Charles Lewis Tiffany came across many brilliant baubles in his time, but it was the acquisition of one specific jewel that solidified his moniker as the “King of Diamonds”. In 1878, Tiffany paid $18,000 for one of the largest yellow diamonds ever discovered — a whopping 287.42-carat stone that was acquired in South Africa the previous year. The lemon-coloured jewel was taken to Paris, where the brand’s chief gemologist George Frederick Kunz cut it with 82-facets — 24 more facets than was normal — which gave the diamond so much radiance it looked as if it was lit by an inner flame, according to Tiffany. So sparkly was it, in fact, that when it was exhibited in the windows of Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue store in 1955, passers-by could see it scintillating from the opposite side of the street.
The diamond’s notoriety has been matched by the women who have worn it. It graced the neck of Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s, where it was framed by a necklace of diamond ribbons that gave it an armour-like effect. But in 2012, for the brand’s 175th anniversary, the yellow stone was reset in a white diamond necklace. Most recently it was worn by Lady Gaga for the Academy Awards in February, paired with a strapless black figure-hugging gown, over-the-elbow gloves and a chignon updo that recalled Hepburn’s look.
“We’re always searching in every corner of the world for those particular diamonds that have a seductive personality, that dazzle and make you fall in love,” says Melvyn Kirtley, chief gemologist at Tiffany. He says the red carpet brings each gemstone “to life”.
The only other woman to ever wear it was Mary Whitehouse — wife of an American diplomat — who won a competition to don one of the brand’s priceless jewels to a Tiffany ball in Rhode Island in 1957. It was reported that the diamond’s security guards tried to follow Whitehouse into the bathroom cubicle, lest she stealthily break free and steal it. For good reason: in 1972, it was advertised for sale in the New York Times for a cool $5m. The offer, valid only for 24 hours, drew no bidders — for reasons of thrift or disbelief, according to Tiffany.
Rarely is high jewellery truly versatile. Except if it’s from Cartier. The French house first created its fern spray brooches in 1903. The two identical leaf-shaped strands of diamonds set in flexible platinum were designed to be worn three ways: as a corsage, a necklace or a tiara. Bought by the British merchant banker Sir Ernest Cassel as a gift for his sister Wilhelmina, the piece was delivered in a chic little box with a spanner-head screwdriver, leaving the wearer free to style as she saw fit.
The brooches were a symbol of their time: evening attire at court during Edward VII’s reign came with lashings of fine jewellery to demonstrate one’s wealth. Theatrical jewels briefly became the norm — especially from Cartier, which had seen an influx of British clients since the wedding of King Edward and Queen Alexandra in 1902. So enamoured was the King with Cartier, in fact, he paid the shop a visit in 1904 while in Paris to sign the Entente Cordiale; that same year, Cartier was given a Royal Warrant. (Cassel was a friend and financial advisor to the King.)
At the 2011 Met Gala, Madonna paired the fern brooches with a teal silk Stella McCartney gown embroidered down the back with a cascade of stars. The diamonds, worn as a necklace, seemed to perfectly mimic the sparkles on the dress. This February, Rachel Weisz wore the ferns as a headband to the Oscars, where she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Favourite — a film set amid the trappings of the British court. A fitting red carpet tribute.
Valerie Messika credits her red carpet successes primarily to Beyoncé. Prior to 2015, the Parisian jeweller, who founded her maison in 2005, had lent pieces to French actresses and singers. However, when Queen B Instagrammed a picture of the brand’s Glam’Azone double-strand ring in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, Messika’s phone went red hot. “After that, Rihanna asked for Messika jewellery and we have since dressed many celebrities, including Zendaya, Lady Gaga and Julia Roberts,” she says.
Beyoncé wore Messika’s Miss Hepburn necklace — a 40-carat strand of diamonds that drapes around the neck and down to the stomach — during her Grammys performance. “The 264 pear-shaped marquise, oval and brilliant-cut diamonds in the necklace are articulated one-by-one to achieve unique flexibility,” says Messika. “We had huge demand for that necklace after that. It’s an ideal companion for a tuxedo jacket or an evening dress.” Indeed it is; British actress Naomie Harris took the Miss Hepburn out for a night on the tiles at the Met Gala in 2016, where it was worn to contrast with a gilt-heavy embroidered Burberry gown. “It perfectly suited the plunging neckline of the dress,” says Messika. “It’s always an emotional moment when I see my jewellery on such prestigious and talented personalities.”
Messika becomes sentimental when discussing her clients, especially Beyoncé. Most recently, the singer requested an entire jewellery collection be delivered to her hotel at 6pm, to be collected the next morning. “We didn’t know what they were being used for,” says Messika. “It was two weeks later when we realised she had worn them in the music video for ‘Apeshit’, with Jay Z . . . I feel so grateful that Beyoncé has such a crush on Messika.” The feeling, it seems, is mutual.
Sometimes, celebrities don’t want a diamond to outshine their own star on the red carpet so opting for a more demure but no less dazzling jewel is essential.
It’s for this reason that De Grisogono’s Gocce earrings are so popular, says the brand’s chief executive Céline Assimon. “They’re elegant and simple yet stylish,” she says of the teardrop earrings crafted from 18-karat gold and faceted with 617 sparkling white diamonds that brilliantly reflect the light. “They’re an easy-to-wear red carpet creation as they’re light and versatile,” she says.
The earrings are becoming bit of a red carpet regular. Rihanna was the first celebrity to wear them, in 2010, when she collected her gong for International Female Artist at the NRJ Music Awards. Teamed with a quiff and a white laser-cut dress that was slashed from the hip, her look was daring. According to Assimon, “It just shows that you can style them with a classic and elegant Hollywood glow, or a more contemporary look.” In 2015, Natalie Portman wore them with a red gown at the Cannes Film Festival, while in 2016, Bella Hadid paired the earrings with a slinky silk number of same hue.
Since its inception in 1993, De Grisogono has enjoyed glittering red carpet associations. The maison’s founder Fawaz Gruosi (who left the brand in January) was often chaperoned by celebrities at events, and threw lavish parties in Cannes where guests, including Karlie Kloss and Cara Delevingne, dripped in De Grisogono. Its focus on the fun, meanwhile, attracts younger wearers — the £97,000 Gocce earrings have also been seen on actress Selena Gomez and model Cindy Bruna. “They’re so timeless and ageless, they’re a bestseller with our loyal clients, too,” says Assimon.
Diamonds really are forever according to Forevermark. “They are the world’s hidden treasures and they are a piece of our planet’s history,” says Costantino Papadimitriou, chief marketing officer for the house which has been responsibly sourcing diamonds for 130 years; it has taken to aligning itself with like-minded celebrities — Lupita Nyong’o and Jessica Biel among them — who are themselves vehicles for social change. “The youngest natural diamonds date back nearly a billion years, and the oldest over 3 billion. They are a symbol of power and strength.”
For this year’s Golden Globes, the brand dressed Sandra Oh in three looks including a pair of 18-karat white gold studs that mimic angel’s wings. “It was such a special moment, Sandra became not only the first Asian woman to host the event, but also the first to win multiple Golden Globes,” says Papadimitriou. Saoirse Ronan wore the same earrings to the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2016.
“Our pieces are beautiful, rare and responsibly sourced, making them a standout choice for creating a statement on the red carpet,” says Papadimitriou. “They’re a force for good.” Much like the beloved Oh.
Get alerts on Style when a new story is published