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Famous Vintage Jewellery Pieces in History

We all know vintage is one of the most fashionable trends, so there’s no better time to get to know the most famous vintage pieces of the past. Let’s get some inspiration by exploring 7 of the most iconic jewellery pieces, created by the most famous jewellery houses and worn by celebrities, royals, and historical figures over the years.

The Hope Diamond

The infamous hope diamond is one of the most famous pieces in history, rumoured for its cursed possession. The diamond is most likely to be from the Kollur Mine in India, accounting for its violet blue colouring. Initially purchased by Tavernier who then sold it to King Louis XIV of France in 1668, the original 112 carat stone was recut into a 68 carat piece that became known as the ‘French Blue’.

The gem was stolen in 1749 and passed through several hands including the British King George IVs. In 1839 the gem is catalogued as coming into the possession of the diamond’s namesake Henry Phillip Hope. Passed down through family members and eventually sold to pay off debts and ending up in the possession of Cartier.

Cartier had the diamond reset as a headpiece and sold to Evalyn Walsh McLean. The Hope Diamond was later set into the pendant on the diamond necklace as we know it today. McLean adored the piece until her death, and was later donated to the Smithsonian Institution.

Learn more on the history of the hope diamond here.

The Hope Diamond
Image courtesy of Smithsonian’s under CC0

The Graff Pink

The Graff Pink is a rare pink diamond. The gem is classified as ‘fancy-intense pink’ and diamond type IIa, of which only 2% of the world’s top diamonds are rated. When first acquired by Laurence Graff, the emerald cut diamond weighed 24.78 carats and showed great potential. Graff’s master-cutters began a process of repolishing the stone, removing 25 inclusions close to the surface and increasing the stone’s colour grade intensity. They achieved in creating the newly named Graff Pink; a 23.88 carat internally flawless fancy vivid pink diamond.  

Image courtesy of Graff

Pink diamonds are extremely rare and coveted. The colour is caused by a distortion in the crystal structure rather than trace elements, as is the case with yellow diamonds with traces of nitrogen in their structure. The Graff pink is mounted on a ring, flanked with two white diamonds, that complement the fancy-intense pink diamond perfectly. If you have your hopes set on a coloured diamond, this contemporary engagement ring features a fancy yellow diamond amongst two pink diamonds and is sure to light up a room.

The Attallah Cross

An iconic piece for an iconic woman; Princess Diana’s Attallah cross. Paired with an Elizabethan-style Catherine Walker & Co dress, the Princess of Wales wore the large pendant to attend the 1987 Birthright gala. The fleurée cross pendant is set with square-cut amethysts and accented by 5.25 carats of circular-cut diamonds and named after the late Naim Attallah, chief executive of Asprey & Garrard.

This piece was made iconic by Diana, but has recently come into the spotlight after being purchased by reality star and business mogul Kim Kardashian, who outbid rivals in under 5 minutes at the Sotheby’s auction house. Sotheby’s is delighted that the bold piece has ‘found a new lease of life within the hands of another globally famous name’.

Princess Diana’s Engagement Ring

Of course, we can’t mention the people’s princess without mentioning her engagement ring. Another jewel from Garrad, the sapphire engagement ring is considered the most famous engagement ring in history.  Set in white gold, the 12 carat oval Ceylon sapphire is set in a halo of diamonds and simply breath-taking.

The ring continued to be famous jewel after the late Princess Diana’s death in 1997, as her ring was passed down to her son Prince William. In honour of his mother, Prince William used the cluster engagement ring to propose to Kate Middleton in 2010. Kate was named the new Princess of Wales in 2022, sharing a special bond with Diana in both title and jewellery. If you’re looking for a similar look, we have a beautiful range of antique and vintage engagement rings fit for a princess or a fine addition to any collection.

Cartier Panther Bracelet

One of the most famous bracelets is Wallis Simpson’s Cartier panther bracelet. Created in 1952, the finely-sculpted body of a panther is pavé-set with brilliant and single cut diamonds and calibré-cut onyx. The eyes are made of striking marquise cut emeralds, and modelled after a panther in a stalking manor. The bracelet sold as the most expensive bracelet ever sold at auction, at £4.5million.  The panther was first presented to the public in the form of a wristwatch in 1914. The Cartier Panthère has since becoming synoicous with the brand in contemporary jewellery.

The Koi-I-Noor Diamond on the Crown

The Koi-i-Noor diamond is one of the largest cut diamonds in the world, weighing 105 carats. The diamond is considered controversial, due to it’s conflicting stories of ownership. Famously part of the British crown since 1849, ownership of the gem has been claimed by several countries, including India who demanded it’s return. It is hard to determine the stones origins or true owners, though it is widely considered to have been a gift to Queen Victoria by the East Indian Company. Due to this India is unable to demand the return.

Royal jewellers Garrad were tasked with cutting the diamond to enhance its fire and brilliance in 1852, resulting in loss in size but a dazzling result. It became the central stone set within the Crown of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and was last publicly seen set on her coffin in 2002. Rumours circulated that Queen Camilla might wear the diamond at her coronation, but is said to have avoiding as to not offend political sensitivities

The Dresden Green

The history of Dresden Green dates back to 1722, where it was recorded in a London news-sheet. The Dresden Green is a 41 carat fancy green diamond set in the centre of a hatpin that lies within the Dresden Green Vault. A green diamond is a rare gem, believed to have been sourced from the Indian Golconda mines. The diamond was set into the hatpin for Frederick the Great of Prussia to wear proudly on his hat, which has since remained in a vault for the past 300 years mainly without interruption. The substantial green diamond has been displayed in United states alongside the Hope diamond and featured in an exhibition in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, however it has always been returned to the vault.

We hope this article has given you a new-found passion for jewellery!

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