Cagliostro was born to a poor family in Palermo, Sicily; he called himself count, and traveled in many countries under many different names and characters, pretending sometimes to be a nobleman, sometimes a physician, and sometimes a juggler. With the help of his wife, he cheated many people, and made great money, especially selling an exilir which would make people live forever and keep their beauty. He himself claimed to be very old, sometimes putting his age at two-hundred. He also pretended to make gold out of other metals, and many noble and rich people believed that he could.
His claim to the title of count was fabricated. He claimed to have been initiated into the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta, and to have studied alchemy, the Kabbalah, and magic under their auspices. He did become involved in Freemasonry in London, England and used his Masonic connections and personal charm to roam through aristocratic circles throughout Europe, where he peddled various magical elixirs and charms.
He was in the affair of the diamond necklace which involved Louis XVI of France and Marie Antoinette, and was imprisoned in France for fraud. After being released from prison in France, he travelled to Rome, where he attempted to set up a lodge of "Egyptian Freemasonry." He died in prison after falling foul of the Inquisition.