Program Speaker

   Nancy Attaway presented her report on the Smithsonian Hope Diamond Project that was first televised on the Discovery Channel February 10, 2005. Scott Sucher, Steve Attaway, and Nancy, along with Jeffrey Post, Curator of the Smithsonian's gem and mineral collection, comprised the research team that uncovered the "French connection" part of the Hope Diamond's history. The June 2005 issue of Lapidary Journal featured Nancy's article that described the project and what was discovered.

   Nancy began her story with Jean Baptiste Tavernier, the intrepid gem merchant who obtained, during one of his travels to India, a large tabular blue diamond that was to later become known as the Hope Diamond. The two books written by Tavernier that describe his travels to India are still in print. In 1668, Tavernier sold to King Louis XIV a parcel of fifteen diamonds that included the tabular 112 3/16-carat blue diamond. The French King, in 1673, had his court jeweler Sieur Pitau re-cut the tabular Tavernier blue diamond into an exquisite cushion cut heart (shield shape) with a seven-rayed star visible from the table facet. Called the French Blue, the 67 1/8-carat diamond was set at the bottom of the plaque for the tricolor "Order of the Golden Fleece" by Andres Jacquemin, another court jeweler. The Order of the Golden Fleece was an ornate item of jewelry worn only by European royalty.

  Nancy briefly described the chaotic and horrible time of the French Revolution between September 11 and 17, when the royal French Blue diamond was stolen. The diamond had been placed under guard on the second floor of the Garde Mueble, a government warehouse/museum in Paris and was snatched sometime during the week-long looting of the French Crown Jewels. Among the many golden items and jewels stolen during that time was the 140.5-carat Regent Diamond, but it was later recovered, as was many other items. However, the French Blue Diamond was never seen again. Rumors circulated that the diamond had been smuggled to England and re-cut.

  Nancy said that, in 1804, the French Assembly under Napoleon adopted an amnesty law that forgave all crimes that had been committed in time of war after a passage of twenty years, a statute of limitations. She then said that, remarkably enough, a memorandum dated September 19, 1812 suddenly appeared that documented a 45.5-carat oval blue diamond, drafted and illustrated by John Francillion, a partner in the firm of Crips and Francillion Jewelers of London. Nancy said that the 45.5-carat blue diamond was soon acquired by Henry Philip Hope of London, an extremely wealthy businessman (the Hope family members were bankers in Amsterdam and in London) who had an absolutely fabulous personal collection of colored gemstones and diamonds. After his death, the blue diamond, now known as the Hope Diamond, was purchased by Evalyn Walsh McLean two years after her honeymoon.  Cartier set the Hope Diamond for Evalyn into a pendant totally surrounded by large old-mine cut diamonds of various shapes. Evalyn also owned the "Star of the East", the 94.80-carat pearshape diamond that she purchased from Cartier in Paris for a "wedding present" during her honeymoon.

  Nancy explained that Evalyn's father, Thomas Walsh was an Irish immigrant with a great business instinct and the "good luck of the Irish" that allowed him to increase his riches as he traveled across the United States east to west. In 1896, Thomas Walsh' mine in Ouray, Colorado, known as the Camp Bird mine, struck a rich vein of tellurium gold that made Thomas Walsh fabulously wealthy. He, with his young daughter, then moved to Washington, D.C. and entered high society, where Evalyn later married into the wealthy McLean family, who owned, among many of their assets, both the Washington Post and the Cincinnati Inquirer newspapers.

  Nancy remarked that the Hope Diamond is surrounded, not only by an outer row of smaller white diamonds, but by myth mixed with fact. Many stories have circulated about who has owned the Hope Diamond. Some are documented by fact, while others are pure fantasy and total speculation. Several books written about the Hope Diamond, which remain in print, relate many of these interesting stories and scandalous rumors about who wore and actually owned the Hope Diamond.

  Nancy then related how the Smithsonian actually acquired the Hope Diamond. After the death of Evalyn Walsh McLean, noted diamond merchant Harry Winston of New York purchased all of the jewels and diamonds from Evalyn's estate in 1947. Harry Winston donated the Hope Diamond in its diamond-studded Cartier setting to the Smithsonian in 1958. Nancy described how there was much public speculation as to the travel routes that the Hope Diamond would take. She said that there were several "leaked" routes to the newspapers of who would carry the Hope Diamond and how it would get to the Smithsonian. However, the Hope Diamond had been wrapped in a plain brown paper package and hand-carried by the postman up the steps to the Smithsonian without any fanfare.

   Nancy related the story how the Hope Diamond Project came to be. She said that, at the close of 2003, the Discovery Channel was compiling a television program on diamonds, citing the allure and mystique of diamonds, along with the geology and marketing. When the Discovery Channel met with Jeff Post regarding an episode about diamonds on "Unsolved Mysteries", Jeff pitched his "dream" idea about a show on diamonds. Jeff's idea was to construct and compare virtual models of the Hope Diamond, the French Blue Diamond, and the Tavernier Blue Diamond that could then be used to investigate the relationships of these three historic diamonds. The television director loved Jeff's idea and began his search for information on the Hope Diamond and its precursor stones.

  Nancy said that the director called her in January, 2004 looking for Scott Sucher. The director had located Scott Sucher's name from the New Mexico Faceters Guild newsletter archives that is connected to Steve and Nancy Attaway's website for their business High Country Gems ( The director found the article Nancy had written on Scott Sucher's talk about faceting replicas of famous diamonds. After speaking to Nancy, the director called Scott Sucher about the proposed project, and Scott agreed to participate. When asked about positively connecting the Hope Diamond to the French Blue Diamond, Scott Sucher replied that it would require several computer programs, with which he was unfamiliar, to do it right. He knew, however, a person who used these computer programs, Steve Attaway. So, Steve and Nancy Attaway became part of the research team into the Hope Diamond Project with Scott Sucher and the Smithsonian.

  Nancy said that to prove lineage, the team first needed to reconstruct models of both the Tavernier Blue Diamond and the French Blue Diamond. Scott, Steve, and Nancy analyzed many historic texts in search of drawings, measurements, and descriptions of the Tavernier and the French Blue. Tavernier's "Travels to India" provided the team with drawings and weights of the original Tavernier Blue Diamond, a source that greatly aided in composing a faceting design for the Tavernier. The measurements of the French Blue came mostly from Bernard Morel's book and articles. With the help of SolidWorks and GemCad, the team spent weeks throughout 2004 reconstructing as accurately as possible virtual models of the Tavernier and the French Blue.

  Nancy explained that the plan was to recreate the geometry of the Tavernier and the French Blue to allow comparisons of the diamonds and eventually yield accurate faceting designs. Historical accounts documented the fact that the French Blue was indeed cut from the Tavernier, however, the team wanted to determine also if the Hope Diamond had been cut from the French Blue and if any small sister stones could exist. Nancy related that composing the faceting diagram for the French Blue proved somewhat more difficult to render than the one done for the Tavernier, due to the limited availability of text and drawings of the French Blue. None of the published replica faceting designs for the French Blue that were found met any of the known constraints of weight, length, width, and depth, nor was the facet arrangement correct in any of these diagrams. Drawings of the French Blue from Bapst, obtained from lead molds, provided the best representation of the facet arrangement for the French Blue. As there were no side views available, the team used what Steve Attaway termed "forensic gemology" to best compose a faceting design for the French Blue from solid geometry computer models. After twelve attempts at a composing a faceting diagram for the French Blue, "iteration #13" finally proved doable. Nancy remarked that the cutter of the original French Blue Diamond had fashioned a most elegant outline that displayed a remarkable arrangement of seven equal facets around the pavilion's flat culet facet. She said that the combination of these facets generated a seven-rayed star when viewed through the large table facet.

    Nancy related that, after establishing solid objects in three dimensions of the Tavernier and the French Blue, the team could then determine how the Tavernier Diamond had been oriented to yield the French Blue, or how the French Blue fit inside the Tavernier. The team soon realized how snugly and in only one way the French Blue did fit inside the Tavernier. Nancy said that the two table facets of the tabular Tavernier Diamond had been utilized in the design for the French Blue, and that these facets  limited the depth of the French Blue. Nancy stated that she cut the replica of the French Blue, while Scott Sucher cut the replica of the Tavernier. She said that both stones were cut from dark teal blue cubic zirconia and currently reside in the Smithsonian, to be on display near the actual Hope Diamond. Nancy remarked that the design of the French Blue further evolved as she was cutting it. She related how astonished she was when she held the finished stone in her hand, how truly lovely the design was, and how wonderful the seven-rayed star played through the table facet. Nancy stated that an 84-gear index wheel is required to cut the diagram of the French Blue.

   Nancy said that the next step was to determine how the Hope Diamond could fit inside the French Blue. She remarked that Scott Sucher had cut the most accurate replica of the Hope Diamond known to exist at that time, and it was used as a model. However, Scott's replica was found not to be accurate enough for the project, and a trip to the Smithsonian was planned to measure the actual Hope Diamond.

  Nancy stated that two trips had been taken to the Smithsonian to work with Jeff Post and Russell Feather, measuring and photographing the Hope Diamond. Scott Sucher flew to Washington, D.C. during February, 2004, and Steve and Nancy traveled during December, 2004. In photographing the Hope Diamond, Nancy explained that Steve wanted to use digital photography with PhotoModeler software, a computer software that solves for the location of points in three-dimensional space using common points marked on the different photos. Photomodeler software first solves for the camera location and then determines the best fit in three-dimensional for the points marked on the photos. In all, over 300 points were compiled to mark the intersections of the facets. The model was detailed enough to see each meetpoint and capture the very complex geometry of the Hope Diamond's girdle configuration. Nancy remarked that, since the team worked under a time constraint, the two trips to the Smithsonian had been necessary to obtain all of the photos needed. The Hope Diamond was only available for study after 6:00pm and until 9:00pm., and the diamond had been removed from its diamond-studded Cartier setting only six times since the Smithsonian had acquired it. Nancy said that their turns marked #7 and #8.

  Scott Sucher, Steve and Nancy Attaway enjoyed a very wonderful and unique experience photographing the Hope Diamond in the Smithsonian's Blue Room, so named by the royal blue carpeting on the floor, some walls, and tabletops. Besides curators Jeff Post and Russell Feather, Nancy said that Scott, Steve, and she were the only ones allowed to touch the Hope Diamond in order to arrange the diamond for photographs. The various gem and diamond dignitaries, along with the guards and the official Smithsonian photographers, watched while we photographed the Hope Diamond from all angles. Scott Sucher's experience in the Blue Room differed somewhat from Steve and Nancy's experience, and all three related some very funny stories corresponding to their particular turns in the Blue Room. At the end, Jeff Post awed us all with a display of the Hope Diamond's bright red phosphorescence.

  Nancy said that the new and very accurate computer rendition of the Hope Diamond obtained from digital photography and PhotoModeler software allowed an excellent comparison between the French Blue and the Hope Diamond. Nancy stated that the Hope Diamond fit tightly and only one way inside the French Blue. Steve's digital photos also captured what appeared to be the diamond graining of the Hope Diamond, as well as the evidence of several suspected "artifact" facets, facets left from cutting the Hope Diamond from the French Blue. From the computer models and the faceted replicas, it was easy to visualize how one diamond came from the other, Tavernier first, French Blue next, then the Hope Diamond. SolidWorks software with GemCad enabled viewers to see all three stones nested within each other on the computer screen.

   Nancy mentioned that there were some suspected sister stones reputed to have come from the cutting of both the French Blue and the Hope Diamonds. Nancy stated that there was not near enough diamond residue of any thickness to cut any sister stones when the Hope Diamond was cut from the French Blue. She said that Steve provided a simple solution to see what would have been left from cutting the French Blue and the Hope Diamond by making rubber molds of all three replicas. Steve placed the replica of the French Blue into the mold of the Tavernier, and he also placed the replica of the Hope Diamond into the mold of the French Blue. He then poured hot wax into the mold with the replicas inside, waited until the wax cooled, and opened the two molds. He showed the very thin wax residue left over as representing the diamond residue left over from cutting. No sister stones could have been cut, and the leftover residue of blue diamond had been ground into powder. Nancy stated that the Hope Diamond was cut to hide the crime of the French Blue having been stolen, as no one would have purchased a stolen gem from the French Crown Jewels. Nancy said that it was a crime to have erased the elegance of the French Blue Diamond with such an irregular oval cut having a very shallow crown.

  Nancy closed with saying that Scott Sucher cut for the Smithsonian the most accurate replica of the Hope Diamond known in the world. She stated that the faceting design of the Hope Diamond obtained from digital photography and Photomodeler software is proprietary to the Smithsonian and owned solely by them. The faceting design of the French Blue was published in the June, 2005 issue of Lapidary Journal and authored by Nancy. The faceting design for the original Tavernier Diamond was authored by Scott Sucher. Nancy remarked that Jeff Post and the Smithsonian were wonderful to work with, and that Jeff especially was very gracious with his expertise and knowledge. Scott, Steve, and Nancy all felt honored to have been on the research team for the Hope Diamond Project with the Smithsonian.