The erstwhile Maharajas of India were never wary of displaying their wealth in public. Their fondness for diamonds and gems was seen in their every day dressing as they used to be all decked up head-to-toe in these rarest of the rare gems and most opulent diamonds one could ever find. One such Maharaja, who was was fond of diamonds and necklaces was Bhupinder Singh of Patiala. He bought the seventh largest diamond in the world, the De Beers diamond in 1889, when it was exhibited at the Paris Universal exhibition. This diamond was mined in South Africa in 1888. And that’s how the famous story of the lost Patiala Necklace begins.
The Maharaja was 34 when he decided to turn the De Beers diamond into an heirloom piece and commissioned Cartier to make a ceremonial necklace with the De Beers diamond being its centerpiece. The necklace was finally made in 1928 and it came to be known as the Patiala Necklace. It has five rows of platinum chains embellished with 2930 diamonds and some Burmese rubies. This was the most expensive piece of necklace ever made in the history and it would have costed some 30 million dollars today in its original form.
It was in the year 1948, that the diamond necklace sparked controversy after it went missing from the Patiala royal treasury. For 32 years, there was no sign of this necklace, when suddenly the De Beers diamond reappeared at Sotheby’s auction in 1982. It was just the diamond without the necklace. A part of a necklace was then seen in an antique shop in London. Cartier later bought the necklace and replaced the missing stones with replicas.