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What Is the Tiffany Diamond and Why Are People Mad at Beyoncé for Wearing It?

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 09: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been edited using digital filters) Beyoncé attends the premiere of Disney's "The Lion King" at Dolby Theatre on July 09, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

The Tiffany Yellow Diamond is one of the largest yellow diamonds ever unearthed, and it has become a huge fashion symbol since its 1878 discovery in South Africa. Beyoncé became the fourth woman and first Black woman to wear the yellow diamond, which caused some fans to address the colonial history connected to the cushion-cut 128.54-carat gemstone.

Tiffany & Co shared that Beyoncé and JAY-Z would star in its latest campaign celebrating modern love. Images from the campaign announcement have Beyoncé in a Breakfast at Tiffany’s inspired dress wearing the Tiffany diamond and JAY-Z in front of a rare Basquiat. It is very much wealth on display among the art of a noted non-capitalist Black artist.

Previously, as Wikipedia notes, the diamond—estimated at a value of about $30 million—was worn by Mrs. E. Sheldon Whitehouse at the 1957 Tiffany Ball, Audrey Hepburn in 1961 publicity photographs for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and in 2019, Lady Gaga wore the diamond at the 91st Academy Awards.

So why is Beyoncé being taken to task for wearing the diamond? Well, because Beyoncé is one of the biggest Black artists in the world and just recently came off of her Black Is King musical film and visual album, which was all about celebrating people of the African diaspora and African culture. To have spent so much time on a project like that, yet wearing a symbol of imperialism reads as Beyoncé only using Africa as a prop and detached to the history.

The Tiffany Yellow Diamond was “discovered” at the Kimberley mine in South Africa in 1878. At the time, “British forces launched battles of conquest and harsh discriminatory practices against African tribes and laborers. South Africa’s conflict-ridden mining industry paved the way for apartheid,” explained The Washington Post’s Karen Attiah in a piece called “Sorry, Beyoncé, but Tiffany’s blood diamonds aren’t a girl’s best friend.” It is considered by many to be a “blood diamond.”

Predominantly Black miners were subjected to horrific conditions and sometimes received no pay for their work, but are responsible for “discovering” a diamond that is one of the most exclusive and expensive in the world.

Tiffany & Co are attempting to highlight inclusion, but all this campaign has done is illustrated that Black people cannot be copied and pasted into places of white wealth. Just because Lady Gaga’s wearing of it did not end up being controversial doesn’t mean an issue wasn’t always present. Adding Beyoncé to the campaign only showed that Black folks can be made into agents of white supremacy without fully realizing it.

Following the controversy, a source close to Beyoncé shared that the superstar is “disappointed and angry” that she wasn’t made aware of the diamond’s history before starring in the campaign. Regardless, this is a misstep that has called on everyone to think about the relationship between us and the jewelry industry.

Especially if you didn’t see Uncut Gems.

(image: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.