements of the two diamonds. A limited number of sketches were available that showed the diamonds from top, bottom, and side views. Using this information, the team used GemCad and SolidWorks to reconstruct what they believed to be fairly accurate models of the stones. The models satisfy all the known constraints of weight, length and width dimensions, and facet projections for the top and bottom views of the stone.

Replicas of the Tavernier diamond and French Blue diamond were to be faceted from a dark blue cubic zirconia provided by the Discovery Channel.
The replicas were subsequently given to the Smithsonian. These replicas will be displayed near the Hope diamond and will add more information to the historic references of the Hope diamond.

 Steve orchestrated the computer programs of SolidWorks, Photomodeler, and Robert Strickland’s GemCad to create accurate faceting diagrams of the Tavernier Blue diamond and the French Blue diamond. The model and faceting diagram for the French Blue diamond proved more difficult to render, due to the limited availability of actual text and drawings depicting this diamond. Historical accounts document the fact that the French Blue diamond was cut from the Tavernier Blue diamond. The drawings of the French Blue diamond depicted the diamond in a jewelry model that was to be set into the Order of the Golden Fleece for the King of France. One drawing showed how the diamond cutter had fashioned a most elegant outline that displayed a remarkable arrangement of seven equal facets around the culet facet in the pavilion that revealed a sevenrayed star when viewed through the table facet.

A colorful history envelops the Hope diamond, a gem shrouded in mystery and myth as well as in documented facts. History informs us that Jean-Baptiste Tavernier was the gem merchant who, in 1668, sold King Louis XIV of France a parcel of diamonds that included a large blue diamond of 112 3/16 carats. Tavernier had purchased the diamond during his travels to India. The beautiful violet blue diamond was tabular in shape. Facets had been cut merely to remove the rough edges of the diamond’s crystal structure. In those days, East Indian nobility valued large diamonds for their heft and sheer size, and such diamonds were fashioned to enhance their large appearance. Diamonds were not cut for brilliance and sparkle back then; that concept emerged later.

History further records that, in 1673, King Louis XIV of France ordered his court jeweler, Sieur Pitau, to re-cut the tabular blue diamond into an exquisite heart-shape that, after re-cutting, weighed 67 1/8 carats. (The heart shape of the French Blue diamond is what we would now call a shield shape.) The French Blue diamond was to be set at the bottom of the plaque for the tricolor “Order of the Golden Fleece” by Andres Jacquemin, another court jeweler. It was to be worn only by the French King. “The Order of the Golden Fleece” was an ornate item of jewelry worn only by European royalty. Historical references then tell us that sometime during September 11 through 17, 1792, the royal French Blue diamond was stolen. The diamond had been placed on the second floor of the Garde Meuble, a government warehouse/museum in Paris, and was snatched sometime during the week-long looting of the French crown jewels. Rumors circulated that the diamond had been smuggled to England and re-cut.

The mystery continued to unfold. History related that, in 1804, the French Assembly under Napoleon adopted an amnesty law that forgave all crimes
committed in time of war after the passage of twenty years, a type of “statute of limitations”. Interestingly enough, a memorandum dated September 19, 1812 documented a 45.5-carat oval blue diamond in London. The document was drafted, written, and illustrated by John Francillion, who was a partner in
the firm of Cripps and Francillion, Jewelers, in London. He was suspected to have been the man who re-cut or was involved in the re-cutting of the French Blue diamond to yield the Hope diamond. The belief has been that the French Blue diamond was re-cut into the Hope diamond to conceal the

A colorful history envelops the Hope diamond, a gem shrouded in mystery and myth as well as in documented facts. History informs us that Jean- Baptiste Tavernier was the gem merchant who, in 1668, sold King Louis XIV of France a parcel of diamonds that included a large blue diamond of 112 3/16 carats. Tavernier had purchased the diamond during his travels to India. The beautiful violet blue Close-up of the above photograph to show more detail of the Hope diamond and stage setup.

In uncovering many details previously hidden about the Hope diamond, the team’s research revealed the truth about several theories, proving some and disproving others. However, the team is unable to disclose any further facts, as the television program has not yet been aired.  Scott and Nancy plan to reveal their faceting diagrams of the Tavernier diamond and the French Blue diamond sometime this year. For those faceters who cut replicas of world-famous diamonds, these faceting designs will be of particular interest. In addition, Ernie Hawes designed for the Smithsonian a “virtual” re-cutting diagram of the Hope diamond on his computer. Ernie’s diagram changes the flat culet facet into an arrangement of facets that meet at a culet point. He accomplished this “virtual” re-cutting of the Hope diamond with minimal loss of carat weight.

The excitement continued. Jeff Post cordially invited Steve and Nancy Attaway to re-photograph the Hope diamond removed from its setting. While the original photos were adequate for the project, some of the very fine details along the girdle were indistinct. Steve and Nancy shot an array of photographs of the Hope diamond inside the Smithsonian’s vault to further ascertain the details of the complex girdle facet arrangement. Curator Jeff Post coordinated the event, with Smithsonian Collection Manager/Gemologist, Russell Feather assisting. We really enjoyed meeting Russell Feather, a noted author of numerous articles on gemology and inclusions in gemstones. Russell’s informative reports have appeared in such publications as GIA’s Gems & Gemology and Lapidary Journal. On the evening of December 14, jeweler Stephen Clarke removed the Hope diamond from its Cartier jewelry setting, marking the eighth time that this has been done. Smithsonian photographer, Carl Hansen photographed Steve and Nancy shooting pictures of the Hope diamond, with Jeff Post peering over Steve’s shoulder. Carl’s Hasselblad 50 mega-pixel camera allowed us to create much more accurate photos than Steve’s three mega-pixel Nikon 990.

Both Steve and Nancy shared the honor of holding the Hope diamond, an experience neither will ever forget. The audience that gathered to witness the event will not forget it, either. The image of the Hope diamond glowing like a burning ember of coal as it phosphoresced red in the dark, having
been hit with a short-wave ultraviolet light, astonished us all. What a night!

The program was to have aired on national television December 18, 2004, then it was moved to January 6, 2005. The last date that we heard was February 10, 2005.

Scott, Steve, and Nancy wish to express their gratitude to the Smithsonian Institution and to Dr. Jeffrey Post, in particular. Curator Jeff Post was instrumental in coordinating the photography shoots inside the Smithsonian with the Hope diamond. His efforts to secure the permission required to work inside the Smithsonian allowed our study of the Hope diamond to begin, evolve, and eventually reveal new data. We thank him for the graciousness that he extended to us and for the expertise that he gave to the project.

Additional historical information about the Hope diamond and reading suggestions can be found on this website by the Smithsonian: