Famous Diamonds: The Tiffany Yellow Diamond
Tiffany & Co. is famous for their diamonds, but did you know that there is an actual diamond that boasts the Tiffany name? The Tiffany Yellow Diamond has a very rich history and remains a very exclusive piece to-date. At the same time, it is still a gem that is wrought with controversy. Let’s dive right in and examine the stories behind what is still the largest and finest yellow diamond in the world.
Creating the Tiffany Yellow Diamond
In 1877 in the Kimberly Mines of South Africa, a huge yellow rock weighing just over 287 carats was mined. The mine was then owned by the French Company, from which Charles Tiffany bought the rock for $18,000. He sent it to Paris for cutting.
In Paris, master gemologist George Kunz studied the rock for a year before attempting to cut it. When he was done, a 128.54 carat, cushion-shape, brilliant-cut diamond emerged from the rough rock. It had a total of 82 facets, which is 24 more than the common 58 of the average brilliant-cut diamond. The facets, combined with the diamond’s canary yellow color, make it look like there is a fire within the stone.
Charles Tiffany promptly named the finished gem after himself and decided that it would never be sold. Instead, he displayed it in numerous exhibitions, making the stone Tiffany & Co.’s unofficial ambassador. By the 20th Century, the Tiffany Yellow Diamond had helped the company become one of the world’s most trusted diamond stores.
Journey of the Tiffany Yellow Diamond
If there’s one thing that can be said about Tiffany & Co. it’s that they’re not afraid to showcase their signature piece. Thousands of people have seen the brilliant diamond, either in the company’s stores or its exhibitions.
It made a brilliant centerpiece at the 1939 New York World Fair as part of the company’s display of unmounted diamonds.
One of the most remarkable showings of this gem happened in 1955. Gene Moore placed the diamond in the hands of a golden angel’s sculpture in the company’s Fifth Avenue store.
In 1971, it made a bold statement at the Kimberly Mine’s centennial celebrations in South Africa.
And when Tiffany & Co reopened their London store branch in 1986, they displayed the gem to welcome admirers and clients alike.
Wearing the Tiffany Yellow Diamond
For more than half a century, the Tiffany Diamond remained unmounted. It was first worn in 1957 by Mrs. Mary Whitehouse at the Tiffany Feather Ball. The stone was mounted on a diamond necklace and suspended from a diamond eagle as a pendant.
In 1961, Audrey Hepburn wore it in promotional photos for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Designer Jean Schlumberger had set the stone in his Ribbon Rossette necklace, which featured more than 1,000 other smaller Tiffany diamonds.
The stone was set in a 100-carat diamond necklace in 2012, and Lady Gaga debuted the results on the 2019 Oscar Awards Red Carpet.
In 2021, singer Beyoncé wore the same necklace, becoming the first Black woman and fourth woman overall to wear the Tiffany Diamond. She wore it as part of an advertising campaign with her husband Jay-Z, from which Tiffany & Co will donate $2 million to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The Tiffany Diamond Today
In 1951, the chairman of Tiffany & Co suggested that the rock be sold. An offer was made to purchase it for $500,000 but was unable to own it because he wanted to pay in installments.
A Tiffany salesman listed the gem in the November 17th issue of the 1972 New York Times. It boasted a $5,000,000 price tag but was promptly pulled down when the salesman told he would be fired if the gem was sold.
In 1983, the Tiffany Yellow Diamond was valued at $12,000,000. Today, it is almost priceless, valued at $30 million. It sits prettily in the Tiffany Fifth Avenue store, at least until the next iconic woman gets to wear it.
Diamonds carry a lot of history. Read more stories about the most famous diamonds of all time.
About The Author
Debbie Azar is the Co-Founder and President of Gemological Science International (GSI), one of the largest gemological organizations in the world, and a distinguished leader in the global diamond and jewelry industry. As an executive with extensive knowledge of the jewelry and gem lab industries, her entrepreneurial skills and vision have helped GSI achieve rapid and continuous growth worldwide, establishing 13 leading-edge gemological facilities on four continents. She currently serves on the boards of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, Responsible Jewellery Council, and Jewelers for Children, and is a member of the 24 Karat Club of New York. She has been featured in Forbes, Daily Mail, Good Morning America, Bloomberg, Bloomberg Businessweek, Fox Business, Fox5, CBS2, BOLDTV, Varney&Co, The Street, and NASDAQ, among others.