Was it the most expensive jewel ever worn to the Academy Awards? At a reported $30 million, it's likely that Lady Gaga’s Tiffany diamond necklace earns that title. (The previous record had been held by Gloria Stuart's $20 million Harry Winston blue diamond inspired by Titanic’s Heart of the Ocean.)
But that is actually not why this particular diamond necklace sent jewelry experts into a frenzy on Sunday night. It's because the 128 carat fancy yellow Tiffany diamond has rarely been seen outside its vitrine on the main floor of the Tiffany store on Fifth Avenue.
The Tiffany Diamond
It began as a 287 carat hunk of rough stone discovered in the Kimberly mines of South Africa in 1877. It was acquired by Charles Lewis Tiffany a year later and he entrusted his famed gemologist George Frederic Kunz, for whom the the pink stone Kunzite is named. Kunz cut the stone into a 128 carat cushion to bring out its brilliance.
It was immediately recognized as a treasure and became something close to an American Crown jewel. It was exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and made a rare appearance in the windows of Tiffany in 1955 in the hands of a gold wire angel. Only a few years later it graced the neck of Audrey Hepburn (only the second woman to every wear it publicly) at the center of a Jean Schlumberger diamond ribbon necklace for some promotional shots for Breakfast at Tiffany's. (In 1995 the stone was set in another Schlumberger piece, Bird on a Rock, for a museum show in Paris.)
WAS IT EVER FOR SALE? ONCE—MAYBE.
In 1972 Tiffany placed a possibly tongue in cheek ad in the New York Times offering it for $5 million (about $25 million today) to anyone who could come up with the money in a strict 24 hour period (any checks mailed after that date would be returned with thanks). In 2012 the diamond was set in its current diamond-necklace setting for Tiffany’s 175th anniversary.
When Lady Gaga emerged on the red carpet wearing this with that McQueen dress and black leather gloves, history was made. "The Tiffany Diamond is an exceptional stone for many reasons, including its incredible size, its historic importance and the fact that it has remained at Tiffany & Company since its purchase in the 19th century," explains Daphne Lignon, head of the jewelry department at Christies. "In recent years, we have seen yellow diamonds command extremely high prices at auction as the color’s rarity is becoming more coveted. However, this stone is truly in a league of its own for its size and its long history with the renowned jewelry house. It was exciting to see the piece reemerge for an evening of Hollywood glamour.”
And if you did not happen to get an invite to the awards themselves to see it in person, you can have a front row seat to the Tiffany Diamond when it returns to its home in a center vitrine at Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue store on March 2.