The necklace was supposedly stolen before being bought by Cartier.
This year’s Met Gala had no shortage of controversy, from the absence of Gala-favourite Zendaya, to Kim Kardashian‘s controversial decision to don Marilyn Monroe‘s famous glitter gown worth US$ 5 million that she once wore to serenade JFK on his birthday. Even though we’re days past the Gala, problems continue to arise for several celebrities who were tone deaf (to say the least( in their approach to fitting the theme of the ‘Gilded Age.’
One of the celebrities that has garnered criticism is influencer and YouTuber Emma Chamberlain, who walked the red carpet in a Cartier choker that once belonged to Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala. As the story goes, in 1928 the Maharaja asked Cartier S.A to create a statement necklace for him, which ended up having five chains and included a choker. The necklace featured 2,930 diamonds, seven of which were between 18 and 73 carats, and had the famous 428 carat ‘De Beers‘ diamond, the world’s seventh-largest diamond, as its centrepiece.
In 1948, the necklace disappeared from the Royal Treasury of Patiala under mysterious circumstances during the Indian Independence War. In 1982, the ‘De Beers’ diamond appeared at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva where it was sold for US$ 3.16 million. Years later in 1998, another part of the necklace was found at a second-hand jewellery store in London by Cartier associate, Eric Nussbaum, but all the large jewels were missing. Regardless, Cartier purchased the incomplete necklace and restored it to look like the original using cubic zirconia and other synthetic diamonds. It is believed that if the necklace was in its original state, it would be worth upwards of US$ 30 million today.
Once netizens put two and two together days after the event, both Cartier and Emma have come under fire for wearing a piece of jewellery that is part of India’s stolen history. In different tweets, people expressed their frustration about the design choice:
It is a living testament to the inequality of India’s colonial past. It is a testament to the fact that South Asia and India contributed so much to building modern European tastes but have been completely denied their credit – from the bias cut to art deco to textiles
“This is wayyy worse than kim wearing marilyn monroe’s dress. It has a deep and painful history attached to it. Very on theme, nothing screams gilded glamour quite like expropriation
Thanks #cartier. Those are the jewels of the Maharaja of Patiala. That’s a piece of India’s stolen history, not a fancy piece of jewellery to lend out to celebrities. Disrespectful on so many levels