Despite the fact that gemstones have been an obsession of humankind for at least 100,000 years and movies have been our obsession since their inception in the late 1800’s, there is a surprisingly small overlap in the movie world and gem and jewelry world. After a bit of research and a lot of movie watching, I’ve come up with a nice list for fans of all things sparkly. To make this list reasonable, I’ve included only movies that have gems or jewelry involved in the central plot of the film, listed in order of release.
Uncut Gems (2019)
A charismatic New York City jeweler always on the lookout for the next big score makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime. Howard must perform a precarious high-wire act, balancing business, family, and encroaching adversaries on all sides in his relentless pursuit of the ultimate win.
King of Thieves (2018)
A crew of retired crooks pulls off a major heist in London’s jewelry district, but what begins as a nostalgic last hurrah for the group quickly becomes a brutal nightmare when greed overtakes them. This exciting film features lots of screen time in London’s Hatton Garden neighborhood as well as flashback scenes to classic heist films.
Oceans 8 (2018)
Five years, eight months, 12 days and counting — that’s how long Debbie Ocean has been devising the biggest heist of her life. She knows what it’s going to take — a team of the best people in the field, starting with her partner-in-crime Lou Miller. Together, they recruit a crew of specialists, including jeweler Amita, street con Constance, suburban mom Tammy, hacker Nine Ball, and fashion designer Rose. Their target — a necklace that’s worth more than $150 million.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
It’s the height of the Cold War, and famous archaeologist Indiana Jones , returning from his latest adventure, finds out his job at Marshall College is in jeopardy. He meets Mutt , a young man who wants Indy to help him find the legendary Crystal Skull of Akator, and the pair set out for Peru. However, deadly agent Irina Spalko is searching for the powerful artifact, too, because the Soviets believe it can help them conquer the world. *Not exactly a jewelry gem movie but the word “Crystal Skull” is in the title so I couldn’t resist! :)
To win the heart of his beloved, a young man named Tristan ventures into the realm of fairies to retrieve a fallen star. What Tristan finds, however, is not a chunk of space rock, but a woman named Yvaine. Yvaine is in great danger, for the king’s sons need her powers to secure the throne, and an evil witch wants to use her to achieve eternal youth and beauty.
Blood Diamond (2006)
As civil war rages through 1990s Sierra Leone, two men, a white South African mercenary and a black Mende fisherman, become joined in a common quest to recover a rare gem that has the power to transform their lives. With the help of an American journalist, the men embark on a hazardous trek through rebel territory to achieve their goal.
After the Sunset (2004)
Having already stolen two from the set of three priceless Napoleon Diamonds, expert jewel thief Max Burdett decides to retire on a tropical island with his girlfriend and partner-in-crime, Lola. Fate intervenes, however, when Max discovers the third and final diamond is sitting on a docked cruise ship on his very island. It should be a simple job, but FBI agent Stan Lloyd shows up to make sure Max doesn’t get any ideas.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
Harry Potter is a boy who learns on his eleventh birthday that he is the orphaned son of two powerful wizards and possesses unique magical powers of his own. He is summoned from his life as an unwanted child to become a student at Hogwarts, an English boarding school for wizards. There, he meets several friends who become his closest allies and help him discover the truth about his parents’ mysterious deaths. *This one is a slight stretch but my love for Harry Potter and the fact that the word stone is in the title means that this movie acceptable for this list! :)
The Affair of the Necklace (2001)
Romantic drama based on the controversial true story of Jeanne De La Motte Valois, a countess whose name was stripped from her by the Royal Family during the late 18th Century. The story of her fight to restore her name and proper place in society is filled with mystery, intrigue and desire, with an infamous diamond necklace at the center of it all.
Illegal boxing promoter Turkish convinces gangster Brick Top to offer bets on bare-knuckle boxer Mickey at his bookie business. When Mickey does not throw his first fight as agreed, an infuriated Brick Top demands another match. Meanwhile, gangster Frankie Four Fingers comes to place a bet for a friend with Brick Top’s bookies, as multiple criminals converge on a stolen diamond that Frankie has come to London to sell.
Blood and Wine (1996)
A safecracker, Victor Spanksy, a philandering husband, Alex Gates, an angry stepson and an illegal immigrant make a up a seething stew of jealousy, greed and ambition which can only be assuaged by a million-dollar diamond necklace. After burning through his wife’s fortune, Gates, who is desperate to run away with his mistress, Gabriella, a nanny, arranges the theft with Spansky, unaware of his stepson’s intent to ruin him.
Romancing the Stone (1984)
A dowdy romantic-adventure writer is hurled into a real-life adventure in the Colombian jungle in order to save her sister, who will be killed if a treasure map is not delivered to her captors. She is helped out by a brash mercenary, and together they search for the priceless gem located in the map. This one is definitely recommended for fans of the Indiana Jones movie series.
The Dark Crystal (1982)
Jen, raised by the noble race called the Mystics, has been told that he is the last survivor of his own race, the Gelflings. He sets out to try to find a shard of the dark crystal, a powerful gem that once provided balance to the universe. After the crystal was broken, the evil Skeksis used sinister means to gain control. Jen believes that he can repair the dark crystal and bring peace back to the world, if he can only find the remaining shard.
The Pink Panther (1963)
In this first film of the beloved comic series, dashing European thief Sir Charles Lytton plans to steal a diamond, but he’s not the only one with his eyes on the famous jewel known as the “Pink Panther.” His nephew George also aims to make off with the gem, and to frame Charles for the crime. Blundering French police inspector Jacques Clouseau intercedes, but finds his career — and his freedom — jeopardized.
Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
Based on Truman Capote’s novel, this is the story of a young woman in New York City who meets a young man when he moves into her apartment building. The films begins with Audrey Hepburn stepping out of a taxi as the sun is rising on an empty Fifth Avenue in front of the Tiffany’s jewelry store. She’s wearing the iconic Hubert de Givenchy, otherwise known as the most amazing black dress in the history of black dresses. It’s accessorized with gargantuan costume pearls, big earrings and a mini-tiara in her immaculate blonde streaked brunette up-do. For dramatic effect she pauses on the sidewalk and takes a long look at her favorite place in the city before approaching the jewel filled window displays. As she lingers over the splendor Hepburn, rather pricelessly, pulls a cup of coffee and a pastry out of the paper bag she is holding and enjoys, well, you know, breakfast at Tiffany’s. This movie not only did great things for the jewelry industry but Tiffany itself as Hepburn infused Tiffany and Co. with all the charm and glamour she delivered in her performance.
To Catch a Thief (1955)
Notorious cat burglar John Robie has long since retired to tend vineyards on the French Riviera. When a series of robberies is committed in his style, John must clear his name. Armed with a list of people who own the most expensive jewels currently in the area, John begins following the first owner, young Francie. When her jewels are stolen, Francie suspects John, destroying their tentative romance. John goes on the lam to catch the thief and clear his own name. A Hitchcock Classic!
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
The plot of this Broadway musical turned film about Lorelei Lee, a gold-digger from Arkansas is less important than its impact on the diamond industry at the time. Marilyn Monroe’s lusty take on the song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in the film “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” may have been influenced by the publicists working for De Beers. “She bombarded Hollywood with this new rallying cry: Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. The song, along with De Beers successful tagline ‘Diamonds are forever,’ provided two definitive pop-culture statements about the role jewels should play in people’s lives.” “[Monroe] made Lorelei look so glamorous that even the most prudent woman in the audience was apt to forget herself. And if that woman — or, perhaps, her increasingly anxious husband feeling his wife’s pulse rise — was both inclined to shop after watching the film, the song let them know exactly where to go: ‘Tiffany’s!/Cartier!/Black, Starr, Frost, Gorham!/Talk to me, Harry Winston/Tell me all about it!’” writes Rachelle Bergstein, author of Brilliance and Fire: A Biography of Diamonds.
The Diamond Queen (1953)
In late 17th-century France, master jeweller Tavernier miscuts a diamond meant for Louis XIV’s crown and is thrown into prison. His only hope of release is for his son, Jean Baptiste, to travel to India, together with a member of the court, to find a replacement jewel. Their journey involves danger, capture, torture and the attentions of the sultry Queen Maya.
Maltese Falcon (1941)
In this noir classic, detective Sam Spade gets more than he bargained for when he takes a case brought to him by a beautiful but secretive woman . As soon as Miss Wonderly shows up, trouble follows as Sam’s partner is murdered and Sam is accosted by a man demanding he locate a valuable statuette. Sam, entangled in a dangerous web of crime and intrigue, soon realizes he must find the one thing they all seem to want: the bejeweled Maltese falcon.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Disney’s first animated feature contains several scenes showing us the Dwarfs whistle while they mine gemstones, so I couldn’t leave off this one. Jealous of Snow White’s beauty, the wicked queen orders the murder of her innocent stepdaughter, but later discovers that Snow White is still alive and hiding in a cottage with seven friendly little miners. Disguising herself as a hag, the queen brings a poisoned apple to Snow White, who falls into a death-like sleep that can be broken only by a kiss from the prince.
I‘ve also created a YouTube playlist that has trailer for each film on the list. Click on the icon in the top left corner of the video to select which trailer you’d like to see:
About the Author
Justin K Prim is an American lapidary and gemologist living and working in Bangkok, Thailand. He has studied gemcutting traditions all over the world as well as attending gemology programs at GIA and AIGS. He is currently working on a book about the worldwide history of gemstone faceting. He works as a Faceting Instructor for the Institute of Gem Trading as well as writing articles, producing videos, and giving talks about gem cutting history.
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