No one in history could wear luxury diamond jewelry the way Elizabeth Taylor could. One of the last members of the true diva generation which included members such as Grace Kelly and Lauren Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor passed away this past Wednesday March, 23 2011 at the age of 79, leaving behind a legacy laden in sparkling diamonds, gleaming pearls, and radiant gemstones. Inspired by the book, published by Simon and Shuster in 2002 and written by Elizabeth Taylor herself, My Love Affair with Jewelry, this article is a look back at some of her most incredible pieces of luxury diamond jewelry and the moments when she made them sparkle.
1957 – Diamond Tiara:
According to her book, A Life in Jewelry, Elizabeth Taylor’s third husband, Mike Todd, gave her the diamond tiara in 1957. “You’re my queen, and I think you should have a tiara,” he told her. Even though tiaras were not fashionable at the time, she wore the luxury diamond jewelry to the Academy Awards anyway, because Todd’s film Around the World in 80 Days was nominated for best picture (which he won), and Elizabeth said, “it wasn’t fashionable to wear tiaras then, but I wore it anyway, because he was my king.” So romantic!
1957 – Diamond Chandelier Earrings:
While traveling through Paris in 1959, Taylor fell in love with a pair of glass chandelier earrings. Back in New York, when she went to wear them for a party, she pulled them out of her jewelry case and noticed they were suddenly sparkling and radiant. “Mike, there’s something wrong with my earrings,” she told her husband. He laughed and told her that he had gone and remade them with real diamonds. They were obviously one of Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite pieces of luxury diamond jewelry; she wore them in 1992, 30 years later, when she attended the Academy Awards.
1962 – Bulgari Diamond and Emerald Necklace:
Every woman dreams of a husband like Richard Burton. According to Taylor. “Richard was so romantic that he’d use any excuse to give me a piece of jewelry. He’d give me ‘It’s a beautiful day’ presents, or ‘Let’s go for a walk presents. Over the years I’ve come to think of these as my ‘It’s Tuesday, I love you jewelry.” While she was filming the movie Cleopatra in 1962, she took a break and wound up in Bulgari with Burton. She was trying to decide between two emerald and diamond necklaces. One was larger than the other, and Taylor kept trying each on, indecisive. She finally chose the smaller of the two pieces of luxury diamond jewelry saying, “Richard, I think I like the smaller one.” Burton’s dresser replied, “Mr. B., you can’t hardly get girls like that no more!”
1968 – The Krupp Diamond
Harry Winston sold the Krupp Diamond, named for the former owner Vera Krupp, to Richard Burton in 1968. Set into a ring, Burton paid $305,000 for the 33.19-carat stone. The Krupp family had been active in the Nazi persecution of Jews and Taylor wrote that, “When it came up for auction in the late 1960s, I thought how perfect it would be if a nice Jewish girl like me were to own it.”
1969 – The Taylor Burton Diamond
Elizabeth Taylor’s most famous piece of luxury diamond jewelry was certainly the Taylor-Burton Diamond she wore to the Academy Awards in 1970. Richard Burton had originally purchased the 69.42-carat pear shaped diamond for more than $1 million after being out bid by Cartier. He negotiated with Cartier after the auction eventually winning them over (and offering a profit). Placed in a ring setting, Taylor first wore the diamond to Princess Grace of Monaco’s 40th birthday party. Taylor felt the weight of the massive rock was too much for her finger, so the couple commissioned Cartier to design a necklace for it. It was this design she wore the Academy Awards. In 1979 Taylor sold the diamond for more than $5 million to Henry Lambert, the New York jeweler. She planned to use the proceeds to fund a hospital in Botswana.
1969 - La Peregrina Pearl
La Peregrina is the largest and most perfect pear shaped pearl in the world and was gifted to Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton. It weighs 211 grains, and was originally discovered by a conquistador in the waters near Panama in 1554. He gifted the luxury pearl to Spain’s King Phillip II and then became the property of every Spanish Queen to come. The La Peregrina pearl became a part of Elizabeth Taylor’s Jewelry collection on her 37th birthday, and after losing the bauble and discovering it in the mouth of her Pekinese dog, she wore the necklace in the film “A Little Night Music,” during her performance of “Send in the Clowns.”
While Cartier displayed the Taylor Burton diamond in their New York storefront in 1969, thousands of people flocked to view it. Miss Taylor fell under scrutiny, an article in the New York Times reported:
"The peasants have been lining up outside Cartier's this week to gawk at a diamond as big as the Ritz that cost well over a million dollars. It is destined to hang around the neck of Mrs. Richard Burton. As someone said, it would have been nice to wear in the tumbril [a farm cart for carrying dung; carts of this type were used to carry prisoners to the guillotine during the French Revolution] on the way to the guillotine."
Some may think that Miss Taylor’s obsession with luxury diamond jewelry far passed excess, but while she certainly did have a “love affair with jewelry,” she also had a passion for philanthropy and fought for years to eradicate AIDS. Almost all of the extravagant jewelry bought for her by her former husband Richard Burton has been auctioned and proceeds benefitting the American Foundation for AIDS Research, of which she served as the Founding National Chairman.
Elizabeth Taylor was also a fan of William Goldberg jewelry, discreetly known for the world’s most breathtaking diamonds. Visit the online gallery of luxury diamond jewelry for images of their stunning designs.
- Elizabeth Taylor: Rich In Many Ways (blogs.forbes.com)
- R.I.P., Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) (tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Elizabeth Taylor & Her Diamonds (since1910.com)