We couldn’t wrap up Oscars coverage this year without talking about the genuine royal jewelry moment on the champagne carpet: the antique diamond earrings worn by Malala Yousafzai.
Pakistani activist Malala attended the ceremony with her husband, Asser Malik. Malala is one of the executive producers of the documentary film Stranger at the Gate, which was nominated in the Best Documentary Short category.
Malala’s gown was one of my very favorite dresses at the ceremony this year. The incredible custom Ralph Lauren gown was festooned with silver sequins, recalling the glamorous early Hollywood days of the ’20s and ’30s. The gown’s included a special built-in headscarf. The whole look was somehow both retro and modern.
And the jewelry that Malala and her stylist, Dena Neustadter Giannini, chose to complete the look was even more special. She wore a pair of Art Deco diamond earrings with briolette-cut pendants and a fringe detail.
Here’s a closer look at the design of the earrings. These were supplied to Malala by Fred Leighton for the ceremony.
The earrings originally belonged to another important trailblazer: Queen Soraya, wife of King Amanullah of Afghanistan. Soraya, who was born in Syria, was a champion for the rights of women. She promoted educational opportunities for women, as well as health care facilities geared toward female patients. She encouraged women to report domestic violence, seek out new avenues for social engagement, and argued that women should have prominent roles in public spaces.
King Amanullah’s reign was a time of Westernization for the nation, and Queen Soraya’s wardrobe followed suit. The diamond earrings worn by Malala date to the 1920s. During the same era, Amanullah and Soraya made high-profile visits to Europe. They were hosted for state visits by several European heads of state, including King George V and Queen Mary in London in March 1928. (During that trip to the UK, they even made a stop in Malala’s adopted hometown of Birmingham. The King also received an honorary civil law degree from Malala’s alma mater, Oxford University.)
The state visit to the United Kingdom included a grand state banquet at Buckingham Palace. Newspapers reported that Queen Soraya wore “a dress of silver tissue oversewn with gleaming sequins, the effect in the brilliant lights of the banqueting hall being of moonlight on water.” (Sound familiar?) The description continued, “In her brown hair she wore a magnificent diamond tiara, and she had ropes of diamonds about her corsage. Her arms were encircled with diamond and sapphire bracelets, and numerous orders gleamed upon her breast.”
Queen Soraya’s earrings could be seen peeking out from beneath Malala’s hair and headscarf as she arrived for the Oscars ceremony on Sunday.
Here’s another view where you can see the earring peeking out from Malala’s hair.
In a piece for British Vogue about her Oscars experience, Malala wrote, “Dena worked with jewelers at Fred Leighton to source these beautiful earrings. They were incredibly meaningful to me because they once belonged to Queen Soraya Tarzi, Afghanistan’s first queen consort and a champion of girls’ education and women’s rights.” The documentary produced by Malala tells the story of an Afghan refugee named Bibi Bahrami and her encounter with a war veteran who initially plans to attack her mosque—but who changes his mind after spending time with members of her community.
Malala’s jewelry look was completed with a trio of rings. On her left hand, she wore her own emerald wedding ring, plus a 19th-century diamond navette ring that was also loaned by Fred Leighton. She also wore one more emerald ring, a modern piece from Santi Jewels, on her right hand.