Beyonce and jewelry company Tiffany & Co. have sparked controversy after the musician became the first black woman to wear the iconic ‘Tiffany Diamond’, with critics arguing the famous stone was ‘stolen’ during the colonial era.
Tiffany & Co. announced on Monday that Beyonce has become the first black woman – and only the fourth woman ever – to wear the “legendary stone” as part of the company’s new ‘About Love’ campaign, fronted by Beyonce and her rapper husband Jay-Z.
“The priceless Tiffany Diamond has only been worn by three women since its discovery in 1877,” Tiffany & Co. declared on Twitter. The three previous wearers were Mrs. E. Sheldon Whitehouse in 1957, iconic actress Audrey Hepburn in 1961, and pop musician Lady Gaga in 2019.
Many on social media weren’t as excited about the historic ‘first’, however, with critics pointing to problematic colonial history surrounding the discovery of the precious yellow stone.
The yellow diamond was mined in Kimberley, South Africa in 1877 and is one of the largest of its kind to have ever been discovered. Tiffany & Co. founder Charles Lewis Tiffany – an American – purchased the diamond the following year, and it has remained with the company ever since. It weighs 128.54 carats.
“So many wealthy white institutions created their wealth stealing priceless resources from Africa. Then the colonizers sell us feel good stories about the first black woman to wear a stone stolen from a black continent,” one black American woman protested.
Several users referred to the stone as a “blood diamond,” and Maclean’s Magazine’s contributing editor Andray Domise dug up several quotes from a spokesperson of the Kimberley mines – where the diamond was discovered – disparagingly referring to “n******” who worked in the mines at the time.
Critics also accused Beyonce of hypocrisy for portraying herself as a supporter of African culture while simultaneously wearing a stone mined and sold during colonialism.
Black South Africans provided much of the labor in the Kimberley mines and lived in tough and unhealthy conditions, segregated from white people. Many miners died from poor health and mining accidents.
Some social media users did come to Beyonce’s defense, arguing that less criticism was directed towards Lady Gaga when she wore the same diamond in 2019.
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