Finally, the Academy Awards are this Sunday! The Super Bowl of jewellery—not to mention, the most important awards show of the season—is airing on ABC at 8 p.m. ET. And while it may not be total business as usual because of the pandemic, producers are still promising something special and glamorous.
In anticipation of it all, we’re taking a look back at 11 of the best diamond jewels ever worn at the Academy Awards. Fun fact: way back in 1929 when the annual show first began, the diamond jewellery worn by celebrities was generally smaller in scale; the bijoux blitz that we know and love today was ignited in 1970 by Elizabeth Taylor, really heated up in the 1990s, and has grown bigger every year since.
1. Elizabeth Taylor in the Taylor Burton Diamond Necklace by Cartier, 1970
The audience knew all the details of the big diamond jewel Elizabeth Taylor wore to announce the 1970 Best Picture Oscar. The 69.42 carat pear-shaped diamond made headline news around the world just a few months before the awards show when Richard Burton acquired it from Cartier for just over $1 million. The New York Daily News headline touted “Liz Gets That Peachy Pear.” Burton told The New York Times, “It’s just a present for Liz.”
2. Angela Bassett in Harry Winston, 1996
In the last several years, it has almost become routine for stars to wear diamond jewellery worth millions. But back in 1996, a jewel worth just $1 million was still newsworthy. Well, the 273 carat diamond necklace by Harry Winston that Angela Bassett sported was valued at a whopping $9 million. Attended by extra security, and reportedly so nervous about being left alone with it, she even had guards accompany her to the ladies’ room.
3. Celine Dion in Chanel, 1997
In 1995, Chanel relaunched a collection inspired by the one and only diamond jewellery collection Coco Chanel had ever designed. The first high-profile moment for the new jewels happened at the 1997 Oscars when Celine Dion wore a Chanel Comète necklace in the exact size and scale as the one originally made by Chanel in 1932. The singer paired the masterpiece with new diamond star studs.
4. Nicole Kidman in Bulgari, 2002
Nicole Kidman not only wore Bulgari to several of her red-carpet appearances in the early aughts, she also got involved in the designs. “She sketched a wraparound necklace with a tail down the back,” Nicola Bulgari said shortly after Kidman wore the jewel. “We wanted it to look as if it wrapped the neck casually, but the diamonds had to be separated to keep them from scratching one another.” A design team in Rome, where Bulgari is based, worked out the technical difficulties.
5. Jennifer Lopez in Fred Leighton, 2003
After she shared her interest in bohemian style earrings made entirely in diamonds, Fred Leighton whipped up these earrings for Jennifer Lopez as an Oscars option. Indian Mughal jewellery, a specialty of Fred Leighton at the time, inspired the silhouette of the earrings. Diamond briolettes weighing a total of 31 carats, added texture and movement to the design.
6. Beyoncé in Lorraine Schwartz, 2005
Beyoncé has worn Lorraine Schwartz’s jewellery consistently and almost exclusively on red carpets since around 2004. It’s easy to understand why Queen Bey has chosen Lorraine’s jewellery year in and year out: the jewellery designer makes sure every occasion is special. At the 2005 Oscars, Beyoncé debuted Lorraine’s now signature mesh diamond style, featuring a fluid fabric-like setting with lots of movement and major impact.
7. Jennifer Aniston in vintage Bulgari, 2006
As breezily as sporting a pair of jeans, Jennifer Aniston tossed on a 137 carat Art Deco diamond treasure from the Bulgari archive collection at the 2006 Oscars. Making one of her most unforgettable red carpet looks, the beloved necklace has been published in several books and displayed in exhibitions, including the 2011 Bulgari: 125 Years of Italian Magnificence exhibit at the Grand Palais in Paris. Too good not to put on repeat, Ashley Judd also wore the jewel—this time in old Hollywood glam style—to the 2018 Oscar awards.
8. Natalie Portman in vintage Harry Winston, 2012
Natalie Portman delivered some serious diamond drama at the 2012 Oscars in a 100 carat Harry Winston necklace made around 1954. Though the jewel’s cluster design was relatively new at the time, it would go on to become one of Winston’s most influential and signature styles. To this day there is rarely an Oscar ceremony where someone doesn’t wear a jewel in this mode. Portman doubled down on the mid-century glam and paired the necklace with a vintage red and black polka dot Dior Haute couture gown made during the same period. Her final touch of fire: diamond drop earrings weighing around 11 carats.
9. Jessica Biel in Tiffany, 2017
The avant garde almost $2 million necklace that Jessica Biel sported at the Oscars in 2017 came from the Tiffany & Co. rainforest-inspired Art of the Wild collection. The jewel, which took almost a year to make, features a collar with 200 baguette cut diamonds weighing around 60 carats. Diamond fronds are interspersed among the 350 gold fronds on the bib of the necklace. Each moves independently.
10. Zendaya in vintage Bulgari, 2018
Zendaya looked like a veteran of the Oscar red carpet the very first time she stepped on it in 2018. The petite superstar carried off big time vintage Bulgari diamond jewels from the firm’s archive collection, instantly creating an unforgettable style moment.
11. Lady Gaga in the Tiffany Diamond, 2019
In 2019, Lady Gaga made history when she wore the epic and historic 128.54-carat Tiffany Diamond to the Oscars. The giant yellow diamond was purchased as of piece of rough by founder Charles Lewis Tiffany in 1877. Mr. Tiffany sent the firm’s gemologist, George Frederick Kunz, with the stone to Paris to oversee the cutting into a cushion shaped brilliant.
The diamond has only been worn two other times over the years. Once by a socialite for a fundraiser during the 1950s and once by Audrey Hepburn for press photos while she was filming Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In 2012, the Tiffany Diamond was mounted in a diamond necklace to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the firm. That jewel was customized to fit Lady Gaga when she wore it at the Oscars.