Emma Chamberlain Wore Stolen Jewels to the Met Gala, Yet the World Remains Silent
The Met Gala is easily the most anticipated fashion event of the year. Despite the gross display of wealth, normal folk (me included) wait eagerly to see celebrities step out in extravagant dresses, some of which have been in the works for months.
Celebs on the guest list work with their stylists and designers to help curate the perfect look, and while most usually miss the mark when it comes to the theme, it’s almost guaranteed that someone’s ensemble is going to be talked about after the red carpet.
This year, people cannot stop talking about Kim Kardashian, albeit for all the wrong reasons. After she stepped out in Marilyn Monroe’s iconic dress, which she wore in 1962 when she sang “Happy Birthday Mr President” to President John F Kennedy, fans of the late movie star were furious. Kardashian faced criticism with people saying it was disrespectful to not only Marilyn herself but to fashion history.
Nearly a week later, the story is still dominating headlines. It comes as no surprise — it is Kim Kardashian, after all, but there’s another piece of history that was worn on the carpet that isn’t being talked about nearly as much.
Influencer Emma Chamberlain, the newest brand ambassador for Cartier, accessorised her Louis Vuitton two-piece with a Cartier choker. It was certainly the focal point of her look, but what most people don’t know is that the piece once belonged to an Indian Maharaja.
Maharaja of Patiala Bhupinder Singh was 34-years-old when he decided to turn his De Beers diamond — the 7th largest in the world at the time— into an heirloom piece. The necklace was finally created by Cartier in 1928, and it came to be known as the Patiala Necklace.
The stunning piece of jewellery had five rows of platinum chains, embellished with 2930 diamonds and Burmese rubies. Till today, it was the most expensive item of jewellery ever made and in its original form, would cost $30 million.
Twenty years later, in 1948, the world was sent into shockwaves after the necklace was stolen from the Patiala royal treasury. For 32 years, there was no sign of it, until one day, the De Beers diamond reappeared at Sotheby’s auction in 1982. The necklace had been deconstructed, and only the diamond was being sold to the highest bidder. The stone was purchased by Cartier, who then managed to find the missing necklace in an antique shop in London.
It’s funny that Kardashian wearing Monroe’s dress would cause such an uproar, but something like this is brushed under the rug. The De Beers diamond has a deep and painful history attached to it. It’s one thing to not return it to its rightful owners, but it’s another to have a white woman wear it to a red carpet event.
At the time of writing, only two media outlets had reported on the choker Chamberlain wore: The Indian Express and the Times of India. Everyone else has been more focused on the skincare she used, her viral interaction with Jack Harlow, and has written pieces praising her “jaw-dropping Met Gala look”.
I wish I could say that I was surprised, but sadly, I’ve come to expect issues plaguing people of colour to be pushed aside. What’s even more shocking, is that in a TikTok for Cartier, Chamberlain is heard saying: “It’s such an honour to get wear these pieces because they have so much history. This is the necklace. It feels far too good. There’s nothing more glamorous than 700+ diamonds from 1928.”
So yes, the cultural significance behind the choker seemed to be known before she stepped out in it. Of course, Chamberlain isn’t the only one at fault here, and a large part of the blame falls on Cartier.
While Cartier was the one who created the original piece, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the heirloom was taken from its original home. No, Cartier was not the one who stole it, but the least they could do is acknowledge its history.
The entire ordeal hits particularly hard because when the British Empire took over India, they capitalised on the country’s jewels and exploited its natural assets. Many stolen artifacts are yet to be returned.
I strongly believe the jewels should be returned to their rightful owner, but if not, could they not have given them to a South Asian celebrity to wear? I guess nothing screams Guilded Glamour more than colonisation.