As one of the most influential gemstones in history, the Tiffany diamond is an iconic fashion statement that meant one thing- superior class. A diamond rich in fashion history and class, it has graced numerous exhibitions and charity shows as the center of attraction. The stone is so valuable and protected that it takes a special form of permission and extensive procedures to move it from its home site. But as incredibly pricey as this diamond is, many people have had the privilege of donning it as a fashion statement.
We’ll highlight the Tiffany stone’s history and list the names of those fortunate enough to command its addition to their outfit. We’ll explore its origin, estimated value, and how its price compares to other prominent diamonds and gemstones in human history. So, keep reading to see the influential characters with enough celebrity presence and pull to be allowed to wear this exquisite piece of jewelry.
What Are Yellow Diamonds?
Yellow diamonds are mostly formed due to high nitrogen levels in their crystals, which contribute to the natural warmth that appeals to buyers. And the gems can occur with brown, orange, or green tints, which boost their appeal.
The Tiffany Yellow Diamond displays some of the most appealing versions of their attributes. But its quality is because it features the highest level of color quality, which begs whether there can be any lower. We’ll touch on the six color categories for yellow diamonds to answer this question.
- Fancy Light Yellow Diamonds- These offer the least color intensity as the yellow hue is less apparent in the crystals, though they’ll still look more yellow than colorless. They’re barely confused for tinted colorless diamonds and shouldn’t be because they’re more expensive. But they’re lesser priced compared to their deep-colored counterparts.
- Fancy Yellow Diamonds- Though still on the lighter side of the color scale, these types are much darker than the fancy light yellow ones. They’re also more expensive and will offer more intensity, but they are also quite affordable on the scale.
- Fancy Dark Yellow Diamonds- These types can be considered the balance options for both price and color intensity. They’re not as pricey as the darker-colored yellow stones, but they are far better than those below. They also offer a balance in value at a slightly affordable price.
- Fancy Deep Yellow Diamonds- These gems will show a full tone and contain possible undertones of brownish-orange, brownish-yellow, or even green. But they’re still considered valuable and fetch a heavy price, though they work as the cheaper deep-colored yellow diamond options.
- Fancy Intense Yellow Diamonds- These are the second-highest levels of the color depth rating for yellow diamonds. They’re also the second priciest and mostly fetch a high grading on a GIA report. A typical Fancy Intense natural stone may fetch a price range of $6,500 to $8,000, depending on its other qualities.
- Fancy Vivid Yellow Diamonds- These are also called canary diamonds and are the deepest yellow diamonds on the scale. Though some may include tints of brown, green, or orange, such gems are extremely rare and can be quite expensive when found. The Tiffany Diamond belongs to this category, and its high price is because it offers the best quality for such diamonds.
History Of The Tiffany Diamond
While all yellow diamonds are rated natural fancy colored, the Tiffany Yellow is considered the best and largest of its kind. It currently weighs 128.54 carats and is cut into a unique cushion shape with 82 facets that give it an impressive brilliance. With is 82 facets, the diamond owns a distinct cut, as it carries 24 more than the average round brilliant. And it also displays eight needle-like facets that point outwards from the cutlet.
This style of stone cut is unique and was described by Herbert Tillander, a diamond historian and jeweler, as a ‘stellar brilliant cut.’ And the Tiffany Yellow holds its place in the jeweler’s 1995 book ‘Diamond Cuts in Historic Jewel- 1381 to 1910’, among other popular stones, including the Koh-i-Noor, the Wittelsbach, the Cullinan Diamond, the Polar Star, and many others.
Discovery & Purchase
The Tiffany Diamond’s journey started in the kimberlite mines of South Africa, where it was first discovered in 1878. Upon its discovery, the stone weight 287.42 carats in its rough form and was sold to Charles Tiffany at $18,000. Charles Tiffany, at the time, was the founder of Tiffany & Co., a jewelry company that would become incredibly famous today. And after purchase, the company employed a 23-year old Americanmineralogist and mineral collector, George Frederick Kunz, to study and cut the gem.
For a year, Kunz studied the Tiffany diamond before giving it a square antique brilliant-cut, reducing it from its original 287 carats to 128 carats. Later, he added 32 facets to the shape, thus increasing the Tiffany diamond’s brilliance. And the stone was finally mounted by Jean Schlumberger, a French jewelry designer renowned for working with Tiffany & Co. But the fashion depth of larger diamonds with comparable brilliance won’t become fashionable until the 20th century.
In 1848, Tiffany took advantage of Paris’ political disturbance and the overthrow of King Louis Philippe to purchase many jewels. It also bought a large diamond necklace from Empress Eugenie and became quite active in the South African mines. The Tiffany Yellow Diamond was his biggest prize, and though it was imported to the U.S. with little publicity, it became popularly known in 1896. Its rise to fame was because of Viceroy Li Hung-Chang, a Chinese triumvirate who ruled alongside others at the time. Viceroy Chang had heard about the stone and visited the U.S. to see it, stating openly that the Tiffany Diamond was his primary reason for coming to the continent.
It’s interesting to note that Charles Tiffany had doubts about the yellow stone at its initial purchase. His reason for little publicity was etched in the worry that the gem might be a ‘yellowish’ stone. Ironically, three types of yellow diamonds occur in the natural world; light yellow, yellowish, and rare deep canary yellow diamonds. Fortunately, the Tiffany diamond turned out to be a good investment, having excelled as a stellar example of all three types.
In 2007, Tiffany & Co. loaned the Tiffany Yellow to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. And the stone was displayed at the museum for almost five months, between April and September. It was considered the largest diamond on display in a United States museum, even while the famous Hope Diamond shared a similar exhibition address at the time. However, the Tiffany Diamond is recorded as 128 carats, 82.5 carats more, making it three times larger than the Hope Diamond.
A Unique Gem Cut
The Tiffany diamond is famous for many reasons, but its cut is one of its most unique properties. It doesn’t possess any gemological examination, or at least none are available to the public. The only record of the stone’s analysis is from George Kunz, the company’s gemologist. And he’s also responsible for the yellow diamond’s unusual but impressive cut.
The diamond’s crown is stepped, which means the main facets were split. And the pavilion received three steps, with the third applied in the middle of the usual two. The jeweler achieved this by splitting the lower main facets to produce two triangular and one flat facet of the keystone shape. This gave the Tiffany stone 90 facets; 40 on the crown and 48 on the pavilion. Compared to the traditional Brilliant Cut, the Tiffany diamond has 28 extra facets. And here, while the standard Brilliant Cut had only 56 facets plus an extra two, the Tiffany diamond had 90!
Tiffany Diamond Worth
When Charles Tiffany discovered the stone in South Africa, he bought it for $18,000. Tiffany also purchases many diamonds from the same mine, which were shipped to the U.S. for cutting. But Tiffany worried that the stone might be a yellowish diamond, which, as known, may not be a valuable gem for investment. Still, he had the company jeweler examine and cut it, which gave it what’s known today as one of the unique cuts in jewelry history. Today, the Tiffany diamond is one of the most celebrated and expensive gems worldwide. And as of 2019, the stone was valued at an estimated $30 million.
People Who Have Worn The Tiffany Diamond
Though the Tiffany Yellow Diamond remains the property of Tiffany & Co. to date, it has been displayed at galas, exhibitions, and special occasions for prestigious people. And most people find it a rare privilege to behold its splendor. But the diamond is even rarely worn, and only those with a tremendous pull of influence have been loaned the impressive gem. And in the history of the jewelry’s existence, it has only been worn by four celebrities, all of which were women.
1. Mrs. Mary Whitehouse
Mrs. Mary Whitehouse was the first woman to wear the Tiffany diamond, which she donned at the 1957 Tiffany Benefit Ball. The event was kicked off as a fundraiser cause by the Preservation Society of Newport, Rhode Island, to restore 17th and 18th-century buildings in the country. Mr. Mary Whitehouse was an American socialite married to the famous diplomat, Mr. Edwin Sheldon Whitehouse, also known for his membership in exclusive social clubs. And the exquisite stone was set in an original-design necklace of white diamonds and worn by Mrs. Sheldon when she attended the event at the Marble House mansion in Newport, Rhode Island.
2. Audrey Hepburn
Schlumberger would later reimagine the jewelry design for the Tiffany Diamond, which resulted in it being reset into a Ribbon Rosette necklace. And in 1961, this new version would be worn by the popular American movie star Audrey Hepburn. The Tiffany Diamond was a part of planned publicity photos for the critically acclaimed fashion film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which Hepburn was a lead. Hepburn’s donning of the Tiffany Diamond would later go down as the moment that solidified the gem’s place in fashion history.
3. Lady Gaga
The Tiffany Diamond remained in Schlumberger’s ribbon rosette necklace design until he died in 1987. Afterward, it was reset on one of his ‘A Bird on a Rock’ brooches, where it would sit for exhibitions until 2012. Then, it was again reset to celebrate the company’s 15th anniversary and placed on a necklace with diamonds already weighing more than 100 carats. And it was in this design, that renowned pop singer and movie star, Lady Gaga, would be offered the Tiffany Diamond on loan to don her outfit in 2019. This, she wore to receive the Best Original Song award at that year’s Oscars, along with a tousled-up hairstyle that paid homage to Audrey Hepburn’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
4. Beyoncé Knowles
By 2021, music sensation Beyoncé Knowles partnered with Tiffany & Co. to organize a brand campaign titled ‘About Love,’ which also featured her husband, Jay Z. And part of the campaign’s design was a homage outfit, where the singer paid respect to Audrey Hepburn’s character from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Beyonce rocked a similar black gown designed by Givenchy, paired with black opera gloves. And her hairdo was a tousled-up style from the character’s look (a style that Lady Gaga also wore at the 2019 Oscars). But to complete this look, Tiffany loaned Beyonce the Tiffany Diamond, making her the first black woman and fourth person to wear the stone. The final campaign displayed Beyonce in the stated outfit and Tiffany diamond, next to Jay Z and a rare Basquiat painting.
Of course, not everyone can afford to don the Tiffany Yellow, and in some cases, replicas were made to represent the gem on various occasions. In 2020, actress Gal Gadot starred in the 2022 movie Death of the Nile, where she played Linnet Ridgeway-Doyle. The movie, however, was originally set to release in 2020 but was pushed two years down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But in the original promotional images from 2020, Gadot’s character was displayed wearing an impressive replica of the famous yellow diamond.
But not every replica was always as impressive. In 2003, Kate Hudson played Andie Anderson in the romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. And in the movie, her character was seen wearing a replica of the Tiffany Diamond necklace, but this copy was considered as impressive as the one worn by Gadot in 2022.
The Tiffany Diamond is an impressive stone that has made its mark in fashion and history. And for a stone with such tremendous value, it’ll seem impossible to have anyone have it to their outfit. Surprisingly, these four individuals have commanded enough influence to be specially permitted to wear the world’s largest yellow stone. And their status and position in society have been further cemented by this capacity, making the Tiffany diamond one of the most influential gemstones ever discovered.