All that glitters: Iconic gems and jewels in film history


By Kelly Lim

All that glitters: Iconic gems and jewels in film history

Film transports us into a world of fantasy. We’re immediately immersed into a universe of wonder, where fact and fiction intertwine and become reality on screens. Of course, story telling plays the biggest part in every film, but to quote the famous line in show business, “there are no small parts in a film, only small actors”.

And in the matter of styling and jewellery, they definitely earn that right. Diamond rings, necklaces, and other ornamental jewellery play a crucial part in the unfolding of a character, and in some movies, are the basis of the entire plot. Below, we recount the most memorable pieces of jewellery that have been captured on film, some are pure works of fiction, and some existed IRL, with a rich history to in tow.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Here is the movie and screen siren that popularised the phrase ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’. For the iconic musical number, Marilyn Monroe wore the ‘Moon of Baroda’, a pear-shaped yellow canary diamond that was over five hundred years old at the time of filming.

It’s been reported that the lavish jewellery once belonged to Maharaja Baroda of India, and has seen multiple change of hands, from the Empress of Maria Theresa of Austria to France’s Marie Antoinette.

Moulin Rouge (2001)

The song about girls and their diamonds may have been popularised by Marilyn Monroe, but the jazz song was first introduced by Carol Channing in 1949 for the original Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Since then, there’ve been countless reprisals. One of them being Nicole Kidman‘s character Satine in Moulin Rouge. The movie sees plenty of opulent jewellery throughout its course. However, the most extravagant piece is the elaborate diamond necklace —gifted by her character’s suitor, the Duke of Monroth— which consisted of 134 karats and 1,308 diamonds, designed by Australian jeweller Stefano Cantur.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

The iconic opening scene sees Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly wandering the streets of New York City in the early hours of dawn, dressed to the nines in a black Givenchy gown and dripping in sparkles. On the crown of her head, a mini tiara, glittering stud earrings decorated her ears, and finally, a dazzling pearl necklace layered with a brooch by Chanel.

Although she doesn’t get to wear a piece of jewellery from Tiffany’s in the movie, Miss Hepburn did in fact wear one for publicity photographs to promote the film. Designed by Tiffany’s then jeweller Jean Schlumberger, the 128.54-karat the canary diamond was set in a ribbon necklace.

Pretty Woman (1990)

If you haven’t seen the unconventional love story that stars film icons Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, we have only three things to say: “Big mistake. Huge!” And yes, you will only get that reference if you watch the movie.

In the mean time, you can feast your eyes on the custom-made pear-cut ruby necklace made by French jeweller Fred Joaillier. Made using 23 pear-cut rubies, set in the centre of 18-karat white diamond encrusted hearts, this choker necklace really is a stunner. In the film, Richard Gere’s character states that it would’ve cost him “a quarter of a million dollars” but it’s been reported that it’s closer to US$ 1.35 million.

Titanic (1997)

The La Coeur de la Mer or the Heart of the Ocean is probably the most well-known jewellery in this list. After Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, the fictional blue diamond is arguably the next big star of David Cameron’s adaptation of the RMS Titanic’s sinking in 1912.

In the film, the extravagant diamond was originally owned by King Louis XVI, and was cut into the shape of a heart after the French Revolution. Back in the ’90s London jewellers Asprey & Garrad were still partners, and were commissioned to make the movie prop out of blue cubic zirconium and white gold.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

“Frost yourself!” This line from the film uttered by Matthew McConaughey is highly apt here. In this classic romantic comedy, Kate Hudson’s character was loaned the Isadora necklace (named after Isadora Duncan) to be worn during the gala in the movie’s climatic scene. The 84-karat yellow diamond pendant by Harry Winston is said to have a worth in between US$5-6 million dollars!

The Lord of the Rings series (2001-2003)

The precious ring to rule them all! At first glance, there’s not much to yell about the yellow gold band. But as the movie suggests, it’s magic! And has ancient Tengwar script across the length of the band. J.R.R. Tolkien‘s magical world revolves heavily on this unassuming piece of jewellery, and its mysterious qualities, as the trilogy follows Frodo Baggins and his merry band of hobbits, dwarves, wizards and elves to an adventure like no other. Much ado about an 18-karat gold ring, eh?

The film’s prop was crafted by New Zealand’s Jens Hansen Gold & Silversmith, a father and son duo who were also fans of the series. The two made more than forty ring variations for the film and were scaled for different scenes and sized to fit its various owners.

The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

The second wife of England’s King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn really did own a pearl necklace that closely resembled the one worn by Natalie Portman in the 2008 film. And it’s no secret either, the string of pearls adorned with a gold initial ‘B’ with three teardrop-shaped pearls hanging below has been famously depicted in her portrait from the 16th century. Where is the real pearl necklace today? That remains to be a secret that historians are looking to unearth.

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Alongside the tragic love story that unfolded in The Great Gatsby, the film offered an accurate depiction of the wealth and hedonism that defined the Roaring ’20s. When it came to jewellery, Carey Mulligan’s Daisy Buchanan best exemplified the era’s excess as she wore several pieces of dazzling pieces, in which costume designer Catherine Martin worked with  Tiffany & Co. to create an entire 1920s jewellery collection, named the Blue Book, just for the film. Of all the pieces, the Savoy tiara, a pearl and diamonds headpiece designed in the popular headband styles of the era, stood out as the most unforgettable (and the most expensive with a value of US$335,000).

Anna Karenina (2014)

It was only fitting that the face of Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle perfume wore plenty of Chanel diamonds in Joe Wright’s 2014 film adaptation of Anna Karenina. Thanks to the Keira Knightley’s relationship with the French Maison, a special Chanel Haute Joaillerie collection was made for the movie, consisting of brooches, earrings, bracelets and the most memorable: a US$2 million Camelia Poudre diamond necklace made in traditional Chanel style with camellias (Coco Chanel’s favourite flower) flanking both sides.

Ocean’s 8 (2018)

Speaking about a movie that depicts the crashing of the Met Gala seems very met-a if you catch our drift. The first Monday of May is perhaps fashion’s biggest night with the slew of Hollywood celebrities and A-listers showing up in support of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s annual exhibition.

The all-woman heist team set their eyes on the extremely valuable ‘Jeanne Toussaint’ necklace by Cartier. Named after Cartier’s former creative director, the necklace did in fact exist in real life, but no longer exists in its original full form, and had to be recreated by Cartier’s High Jewellery team just for the film. Originally designed in 1931, the total karat count for the original necklace is at a whopping 500 karats, and took more than 4,200 hours to recreate. And even then, the movie version is approximately 15-20% smaller than the original.

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

Asian representation for the win! Happy to report that majority of the 2018 film was shot here in Kuala Lumpur, and starred many familiar faces, some of which who call Malaysia home as well. In a film that revolves around the incredibly rich, it’s no surprise that there were many precious gems and jewels depicted throughout the film. But perhaps the most memorable one shares a scene with the stunning Gemma Chan who introduces her character Astrid Young-Tao with a casual(?) shopping trip at the jewellers.

In her first scene, she purchases a pair of Burmese pearl drop earrings set with emeralds and rare pigeon blood red rubies. Because of her influential status, the jeweller was willing to give it to her at US$1.2 million, and this is cost price, mind you. Another memorable piece of jewellery from the film belongs to the family matriarch, played by Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh who wore an emerald and diamond ring. The ring plays a huge part in the film, but also, the film borrowed it from the actress’ own private jewellery box.

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