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Famous diamonds : The Last Diamond… The Florentine

the florentine diamondfilm le dernier diamant, le florentinThe Florentine, a legendary diamond is celebrated this week with the release of the movie “Le Dernier Diamant” produced by Eric Barbier. It is about a man who is on probation and up to a big hold-up: stealing the “Florentine”. An auction, some intrigues and unexpected developments are the ingredients of a plot that recalls the eventful history of the “Florentine”.

Named alternatively the “Florentine”, the “Tuscan”, “the Grand Duke of Tuscany”, this pale yellow diamond of 137,27 carats double rose cut with 126 facets on 9 sides is said to have been owned by Charles the Bold – Duke of Burgundy. According to the legend the Duke gave three diamonds for cutting to Lodewyk van Berken, a famous cutter, among them the “Florentine”. He would wear it on the battlefields and probably was wearing it the day he was killed at the Battle of Nancy in 1477. A man allegedly found it and sold it to a priest for one florin.

The florentine, the last diamondThe authentic history of the “Florentine” begins with its ownership by the Medicis in Florence in 1665, this diamond is mentioned in Jean Baptiste Tavernier’s book Les Six Voyages de Jean Baptiste Tavernier: “ The Great Duke of Tuscany’s Diamond weighs 139 carats, clean and well-shaped cut in facets every way; but in regard the water inclines somewhat toward the colour of Citron”.

According to Tavernier, the “Florentine” was the biggest diamond known in Europe at that time and looked very much like Indian-cut diamonds… It seems unlikely that this diamond was the one owned by the Duke of Burgundy.

The “Florentine” leaves Florence in 1743 for Austria where it is mounted on Francois 1er – emperor of Austria –‘s crown. It remains in the hands of the Habsburg until the end of World War I and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As a result, the royal family moves to Switzerland and leaves as security the “Florentine” mounted on a brooch to the jeweller Alphons Sonderheimer through Baron Steiner de Valmont. Since 1922 the precious yellow diamond remains nowhere to be found, the rumour has it that it has been recut.

Two diamonds have been subject to speculations: the first is called “Shah of Persia” and probably belongs to the Delhi treasure, this cushion cut diamond weighs 99,52 carats was first presented in the USA in 1923; the second one of 81,56 carats is known as The “Duke of Tuscany” and was put up for auction by Christie’s in Geneva in 1981.

The “Florentine” with its multiple names and facets continues to be a subject of controversy and to inspire. In his movie « The Last Diamond » Eric Barbier adds a love story and a hold-up to the legend.