Five things you didn’t know about the Tiffany diamond, worn by Lady Gaga at last night’s Oscars
It began in Venice: in a shower of rain, Lady Gaga emerged, resplendent in pink feathers – courtesy of Pierpaolo Piccioli’s Spring/Summer 2019 haute couture collection for Valentino – for the world premiere of A Star is Born at the Venice Film Festival. Six months, plenty of gowns, and a slew of nominations and wins for her role as ingénue Ally Maine in the Bradley Cooper-directed film later, Gaga’s award season culminated in last night’s Oscars, where she took home Best Original Song for Shallow (she lost out on Best Actress to Olivia Colman for The Favourite).
For the occasion, Gaga chose a black silk faille gown and leather gloves by Alexander McQueen, accessorised with diamonds by Tiffany & Co. One diamond in particular: the Tiffany diamond, a vast yellow stone – one of the largest in the world – which dates back over a century. She joins just two other women who have worn the diamond previously – one of those being Audrey Hepburn, who famously wore it in the press photographs for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Here, five things to know about this legendary jewel.
1. It dates back over a century
The Tiffany diamond – one of the largest yellow diamonds in the world – has a history which spans over a century, pre-dating not just the Oscars ceremony, but the birth of cinema itself (the first films are considered to be those of the Lumière brothers, shown in 1895). Discovered in South Africa’s Kimberley diamond mines in 1877, it was purchased by eminent American jewellery trader Charles Lewis Tiffany a year later for $18,000 (the transaction saw him deemed “the King of Diamonds”, a label he maintained for much of his life). Subsequently, the rough stone was transported to Paris to Tiffany gemologist Dr George Frederick, who cut the stone into a rounded cushion-cut weighing a staggering 128.54 carats with 82 facets – 24 more than the traditional ‘brilliant cut’. The final diamond is over an inch wide, and just under an inch top-to-bottom, with its vivid yellow colour said to evoke a flame burning within.
2. It’s basically priceless
In the years afterwards, the Tiffany diamond would become the centrepiece of the jeweller’s exhibits at world fairs – including the 1939–40 World’s Fair in New York City, the second largest American world’s fair in history – and appeared as part of a holiday window display in their New York store in 1955. It has only been on sale once, though: on November 17, 1972 a playful advertisement ran in the New York Times saying the un-set stone could be purchased for $5 million in an offer good for just 24 hours. Unsurprisingly, there were no buyers – accounting inflation, the figure would be over $30 million today – and the stone remains unsold, and essentially priceless, today.
3. Only two other women have ever worn it before – one was Audrey Hepburn
In its 144 years, Lady Gaga is only the third woman to have worn the Tiffany Diamond, and both previous outings were over half a century ago. Its appearance on the Oscars red carpet marks the diamond’s first awards ceremony appearance, though the precious gem is no stranger to media attention. At the 1957 Tiffany Ball held in Newport Rhode Island, Mary Whitehouse wore the diamond in a necklace among the 1,200 guests in attendance (the total value of jewellery worn at that ball is said to have reached $20 million). Four years later in 1961, it was the turn of Audrey Hepburn to wear the diamond, this time set in a necklace designed by Jean Schlumberger. It was, quite aptly, in promotional photographs for Breakfast at Tiffany’s that Hepburn wore the necklace, and the whole look – black Givenchy dress, black gloves, and a diamond tiara to match the necklace – has since become one of the most recognised in fashion history.
4. It’s very similar to a necklace from a Noughties rom-com
After Lady Gaga appeared on last night’s red carpet, social media users were quick to draw comparisons between the giant rock and the ‘Isadora Diamond’ worn by Composure magazine’s ‘How-To’ girl Andie Anderson (played by Kate Hudson) in the most iconic film of all time, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days – which was criminally snubbed at the Oscars of that year. (Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King took home the Best Picture prize that night.) Despite the similarities between the two gems, though, it’s not the same stone – though the Isadora Diamond is real. Named after American-French dancer Isadora Duncan, who is known as the “Mother of Modern Dance,” the 80-carat yellow diamond is worth $5–6 million and was first worn by Whoopi Goldberg at the 74th Academy Awards, then by Kate Hudson, before being sold.
5. Gaga’s Alexander McQueen was particularly fitting
When it came to deciding what to wear with this priceless stone, Gaga chose a gown by Alexander McQueen – a house she’s had ties with since before McQueen’s passing in 2010. This custom-made bustier dress was crafted from silk faille and was complete with engineered corset seaming, a full godet pleat skirt and matching leather gloves (the black gown and gloves prompted viewers to note similarities to the outfit worn by Hepburn in the famed Breakfast at Tiffany’s portraits). Gaga may not have taken home the Best Actress award, but she certainly won the red carpet.