Practically every industry on the planet inevitably has its “most famous,” “most popular,” or “most recognizable,” whether it is Brad Pitt in the film industry, Pepsi or Coca Cola in the food and soft drink sphere, or a Rolls Royce, Maserati, or Aston Martin in the automobile arena.
Anyone who knows jewels and jewelry has learned to recognize certain pieces that have become widely known throughout time and space, due to their rarity, beauty, size, or other factors.
Here is a look at the world’s five most recognizable pieces of jewelry of all time, spanning centuries.
Controversial during her day because it was not custom made or unique, and was featured in the Garrard jewelry collection of sapphire and diamond rings for anyone to purchase, the 18 carat Ceylon Sapphire ring surrounded by 17 round brilliant diamonds has long since become iconic. At the time, the ring cost the royal couple the equivalent of $60,000, although today it would be worth up to half a million. Having sparked a worldwide phenomenon when Diana originally chose it, Price William giving it to Kate Middleton turned the ring into a legacy and has since embedded it in jewelry culture for good.
Surrounded by mystery and legends, the Hope Diamond is also the most famous diamond in the world. Weighing in at 45.52 carats, the Fancy Deep Grayish Blue diamond with VS1 clarity is also the largest blue diamond in the world, and one of the earliest and most famous fancy color diamonds that was ever discovered. Once owned by King Louis XIV, the Hope diamond passed hands for centuries until it was bought by famous jeweler Harry Winston in 1949. Winston donated the diamond to the Smithsonian in Washington DC, and upon its jubilee it was reset into a new setting for the duration of a year. It has since been returned to its original setting of a halo of 16 diamonds and on a diamond necklace, still on display in the Smithsonian.
Wallis Simpson is an aristocrat who is very much known for her fabulous jewels. The unusual yet sensational panther bracelet is a perfect example of a piece of jewelry that has become memorable, not for the size or rarity of the stones, but rather, for the pure genius and artistry of the piece itself. The panther motif bracelet once belonged to King Edward III, and eventually sold to a buyer for $12 million. Rumor has it that the much-adored Madonna was the anonymous buyer. Very realistically depicting the shape and image of a panther, the bracelet features dazzling colorless diamonds, onyx, and green emeralds for the eyes. The Cartier-designed piece is so different that it is extremely difficult to forget it. sold for an astonishing $6.2 million in a recent auction. Its staggering price tag makes it the most expensive bracelet ever sold.
Currently on display at its flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, the 128 carat Fancy Intense Yellow cushion cut diamond is one of the largest known yellow diamonds in the world today. Believed to have been discovered at the Kimberley mine in South Africa in 1877, with a rough weight of 287.42 carats, the elusive diamond is only known to have ever been worn twice in its more than 150 year old history, once by a a Mrs. Sheldon Whitehouse at a 1957 Tiffany Ball and none other than Audrey Hepburn in 1961 for the publicity photographs for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Having famously been in an elaborate ribbon-like necklace setting, and part of the “Bird on a Rock” in the 1960s, the diamond is currently displayed on a diamond necklace.
Inspired by the dreamy “Heart of the Ocean Diamond” necklace seen in the 1997 blockbuster, Titanic, real-life versions were created for the Oscars that year. The Heart of the Ocean necklace that was created for Gloria Stuart (the actress who played the elderly Rose) is actually a 15 carat blue diamond with an estimate of $20 million, making it one of the most expensive jewels in the world, and the priciest one ever to be worn to the Academy Awards. Jewelers Asprey & Garrard designed a necklace with a 170 carat sapphire and 65 round-cut diamonds (each weighing 30 carats). Celine Dion borrowed the masterpiece for two days also for the Oscars, where she performed “My Heart Will Go On.” Sotheby’s later auctioned off the necklace for $2.2 million.
It has become common knowledge to those in the world of jewelry that various pieces of jewelry, which have been constructed over history, are not just easily recognizable because of their popularity, but have become permanent fixtures in the jewelry world and are often referenced for their splendor, significance, or history. The important thing to remember is that even though these pieces belong to a specific few, they are not theirs alone and you can make their style your own by using elements of what you love in your own bespoke diamond or gemstone jewelry.