The annual Met Gala red carpet is known to be a prestigious event that brings out the fashion critique in all of us.
For the uninitiated, the Met Gala or the Met Ball formally called the Costume Institute Gala is a fundraising gala held for the benefit of the Museum of Metropolitan Arts Costume Institute located in New York. This year’s Met Gala theme was an ode to the Gilded Age, where luxury and grandeur were epitomised in all aspects including fashion.
As avid followers of the annual event, we too found ourselves glued to our screens for a glimpse of our favourite celebrities on the revered red carpet. From Elon Musk to Natasha Poonwalla, the list of industry biggies making their appearance this year enthralled us all.
From the infamous Marylin Monroe dress to the Statue of Liberty homage, the ensembles hitting the red carpet this year packed a mixed punch of hits and misses. Amongst the most talked about celebrities was well known American Youtube star, Emma Chamberlain and her Louis Vuitton ensemble. However, stealing the limelight was her choice of diamond choker that has been the talk of the internet this past week and for all the wrong reasons.
While the diamond choker was credited to be a Cartier piece through Emma’s Instagram posts and multiple tabloids, the real origins of the stunning jewellery finds its roots in India’s colonized past.
The infamous choker originally belonged to the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh and was commissioned by the ruler in 1928. At the time, the Punjabi ruler decided to convert his De Beers Diamond, also regarded as the seventh-largest diamond in the world into an heirloom famously regarded as the Patiala choker. The jeweled piece had been designed by French jewellery maker Cartier upon being commissioned by the Patiala royal himself.
Decked with precious gemstones and the golf ball-sized De Beers diamond in the middle, the necklace weighed over a thousand carats. When Jacques Cartier visited India, he discovered the expanse of India’s incredible gemstone collection and spread its glory in the vast west. It is said that the gemstones adorning the choker originally were supplied by the Sikh ruler himself, a testimony to the incredible collection of gemstones possessed by Indian rulers at the time.
Cartier’s image benefitted from the Patiala choker project when the brand exhibited the maharaja’s gemstone collection at 13 Rue de a Paix. Visitors from all across the globe flocked to catch a glimpse of the prestigious choker. The choker was reported to be stolen from the Patiala royal treasury in 1948. Years later, the Debeers diamond made a mysterious reappearance at a 1982 Sotheby’s auction. Later on, the necklace was retrieved at a small antique shop by Cartier and the necklace came to be restored by the jewellery brand.
The distasteful use of the historic jewel piece has caused an uproar with netizens all around the world as the artefact testifies to a dark age of suffering of colonial oppression that the brand and the model remain oblivious about.
The western lens on fashion has a notorious history of blurring the lines between cultural appreciation and appropriation that can only be deemed disrespectful and ignorant. The choker represents the stark contrast that plagued Indian society during British rule. A Twitter user noted how... “the history of the piece is very reflective that the biggest jewellery pieces being commissioned by European jewellers were the Indian and Anglo elite of the British Raj. A choker, with however many stones, symbolizes India’s drained wealth when the average Indian struggled with famine and systemic destruction of communities”.
It is imperative to understand that the million-dollar piece further testifies how India’s cotton, silk, stone cutting processes, metalwork, printmaking methods, and fabric draping methods, were stolen from native communities and appropriated by the west.
The scandal points back to the blatant misappropriation and disregard for cultural heritage and a pompous display of what can only be regarded as ‘stolen’ pieces of history.
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