Kayla Freitas’ love of Titanic — the 1997 Oscar-winning film directed by James Cameron — spans decades. But it wasn’t until five years ago when the San Diego-based content creator, who goes by @travelmomoirs, began collecting items related to the film, which is hitting theaters once again this month. First, it was a news article about the tragic 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, which inspired the film, signed by survivors. Then, she continued with a replica of the iconic red and black lace dress worn by Rose (played by Kate Winslet) in the scene when she first meets Jack at the railings threatening to jump, as well as a piece of coal from the original ship. “It started with one piece, and then it was like, ‘Oh, I wonder what else I could find,’” Freitas tells Refinery29.
Finally, she stumbled upon the Heart of the Ocean, the stunning navy sapphire and diamond necklace that’s generated a cult following over the last 25 years. “I don’t really know [why I like it] but maybe it’s because everyone’s really mad that she threw it in the ocean at the end,” she says, referring to the movie’s ending, in which the main character Rose drops the necklace into the ocean decades after the tragedy.
This kind of elusive mythology surrounding the necklace is perhaps why it’s become one of the most iconic pieces of fashion in cinema, reappearing constantly in pop culture as its own character in the vast universe of Titanic fandom. On TikTok, the hashtag #heartoftheocean has grown over 20 million views, while on Instagram, there are over 30,000 posts tagged. And it’s not just a piece of memorabilia. It’s typical to find people online wearing the necklace to costume parties, or even on cruises, trying to emulate the beloved love story — or at least, the early 20th century fashion — from Titanic. But they’re not the only ones.
Singer Celine Dion, who is the voice behind the film’s original theme song “My Heart Will Go On,” has sported a version of the necklace a few times. Back in 1998, the Canadian singer wore a $2.2 million version to the 1998 Academy Awards. Later, in 2019, the singer was seen wearing a model by Vetements from the brand’s spring 2020 collection, which was also sported by Carrie Bradshaw in And Just Last That... The necklace also made an appearance in the music video for Britney Spears’ “Oops!... I Did It Again” in 2000, where an astronaut gifts the pendant to an extraterrestrial Spears.
While the necklace used in the film — given to Rose by her fiancé Caledon Hockley (played by Billy Zane) and later immortalized in a drawing by her lover Jack (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) — was commissioned to London-based luxury British brand, Asprey (formerly Asprey & Garrard) and inspired by a 42.5-carat diamond extracted in the 17th century in India, named the Hope Diamond, replicas are sold everywhere. However, American retailer The J. Peterman Company, founded in 1987, was the only brand with official certification from 20th Century Fox to sell replicas, which, today, can be found on eBay for upward of $2,000. Still, that hasn’t deterred retailers like jewelry store Zales, which carries replicas that range from $100 to $400, and attractions like the Titanic Museum in Las Vegas, which offers a $300 version, from selling their own replicas of the pendant. And demand is high: According to Chloe Baffert, merchandising and curation expert at Poshmark, sales for dupes increased by 39% in December 2022, when the film celebrated its 20th anniversary.
With such a vast offering of replicas with no official certification of authenticity, fans have to discern for themselves what’s a good enough dupe to buy. Freitas, for example, first found a light blue version that was cheaper than her current model, but she quickly realized she had to upgrade to a replica that actually reflected the movie. “Once you do find [a replica], you have to pay a good amount,” says Freitas, who paid $300 for her version at the Titanic Museum in Las Vegas recently. Meanwhile, Los Angeles-based content creator Lucero, who goes by @lucykiins and had thought about getting a replica for years, finally decided to buy one on a random search through eBay for less than $15.
Recently, Lucero wore the necklace to stage her own version of Titanic inside an exhibition in Los Angeles. Walking through the art deco halls seen in the movie, Lucero wore a replica of the pink dress Rose is sporting as the ship sinks, which she bought for the occasion, along with her model of the Heart of the Ocean. “I remember being on cloud nine seeing the set in person,” she says. “I love how the pictures turned out.”
New York-based Olivia Cheng, who is the designer behind the brand Dauphinette, sold a replica of her own last month. While she’s no Titanic die-hard, Cheng says she stumbled upon it as she sourced vintage costume jewelry for an upcoming project. “It was a little gaudy and super fun,” she says, adding that she bought it at the online antiques store Ruby Lane. Ultimately, she opted to part ways with it: “I sold it to a girl with red hair, which is very apt for the movie.”
For Cheng, the appeal of the Heart of the Ocean has a lot to do with the social context in which the film was released. She references, for example, the blue sapphire engagement ring worn by Princess Diana, who died a few months before the film was released. “Most people didn’t have a connection to her or the Titanic, but people were obsessed with the grandeur of celebrity in a way that I don’t think they are today,” she says. The connection of two tragic stories with a piece of blue sapphire is not lost on Freitas either. “There is a level that you have to maintain to be respectful to all those people who died,” she says. “You can be really interested in it but in a respectful way.”
While Freitas has yet to wear her Heart of the Ocean replica, she exhibits it at her house on a mannequin, along with a replica of a red beaded gown worn by Rose. “It’s kind of like she’s wearing it,” she says.