In 1928, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala arrived at Cartier’s headquarters in Paris. He presented 2,930 diamonds, including one inherited from his father which was the world’s seventh-largest diamond at the time, with a pre-cut weight of 428 carat; the ’De Beers’. He asked the famed Parisian jewellers to make him a necklace. They obliged knowing that India was synonymous with wealth, and the association would catapult their own reputation.
The Prince of Patiala wore his necklace regularly until his death in 1938, and it was last seen worn by his son in 1941 – after which it went mysteriously missing from the Patiala treasury.
Bizarrely, in 1982, the necklace appeared at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva, then sold for $3.16 million – a tenth of its estimated worth today. The necklace’s platinum links were found in a second-hand jewellery shop in London. Cartier, proud of their heritage and craftmanship, restored the necklace.
However, the restoration is a shell of its previous glory – the missing De Beers stone and Burmese rubies which were replaced by synthetic stones and cubic zirconium.