Historical Jewelry Facts & Fancy

In the "good old days," movie actresses, when they acted in a movie, wore their own jewelry. The “heavy hitters” in the jewelry category included Merle Oberon, Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson, and Jean Harlow.

Hollywood lore tells us that Marlene Dietrich accidentally baked her 37.4 carat emerald ring in a cake. It was discovered when guests sat down to dessert.

The extensive jewelry collection of Queen Elizabeth II, aptly called the "Crown Jewels" are kept in a huge room beneath Buckingham Palace.

Elizabeth Taylor's jewelry collection is one of the largest in the world. With each husband, or lover came new jewelry to add to her collection. Several highlights of her collection are: "La Peregrina," a 203.84 grain, pear-shaped pearl discovered in the early 16th century by a slave on the shores of Panama. Ms. Taylor obtained it in 1969 and had it made into a necklace by Cartier. When the pearl was lost years ago in Ms. Taylor's Las Vegas hotel room, Hollywood lore tells us that it was discovered in her dog’s mouth.

Legend has it that Cleopatra in order to win a bet with Marc Antony, dissolved a pearl in her soup and drank it. Estimates have it that the pearl was worth about $12,500.

The breast plate of the High Priest (ooreem v’toomeem, in Hebrew) was set with twelve gems that represented each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Among the gems believed to have been used are amethyst, sapphire, emerald, agate, ruby, antimony, and jade.

To date, the most expensive piece of jewelry ever designed specifically for a movie was the necklace worn by Nicole Kidman in the musical Moulin Rouge. The million-dollar creation was designed by Stefano Canturi. It was made of platinum and encrusted with 1,308 diamonds, with a total of 134 carats.

There is symbolism ascribed to every gem stone. Amethyst stands for true love and, because of that, it is the traditional gift stone for St. Valentine's Day. It also symbolized pure affection and, as such, the ancient Romans considered it the only colored stone appropriate for mourning.

All the biggest jewelry designers wait for the Oscars, when the “stars” borrow their jewelry. This “tradition” began in 1944, when Jennifer Jones, borrowed and wore Harry Winston's jewelry for the occasion.

Linda Porter, the wife of music great Cole Porter, commissioned a unique piece of jewelry for each of his show openings.

Faberge eggs are world-renknowned by jewelry lovers and collectors. Interestingly, he made only forty-nine gold and platinum eggs from 1885 to 1917. They began as Easter gifts from the Tsar to the Tsarina (and, later on, to the Dowager Empress in later years). Each egg contained a “surprise” for the royal family. Among the surprises were a ruby-eyed cuckoo which crowed and flapped its feathered wings, a model of the Tsar's coronation coach, entire sets of miniature paintings, a bouquet of Madonna lilies with rose diamond centers, and a tiny working replica of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, complete with a ruby headlight.

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