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Marilyn Monroe said it best, "Diamonds are a girls best friend!

"But square-cut or pear-shaped,
These rocks don't loose their shape.
Diamonds are a girl's best friend.

"Tiffany's!
Cartier!
Black Starr!
Frost Gorham!
Talk to me Harry Winston.
Tell me all about it!"

Diamonds and glamor have a long standing relationship. It would be difficult to paint a picture of feminine luxury without these sparkling gems and some of Hollywood's most famous Glamazons have defined their identities with relation to their jewels, think Elizabeth Taylor and the Hope Diamond.

Americans in particular have always had a special affinity for diamonds. The industrial boom of the 19th century produced a new crop of incredibly wealthy Americans who, unlike their European counterparts, were not bound by ancient hierarchies or aristocratic principles and they delighted in decadent living. This so-called Gilded Age was defined by the extravagantly self-indulging attitude of this rich population.

It is not surprising then that four of the five jewelers mentioned in the show tune are American institutions. Harry Winston, Tiffany's and Black, Starr & Frost were all founded in New York in the mid 19th century.

Which brings us to Cartier, the renowned French jeweler whose gems are the few things that could outshine their owners. For those of you who have always  wanted to channel Marilyn and be dazzled with jewels now is the time. Local ladies will find the Cartier and America exhibit on show now at San Francisco's Legion of Honor a sparkling delight.

Cartier

Hundreds of exquisite pieces from this timeless French jeweler are on view, allowing you the rare opportunity to peek into the jewelry boxes some of the most glamorous women of all time. Noteworthy gems include Princess Grace Kelly's engagement ring, tiaras worn by the scandalous Marion Davies and the formidable Gloria Swanson's bangles as seen in Sunset Boulevard, as well as items commissioned by Vivien Leigh and the Duchess of Windsor. Only a dash of imagination is needed to fathom the balls and soirees to which these beauties were originally worn.

Gloria Swanson with her Cartier Bangles

Elizabeth Taylor's RUby and Diamond Necklace

The Duchess of Windsor's Folding Cartier Lorgnette

The exhibit is a fascinating treat, so put on your own jewels, if they're rhinestones we won't tell, and go! If the Legion of Honor looks familiar, that's because a different blonde, the smoldering Kim Novak, visited it in Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 film Vertigo.

Kim Novak at the Legion of Honor

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