Legends surrounding the stone date as far back as 1467 when Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, is said to have been wearing it when he fell in battle. A peasant or foot soldier found it on the Duke’s person and sold it for a florin, thinking it was glass.
It then changed hands innumerable times for small sums of money, even passing through the hands of Pope Julius II at one stage.
The Florentine is rumoured to have been acquired in the late 1500s by the Portuguese Governor of Goa Ludovico Castro – after defeating King Vijayanagar – and deposited with Roman Jesuits until purchased by Grand Duke Ferdinand I of Tuscany from the Castro-Noranha family for 35,000 Portuguese scudi crocati following lengthy negotiations.
Duke Ferdiand's son, Grand Duke Cosimo II – who ruled from 1609 to 1621 – finally entrusted his father's purchase to cutter Pompeo Studentoli, a Venetian working in Florence.
The finished gem was delivered on October 10, 1615 and noted in an inventory drawn up on Cosimo's death as “faceted on both sides and encircled by a diamond encrusted band”.
The Florentine’s authentic history continued when the famous French diamond merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier saw the stone among the treasures of the Grand Duke in 1657.
It had been cut some 40 years earlier by Pompeo Studentoli in Florence and sketched by Thomas Cletscher around 1625, who gave the weights of the rough and the finished gem as being 170 carats and 120 carats respectively – neither of which appear to be accurate.
Sketched again by Tavernier, the Florentine was shown as drop-shaped with both the front and reverse similarly-faceted. The centre of the front had trihedral faceting, but the matching area on the reverse simply had nine basic facets.
Both front and reverse were stepped twice, producing nine rows of nine facets in the front, and nine rows of seven facets on the reverse – 144 facets in all. The overall impression is that of a nine-rayed star.
When the last of the Medicis died, it passed to Vienna through the marriage of Francis Stephan of Lorraine to Empress Maria Theresa and was placed in the Hapsburg Crown Jewels in the Hofburg, Vienna. At the time, it was valued at $US750,000.
After the fall of the Austrian Empire in World War I, the Florentine was carried by the Imperial family into exile in Switzerland. Later, it was thought to have been stolen and taken to South America with other gems of the crown jewels.
Florentine Diamond Scan
It re-emerged in 1918 as part of a hat exhibition in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, but its movements after this point are unknown. It was rumoured that the great diamond was brought to the United States in the 1920s where it was recut and sold.
The Florentine had several names. It has been called the Tuscan, the Grand Duke of Tuscany and even the Austrian Yellow Diamond – a name that confuses it with the Austrian Yellow.
This replica uses mathematics to figure out the angles and measurements of the sides of the stone entirely because of the lack of information that exists – really, there is only Tavernier’s drawing of the stone and a few black and white photos that give any real indiction of its shape and structure.
A company called Gem Sleuth set out to find out what happened to the diamond, initially holding the theory that it had been recut.
This was dismissed on the basis that the Florentine’s unusual shape would mean that anything other than a round cut would create a drastic loss of valuable diamond weight.
Gem Sleuth found only four light-yellow diamonds over 70 carats. Quickly three of these diamonds were eliminated due to contradictory references placing them elsewhere during the existence of the Florentine as a 137.27-carat stone.
The remaining diamond – an 80-carat light-yellow – was auctioned in Switzerland in 1981 and conversations with the vendor revealed it had been in her family since shortly after World War I – the Florentine was stolen in 1918. She also remembered it being a very unusual shape prior to her father having the jewel recut.
Both De Beers and Lord Ian Balfour, Britain’s noted diamond historian, have supported Gem Sleuth’s theory on what became of the Florentine diamond. The theory has also appeared in numerous publications.
The present whereabouts of the 80-carat diamond is unknown.
Dimensions: 30.7mm x 26.1mm x 19.81mm
Rough weight: unknown
Origin: Golconda, India
Date found: around 1610
Current location: unknown