The Patiala Necklace
The House of Cartier is synonymous with ostentatious, though tasteful, displays of wealth. So it’s no surprise that when they set about making a necklace for Bhupinder Singh of Patiala in 1928, they spared no expense. As the ruling Maharaja of the state of Patiala, India, Singh was used to the finer things in life, so making a piece of jewelry that would be the centerpiece of his collection was no easy feat. Nevertheless, the House of Cartier did it, and the Patiala Necklace was soon regarded as one of the most exquisite pieces ever made.
In all, the necklace contained an incredible 2,930 diamonds. But that’s not all. Its centerpiece was the De Beers Diamond, the seventh largest in the world, with a pre-cut weight of 428 carats. That in itself was worth a small fortune. Alongside this huge stone, the necklace was adorned with seven other large diamonds and several Burmese rubies, again all worth huge sums of money.
As is customary, Bhupinder Singh passed the necklace onto his son, Maharaja Yadavindra Singh, who was last seen wearing it in 1948. Then, it simply vanished. It’s possible the family knew what happened to it but preferred to stay silent. Indeed, it could well be that the family fell on hard times and needed money so desperately that they decided to break the necklace apart and sell off its individual jewels on the international market. However, nobody knows for certain what led it to vanish from the Patiala royal treasury in April of 1948.
In a strange twist, the De Beers diamond reappeared some years later. It turned up at a Sotheby’s Auction in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1982. Despite the strange circumstances surrounding the stone and its sudden re-discovery, it was sold for $3.16 million, a significant sum at the time but only a fraction of what it’s likely to fetch today. But that’s not all. In 1998, a representative of the House of Cartier unexpectedly came across the remains of the Patiala Necklace in a London antiques shop. Surely the story of lost treasure was over? Not quite.
Cartier may well have been able to reconstruct the necklace, complete with a replica of the De Beers Diamond, but many of the original jewels remain missing. In fact, all seven of the other large diamonds, the biggest 73 carats, are unaccounted for, as are the striking Burmese rubies. Could it be that they too are waiting to be discovered in an obscure antique shop, laying the mystery of one of India’s greatest treasures to rest once and for all? Only time will tell.