No one knows exactly when diamond rivières came into being, but there are theories.
Many believe that the diamond choker’s origins date back to 1811 when, in celebration of the birth of their son, Napoleon gifted his second wife, Marie Louise, a jewel composed of 28 round old-mine diamonds suspending a fringe pattern of large pear-shaped diamonds.
Now part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection, the Napoleon Diamond Necklace isn’t by strict definition a rivière, but definitely showcases the style roots of the design in terms of its choker element.
Not to mention the jewel has clear links to its French name.
Rivière literally translates to “river”. In jewelry, this loosely means a river of gems. If you are wondering how to pronounce it, the French say ree-vyer; in English it’s pronounced riv-ee-air.
The diamond rivière style we know today became popular after the 1871 discovery of the Kimberley Mine in South Africa when diamonds flowed into the western market. Over time, there have been slight variations in its appearance, and major differences in how and where it has been worn.
Great Britain’s Queen Mary had a 100-carat collet-set diamond rivière that was made around 1900 and epitomized the style. During the mid-twentieth century, Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth II’s chic sister, inherited the jewel and wore it often on its own as well as layered with other pieces.
In Hollywood during the same era, diamond rivières and strapless gowns became a formula for great eveningwear. In the 1946 film Gilda, Rita Hayworth showed how sexy the accessory could be when she wore one with a black satin number for her flirtatious performance of “Put the Blame on Mame”.
Today, celebrities are once again wearing diamond rivières. The list of stars who, for the red carpet, have worn one, two or even layered three diamond rivières includes practically every A-lister (Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence, Zoë Kravitz and Dakota Johnson just to name a few).
Some of the diamond rivières that have appeared on the red carpet are almost as splashy as the pieces royalty donned in the past. The two Tiffany jewels Zoë Kravitz had on at the 2017 Emmys added up to a total cost of around $440,000.
Changing the style’s formal reputation, delicate rivières have been spotted being breezily paired with jeans, t-shirts and even athleisure by celebrities, stylists and jewelry designers among others.
Behati Prinsloo and Gigi Hadid have both been spotted in their Jacquie Aiche diamond rivières in casual street style mode.
Uber cool stylist Danielle Goldberg, who dresses Laura Harrier among others, posted an end-of-summer selfie on Instagram wearing her Alison Lou diamond rivière and a white t-shirt.
With all of the modern ways to sport a rivière, there has been something of a name change—or make that expansion—on the original French moniker.
One revision, albeit unintentional, is the mispronunciation as riviera (riv-ee-air-uh), which wrongfully conjures the French Riviera on the Mediterranean.
To work around the pronunciation issue, some designers have rechristened rivières with completely new names.
One popular alternative is diamond eternity necklace. The reference to “eternity” comes from diamond eternity bands.
Another variation on the name is a spin on diamond tennis bracelets. Some designers call the style a diamond tennis necklace.
There are also designers that just skirt the pronunciation or new names entirely by simply naming their diamond rivières, necklaces or chokers.
No matter what you call them, the jewels are a treasure to add to any collection. They look spectacular worn alone or layered. The style provides a radiance that is something akin to walking around with your own ring light, but far more magical.