Released in 1997, director’s James Cameron’s Titanic was even more expensive than the actual RMS Titanic due to the CGI and special effects that weren’t commonplace in Hollywood studios at the time required to make Cameron’s film into a blockbuster hit movie.
You know how much I like special effects. I especially loved how the period fashion and effects in Titanic were so realistic. Notice how the film incorporates real-life scenes and people that were in the actual sinking. The theme of class consciousness isn’t so in-your-face like a lot of rich-girl-poor-boy movies. Also, the bittersweet ending showed Rose was capable of living a fulfilled life even without Jack.
But one aspect I want to talk about is not the people, but the props: specifically, the famous Heart of the Ocean.
What Is the Heart of the Ocean?
The Heart of the Ocean is a fictional blue diamond set in a heart-shaped pendant. At a glance, you can see why a part of the film focused on the necklace’s value and why it was such a recurring symbol throughout the film. The large blue diamond is surrounded with smaller diamonds and set on a 925 sterling silver necklace chain. This is the standard for fine jewelry at the time, so we’ll assume Cal Hockley spared no expense buying his fiancé’s engagement present. However, you’ve got to remember that this is Hollywood, so what looks expensive may only be due to the craftsmanship… but more on that later.
The Hope Diamond
While the Heart of the Ocean exists only in the film, fans speculate this was based on the Hope Diamond, a blue diamond that shares a similar story. According to the treasure hunters in Titanic, the Heart of the Ocean was a 56-carat diamond that was once a diamond in Louis XVI’s crown until he was executed in 1793 and the diamond was set into a necklace. In real life, the Hope Diamond weighed 45 carats and belonged to Louis XIV and his descendants until it was stolen in 1791 – around the same time as the French Revolution when Louis XVI was deposed and executed.
That is where the similarities end, though. The Hope Diamond resurfaced in 1839 in a gem collection of a wealthy banking family. Since then, it was passed around by many notable owners before Harry Winston donated it to the National Museum of Natural History in 1958. Legend has it that the Hope Diamond carried a curse that brings tragedy and misfortune to the owner. Its long list of wealthy owners experienced major losses and met tragic ends – including the French royal family – hence the superstition that the diamond is cursed.
The Heart of the Ocean in Titanic
Titanic begins with treasure hunter Brock Lovett (played by Bill Paxton) and his team searching the ruins of the legendary RMS Titanic. for the priceless necklace, Heart of the Ocean. After Louis XVI, the necklace passed to an unknown number of owners until it reached the possession of Cal Hockley (Billy Zane), an heir to a Pittsburgh steel fortune.
Lovett believes that the necklace is in the Titanic wreckage after Hockley survived the sinking and reported it as missing. His beliefs are further solidified when he finds a drawing of a nude woman wearing the necklace dated on the day of the ship’s sinking.
A 101-year old woman named Rose Dawson Calvert (played by Kate Winslet) steps forward and reveals that she is Rose DeWitt Bukater, a survivor of the Titanic and Hockley’s former fiancé. She was given the Heart of the Ocean as an engagement present. But hours before the Titanic collided with an iceberg Rose had a romantic relationship with starving artist, Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) and posed for him wearing nothing but the fabulous necklace.
You can see what kind of person Hockley is because as the ship is sinking, Hockley gathers all his valuables before he heads to the lifeboats. He also takes the necklace from Rose and places in his overcoat pocket. However, he forgets about the necklace when he gives Rose his coat to protect her from the freezing
In the ending, Rose discovers the necklace in her coat as she arrives in New York harbor. She had kept quiet about her possession of it for years and, on the stern of Lovett’s ship, drops the necklace onto the wreckage. In an alternate ending released in 2005, Lovett, her granddaughter, and other crew members see the Heart of the Ocean for a moment before she throws it into the ocean.
The Heart of the Ocean as a Prop
While the treasure hunters claim that the Heart of the Ocean would be even more expensive than the Hope Diamond, in reality, the necklace was a prop that wasn’t as expensive as the Hope Diamond valued at $350 million.
The blue diamond was actually a Tanzanite stone, which cost less than a thousand dollars for AAA Grade quality. The small diamonds surrounding it were cubic zirconia, which cost around $20 per carat. These stones were set in white gold, a fine metal that cost a few thousand dollars. All in all, the prop necklace shouldn’t have cost more than a few thousand dollars at most.
The Asprey & Garrard Necklace
After the film’s success, UK-based jewelers Asprey & Garrard were tasked to create a genuinely valuable necklace that looked like the Heart of the Ocean. The result consisted of a 171-carat sapphire and 103 diamonds set in platinum.
In 1998, the necklace was donated to an auction to benefit Aid For Aids and was sold to an unknown bidder for $1.4 million. The bidder bought the necklace under the agreement that singer Celine Dion would wear the necklace in the 1998 Academy Awards for two nights. Dion is the only known person to wear the genuine Heart of the Ocean, as the owner never made the necklace seen in the public sphere again.
Since the movie’s success, jewelers and other companies would try to sell replicas of this iconic necklace. Some necklaces come in low-grade stones and can sell for as low as $5, while better quality replicas can fetch thousands of dollars.
The necklace symbolizes Rose’s love for Jack and how nothing or no one could stand between the love they had for each other – no matter how brief and tragic their relationship was – so I can see why many women would be interested in getting their hands on one of these replicas.