Elizabeth Taylor: Every Jewel Tells Her Story

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Courtesy of If These Jewels Could Talk (©ACC ARTBOOKS, 2015) by Beth Bernstein. 

When we think about famous people and jewelry—our thoughts immediately go to the violet-eyed beauty, Elizabeth Taylor. Of all the Hollywood stars, socialites and royals who loved and wore important jewels—Elizabeth Taylor stands out in our mind as a true collector and lover of the sparkle, empowerment, emotional connections and true beauty of the jewelry that was bestowed on her. In her book My Love Affair with Jewelry, Elizabeth Taylor revealed many stories about the jewelry she was gifted. One tidbit of information that stuck with me is when she wrote that in addition to the special occasion gifts, Richard Burton also gave her ‘just because’ gifts—including what she describes as ‘I love you it’s Tuesday, It’s a beautiful day. Let’s go for a walk. I want to buy you a present’ gifts.

These tokens of love ranged from the magnificent to the sweet and simple. There is also what Taylor dubs ‘the kiss-and- make-up present’. The couple’s tumultuous relationship was often soothed by Burton’s knowledge of how to make up with a woman, and with Taylor specifically. While both Burton and Taylor were filming different movies in Rome—Burton with Sophia Loren in The Voyage and Taylor, The Driver’s Seat—the couple had a terrible row after Taylor believed Burton was being ‘a little too friendly towards Loren’. She finally decided on a little separation. After returning to the US, she felt unwell and exploratory tests revealed she needed to undergo an appendectomy. Upon hearing about her operation, he presented her with a Van Cleef & Arpels pavé diamond three-dimensional heart pendant .Taylor notes that it is one of her favorite pieces of jewelry ‘because it was given with such love’—adding, ‘that man knew how to make up!’

Courtesy of If These Jewels Could Talk (©ACC ARTBOOKS, 2015) by Beth Bernstein. 

While writing my book If These Jewels Could Talk: The Legends Behind Celebrity Gems (ACC ARTBOOKS 2015) Taylor’s jewels were in almost every chapter. But the stories I always loved best were the more personal and sometimes humorous. Here are a few of my other favorites- they aren’t always about the huge diamonds but they have heart and sentimentality and are connected to the two great loves of her life—Mike Todd and Richard Burton.

After Taylor met and married Richard Burton, he gave her some of the most famous and beautiful jewels in the world. Many of you as readers have heard about their meetings at Bulgari and the emerald and diamond jewels that were purchased at the beginning and throughout their relationship from the famed jewelers on the famed shopping street of Via Condotti in Rome, when Burton quipped “The only Italian Elizabeth knows is Bulgari.” You might also know how he purchased The Taj Mahal yellow diamond heart from Cartier for her because as he said, “that he intended to buy her the Taj Mahal but it was too big to move to their home in Switzerland.” He got her the jewel instead. And then there were the two huge diamonds which we will get to in just a bit.

But before lets visit with the Tayor-Burton during the Christmas day 1968. Richard Burton, had just cleaned up—the gifts were given, the food eaten, and Taylor’s daughter Liza was holding a box behind her back, telling her mother that Burton had said she left something in the bottom of her Christmas stocking. When Taylor opened the box, she found a perfectly colored Burman non-heat treated ruby and diamond ring. In My Love Affair with Jewelry she explained: ‘Four years before, when Richard purchased me the Bulgari emeralds, he told me one day I am going to find you the most perfect ruby in the world. It’s my favorite stone—red for Wales. But it has to be perfect.’ It was at Van Cleef & Arpels that he found her an 8.25-carat ruby. It was mounted in an 18K yellow gold ring and surrounded by eight brilliant-cut diamonds.

Elizabeth Taylor’s romances paralleled her passions for jewelry. Taylor’s third husband, American theater and film producer Mike Todd was devoted to his beautiful wife. ‘You’re my Queen,” he said, “and I think you should have a tiara.” She wore the diamond tiara at the screening of Around the World in 80 Days at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1957 and two months earlier at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles. When Taylor and Todd were in Paris, he bought her a pair of beautiful antique paste chandelier earrings she had asked him for in a shop on Place Vendôme. They were glorious depictions of the Georgian time period and a pair of earrings any one of us who love antique jewels would want today. A couple of months later back in New York, Taylor said they felt different on her ears. She discovered that Todd, always wanting to dazzle her had them remade with real diamonds as a surprise. Taylor was overjoyed. Heartbreakingly, Todd was killed in 1958 when his private plane, The Liz, crashed in New Mexico.

During the “The Legendary Jewels” Christie’s evening sale of Elizabeth Taylor’s estate on December 13, 2011Jeweler designer Lorraine Schwartz who had the opportunity to work and befriend Taylor, purchased the diamond earrings. She bought some other pieces for clients but reportedly had no intention of buying the earrings –yet she began bidding when they came up and purchased them and has been thrilled with them since, remembering how happy Taylor was every time she wore them.

Personally this story reveals the dynamic couple and however tumultuous their relationship was—they also had some fun. Burton purchased diamonds for Taylor on unconventional occasions. Both she and Burton liked to engage every now and then in a good match of ping-pong. During one game, Burton told Taylor that if she could get ten points off of him, he would give her a perfect diamond. He lost. She won. It was time to go shopping. Burton found the smallest perfect diamond ring weighing an eighth of a carat, along with two other diamond rings. This was around the tie that he had bought her the Taylor-Burton diamond. The couple had a private joke. When someone would say: “What a magnificent diamond”, Taylor would wiggle her little finger, on which she wore the ping-pong diamonds, and say, “Isn’t it beautiful?” These are the type of rings you could own and tell your friends you are imitating ET.

We can’t write about the couple without the mention of the The Krupp, was the first of two diamonds Burton would bid on for Taylor at auction. He purchased it in 1968. The 33.19-carat Asscher cut diamond is D-color, potentially flawless and considered near perfect. It was originally named after the German industrialist Krupp family, and was sold as part of the estate of Vera Krupp. Elizabeth Taylor had Cartier set it into a platinum shank with two triangular diamonds on either side. The ring—which was renamed ‘The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond’ after her death—was one piece that she wore almost every day and became an intrinsic part of Taylor’s image. In December 2011, the diamond was sold at auction by Christie’s for almost $9 million, well above the $2.5 million to $3.5 million estimate.

The next diamond Burton bought for Taylor was more than double the size of the Krupp. Just a few months before, in 1969, Burton had acquired ‘La Peregrina’ pearl. Now he wanted this diamond, the twelfth largest diamond in the world. Burton had some heavy competition in the bidding. It was purported that Aristotle Onassis was also bidding on the 69.42-carat pear-shaped diamond ring. Burton gave his representative at the auction a limit of $1 million to spend. But when the hammer went down, the ring was sold to Cartier for $50,000 more. Burton was distraught at missing out. Refusing to take no for an answer, he negotiated with Cartier and bought the ring from them for $1.1 million, with the agreement to allow Cartier to display the stone for a limited period in their Chicago and New York stores.

The pear-shape ring was renamed ‘The Taylor-Burton Diamond’, and what many people don’t know is that a imitation of it (for insurance purposes) it guest-starred with the couple in an episode of Here’s Lucy, entitled ‘Lucy Meets the Burtons’. In this episode, Lucille Ball tries the ring on and gets it stuck on her finger. Burton and Taylor’s comedic timing is refreshing and unexpected.

Though Taylor originally wore the diamond as a ring, she found it too huge, she therefore decided to have Cartier design a necklace around it. She wore it to the Scorpio Ball in Monte Carlo to celebrate Princess Grace’s fortieth birthday. First, the diamond had to be delivered in the company of two armed guards hired by Burton and Cartier; and then it was stipulated, apparently, that whenever she wore it in public,Taylor had to be escorted by security yguards carrying machine guns, as per the requirements of the diamond’s insurers, Lloyd’s of London.

At the Christie’s sale in 2011, all three diamond rings Taylor won in that ping- pong game went way above their $5,000 to $7,000 estimate, garnering $134,500.

None of her diamonds were traditional engagement rings. For her first engagement she received the Bulgari emerald and diamond brooch and all of her jewels are worthy of engagements and other sentimental and significant occasions as well as the “just because” moments.

This could be your very own ‘just because’ or ‘kiss and make-up necklace’ although we hope you don’t have anything you significant other needs to ‘make up for or it can just be an affordable version of Elizabeth Taylors white gold diamond heart on diamond choker. Sure it’s a bit smaller, on chain and more wearable but isn’t that more our style:

14K White Gold Tilted Pavé Diamond Heart Pendant Necklace

Style: NK864W44JJ

Maybe it’s time for you to upgrade to a pair of ornate diamond drop earrings. Maybe you won’t be fooled by having an antique paste pair redesigned but you follow Elizabeth Taylor’s ability to land the jewels you want. These still have a vintage feel but are more modern in their execution and look. They will definitely put light up and put a smile on your face.

18K White Gold Intricate Pointed Teardrop Diamond Drop Earrings

These next three rings could easily be beautiful engagement rings but if you have your engagement ring already and love it—and if it’s anything but round these smaller solitaires will make three great alternatives for imitating Elizabeth Taylor’s pink pong rings. You don’t need all three –one will do—wear it next to your engagement ring on your pink or on your other hand

14K Yellow Gold Round Diamond Engagement Ring

14K White-Yellow Gold Round Diamond Engagement Ring

14K White-Yellow Gold Round Diamond Engagement Ring

Perfect Burma Rubies like the one Burton gave to Taylor on Christmas Day are not only difficult to find but they are out of most of our price ranges. Therefore we have chosen a similar style in a pendant necklace with a pretty pinkish ruby with a diamond surround. It’s wearable, versatile and one that bridges the gap between vintage and contemporary.

14K White Gold Ruby and Diamond Halo Drop Necklace

Style: NK647W45RB

This is a gorgeous version of a pear-shaped diamond ring And you won’t have to get into a bidding war to own it. It also can be worn as a ring throughout your marriage. Although we do like the fact that Taylor changed her large pear shaped diamond into a necklace. It suited her style. In the meantime while you are perusing this ring and and other pear-shaped engagement rings, you might want to check out, Taylor and Burton’s appearance on The Lucy Show.

14K White Gold Pear Shape Diamond Engagement Ring

Create your own romance with jewelry that is inspired by one of the most iconic collectors of the 20th century. Eliabeth Taylor’s pieces tell the stories of her life and loves, the momentous and small but happy ocassions. Take a tip from one of our reigning queens and allow your jewelry to do the same.

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