Chapter 6

A Stolen Legacy

“When the Sun King gave the diamond to Sieur Pitau, he gave the jeweler the deceptively simple mandate of creating some sort of spectacular jewel. I don’t know if you’re artistic Oliver, but if there is one thing that an artists finds truly intimidating it is the limitless expanse of a bank canvas, so it took Pitau several months to settle on a design that he was satisfied with.”

Jeanne crossed her arms and leaned into the corner of the sofa, relaxing into her story as she continued. “In those months, something terribly important happened: The French government opened up emigration to their territory in Acadia, the lands that we know now as Quebec and northern Maine. Pitau’s daughter had recently married an ambitious young fur merchant and, in the midst of Pitau’s struggle to design a stunning new bauble for Louie XIV, she announced to her father that she would soon depart for the new world. Pitau was nervous about her husband’s ability to provide, and he saw an opportunity to both protect his daughter and change his perspective on the gem, so he cut away a portion of the diamond, mounted it in a single band of silver and pearl, and gave it to his daughter as a parting gift.”

“Hold on,” Oliver said, sitting up and holding up a finger in Jeanne’s direction. “Are you trying to tell me that the court jeweler for King Louis XIV of France stole part of the French Blue and gave it to his daughter?”

Jeanne nodded gravely, then gave a sardonic chuckle and said, “Is it so hard to believe, Oliver? Corruption is nothing new in business and politics.”

“But to simply give away, what was it, twenty carets of purest diamond? That’s an audacious theft.”

“Pitau did not think of it as a theft, Oliver. It was simply a gift. The king routinely gave and received gifts of jewelry that would now be valued at over a hundred thousand dollars. The whole court was obsessed with gambling to the point that entire estates could change hands in an evening over games of pure chance. And don’t forget that Pitau was an artist. To him, the diamond that Tavernier had delivered was simply too much to work with, a canvas that was beyond his ability, so he cut it down, gave part of it away as a gift, and used the remaining piece to create a splendid jewel for his king.”

Oliver nodded, conceding the point. He knew the history excess among the European nobility. That lavish lifestyle in the midst of the disease and poverty of the peasants was, after all, part of the reason for the revolution that had overthrown the French monarchy.

“So how do we get from this missing piece of the French Blue in the seventeenth century to you calling the Hope Diamond a fake and declaring a vendetta on TeciGem?”

“I was getting to that. Pitau’s daughter, her name was Madeline, sailed for Acadia in 1670. She and her husband settled in the capital of Port Royal and he established himself as a moderately successful furrier.”