This is one of the most famous jewels in history – fictional history!
J. Peterman ‘Heart of the Ocean’ Necklace from the 1997 blockbuster, ‘TITANIC’.
In as-new condition and in the original presentation box, this iconic necklace is accompanied by the Certificate of Authenticity from 20th Century Fox.
HISTORY OF THE ‘HEART OF THE OCEAN’ NECKLACE
It’s been over 20 years since we first watched Caledon Hockley fasten the ‘Heart of the Ocean’ diamond necklace around Rose DeWitt-Bukater’s neck, and just as many since we gasped in collective disbelief as an elderly Rose tossed the pendant overboard. But judging by the sheer volume of replicas of the fictional priceless jewel still shoppable online (everyone from Zales to Walmart sells a version) the gobstopper-sized diamond hasn’t lost its lustre just yet!
While those in search of a ‘Heart of the Ocean’ to call their own might have thousands of available options, there’s only one brand whose recreations are officially sanctioned by 20th Century Fox, the studio that made Titanic -The J. Peterman Company, founded in 1987 by entrepreneur John Peterman.
Titanic played a huge role in the company’s success, thanks to J. Peterman’s decision to sell authentic props from the film along with precise replicas of others — including the ‘Heart of the Ocean’.
Peterman’s team reached out to 20th Century Fox a few months before the film was set to hit the theatres in December 1997 and struck a deal; they’d buy some of the actual props featured in Titanic, in addition to licensing the whole lot for commercial reproduction. “This was the first time that had ever been done,” Peterman said of the deal, “and we ruined it for everyone else — because suddenly, the studio realized those props had value.”
Entering 20th Century Fox’s warehouse, he remembers, was like “walking into a gold mine.” Highlights from his haul included the pink chiffon gown Rose (Kate Winslet) wears as the ship sinks and the wool vest, suspenders and corduroy trousers outfit seen on Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) for most of the film; Peterman later sold the original costumes for $11,500 and $9,000, respectively. He had other pieces replicated in larger quantities, including the beaded evening gown Rose wears to the steerage party (which sold for $2,000) and the purple hat she wears while first boarding the Titanic ($350).
And if those seem like relative steals for a piece of cinema history, consider this: The Heart of the Ocean, according to Peterman, cost him “way, way under $1,000.” After acquiring one of the two prop necklaces featured in the film’s shoot, he tapped a costume jeweller (“It may have even been the same people who made the prop for the movie,” he remembers) to create identical copies made from the same faux stones. For $198, you could buy your very own ‘Heart of the Ocean’, complete with a certificate of authenticity from 20th Century Fox. “I didn’t think we’d sell any of them,” he laughs. “Boy, was I wrong!”
To say it “did well” might be an understatement. Titanic became a monster hit, of course, and the company wound up selling $1 million worth of ‘Heart of the Ocean’ replicas.
Spurred on by the lightning-strike success of its Titanic collection, the J. Peterman Company quickly ramped up its expansion plans. After securing venture capital, it opened 10 new stores in 1998 alone, but couldn’t sustain the growth and went into Chapter 11 in 1999, sinking into bankruptcy almost as swiftly as the RMS Titanic slipped beneath the ocean’s waves. This story, however, has a happy ending of sorts: Paul Harris Stores purchased the company that same year, but when it went bankrupt itself in 2000, Peterman managed to raise enough money to buy back his namesake brand.
While you can still subscribe to the since-relaunched J. Peterman Company catalogue, don’t expect to find its reproduction of Rose’s sparkling pendant — widely considered by Titanic buffs to be the gold (make that diamond) standard when it comes to Heart of the Ocean replicas — in its pages or on its e-commerce site. For that, you’ll have to head to eBay, where bidding for one of J. Peterman’s pendants typically starts at $400 and often exceeds four figures.
As for the original ‘Heart of the Ocean’ prop Peterman purchased back in 1997? “That went in the bankruptcy,” he says; he has no idea who owns it today. One thing’s for sure, though; it’s definitely not at the bottom of the Atlantic.