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Elizabeth Taylor, the diamond and husband's digger ...

by Julie MIALET 30 Apr 2024

Her story :

Elizabeth Taylor, born on 27 February 1932 in London and died on 23 March 2011 in Los Angeles, was an American actress who became famous in Hollywood in the 1960s among her succesful roles in films we can list Cleopatra and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. She was also well knowned for her many marriages, eight in total, which often made headlines in the newspapers. Liz Taylor, who was a great lover of jewellery throughout her life, managed to build up an exceptional jewellery collection, which was the subject of several books, including one written by herself: Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair With Jewelry.

In December 2011, this fabulous collection of jewels was sold at Christie's.


Marriages and more marriages:

As we have just mentioned it, Elyzabeth Taylor married eight times, to seven different men:

- Conrad Nicholson Jr, heir to the Hilton hotel chain from 6 May 1950 to 29 June 1951, divorced

- Michael Wilding, actor, from 21 February 1952 to 26 January 1957, divorced

- Michael Todd, producer, from 2 February 1957 to 22 March 1958, died in a plane crash

- Eddie Fisher (father of Carrie Fisher), from 12 May 1959 to 6 March 1964, divorce

- Richard Burton, actor, from 15 March 1964 to 26 June 1974, divorced

- Richard Burton, actor, from 10 October 1975 to 29 July 1976, divorced

- John Warner, Senator, from 4 December 1976 to 7 November 1982, divorced

- Engaged to lawyer Victor Gonzales Lunas in 1983, but did not marry

- Larry Fortensky, worker, from 6 October 1991 to 31 October 1996, divorced

- A marriage to her agent Jason Winters, 30 years her junior, was rumoured in 2010

When journalists asked her about the reason for her successive marriages, she replied: « I don't know, honey. It sure beats the hell out of me.»

Of all her husbands, if one had to stand out, it would obviously be Richard Burton. When they met on the set of Cleopatra in 1961, Richard already playing the role of the lover Mark Antony, they were both already married but it was love at first sight. This love led to their first marriage, which lasted ten years, and a second a few years later. This jet-setting couple shared a passion for jewellery, with Richard never hesitating to cover his wife with the most exceptional pieces. « I just love to watch your response, and that’s why I love giving you jewelry », said Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton on the shooting of Cleopatra, Credit Sunset Boulevard / Getty Images

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton on the shooting of Cleopatra, Credit Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images



An exceptional collection :

Throughout her life, Elizabeth Taylor gathered an impressive collection of jewellery, some of them set with the rarest and most exceptional stones. During her lifetime, her collection was well known, as she never hesitated to lend it for exhibitions around the world.

These exceptional jewels include :

- A belle-époque diamond tiara dating from the 1880s given by her third husband Mike Todd in 1957, of which Elizabeth Taylor quoted this famous anecdote : «When Mike gave me this tiara, he said "You're my queen, and I think you should have a tiare." I wore that tiare for the first time when we wwent to the Academy Awards. It was the most perfect night becasue Mike's film Around the Wolrld in 80 Days won the Best Picture. It wasn't fashionable to wear tiaras then, but I wore it anyway, because he was my king. »

Tiara Gold and Diamonds, Credit CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013

- An incredible set of unheated diamonds and rubies by Cartier « I mean how many young women get a set of rubies just for doing something wholesome like swimmings laps ? Or win a diamond ring at Ping Pong with their husband ? Well, I did, and for all of these memories and the people, in my life, I feel blessed. »  

Cartier Set in Gold, Diamonds and Rubies, Credit CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013

- A fabulous set of Colombian emeralds and diamonds, including a brooch, a necklace, a bracelet, a pair of earrings and a ring, signed Bulgari and given by Richard Burton on their wedding in 1964, following the filming of Cleopatra in Rome. « Undeniably, one of the biggest advantages to working on Cleopatra in Rome was Bulgari … »

Bulgari set in Gold, Diamonds and Emeralds, Credit CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013

Elizabeth Taylor wearing part of her wedding emerald set on the shooting of the film The V.I.P.s with Richard Burton, credit T.C.D VISUAL PRESS AGENCY

- The 33.19-carat Asscher-cut Krupp diamond, given by Richard Burton on the occasion of their holiday on the Thames in the spring of 1968. The diamond belonged to Vera Krupp, second wife of German steel magnate Alfried Krupp. The fortune of the Krupp family was closely linked to the politics of the Third Reich, Alfried having even become minister for wartime arms production, and his factories having exploited many workers from concentration camps. According to legend, it was this ‘dark’ history that prompted Elizabeth Taylor, who was Jewish, to want the Krupp diamond, as a way of thumbing her nose at its previous owner. The diamond has since changed its name to honour the actress, becoming the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond.

Ring set with the Krupp/Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, Credit CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013

- The 8.24-carat Puertas Ruby mounted by Van Cleef & Arpels and given by Richard Burton on Christmas 1968. Richard Burton had promised Elizabeth that he would find her the most perfect ruby in the world, and in the end he found it at Van Cleef & Arpels. ‘I let out a scream that must have echoed all over the mountain’, Elizabeth recalled of the moment she discovered the ring in her stocking at the foot of the Christmas tree.

Gold and Diamond Van Cleef & Arpels ring set with the Puertas Ruby, Credit CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013

- The Peregrina Pearl was a Valentine's Day gift from Richard Burton in 1969. Considered the closest thing to perfection in size and shape, the pearl also has an extraordinary history. Originally found in the Gulf of Panama in the 16th century, it was first owned by the Spanish crown. Prince Philip II of Spain gave it to his wife, Queen Mary Tudor of England, on the occasion of their wedding. Years later, around 1800, the pearl was bought by the Hamilton family, who finally put it up for sale at Sotheby's in 1969. After a bitter struggle with a member of the English royal family, Richard Burton bought it for 37,000 dollars. After receiving it, Elizabeth Taylor had it mounted by Cartier on a ruby and diamond necklace. About this pearl, Elizabeth Taylor shared the following anecdote: «I had recently received the Peregrina from New York and it was on a delicate little chain, and I was touching it like a talisman. At one point I reached down to touch La Peregrina and it wasn't there! I glanced over at Richard and thank God he wasn't looking at me, and I went into the bedroom and threw myself on the bed, buried my head into the pillow and screamed."Very slowly and very carefully, I retraced all my steps in the bedroom. I took my slippers off, took my socks off, and got down on my hands and knees, looking everywhere for the pearl. Nothing. I thought, "It's got to be in the living room in front of Richard. What am I going to do. He'll kill me!" Because he loved the piece. Anything historical was important to him. La Peregrina is unique in the world of gems. It's one of the most extraordinary pieces there is. And I knew that he was proud inside, which was why he was being like this cartoon with a black cloud over his head and raindrops falling."So I went out and sort of started humming lalalala, and I was walking back and forth in my bare feet, seeing if I would feel anything in the carpet. I was trying to be composed and look as if I had a purpose, because inside I was practically heaving I was so upset. I looked over and saw the white Pekingese, which was mine, and the orangy-brown Pekingese, which was Richard's. That dog worshiped him. All the puppies--it was their feeding time--were around the bowls munching. So I looked at the dogs, saying, "Hi babies, such sweet babies." And I saw one chewing on a bone. And I did the longest, slowest double take in my head. I thought, "Wait a minute, we don't give our dogs, especially the puppies bones! What is he chewing on? And I just wanted to put my hand over my mouth and scream again. But no, I just casually opened the puppy's mouth and inside his mouth was the most perfect pearl in the world. It was--thank God-not scratched.»

Necklace made for the Peregrina Pearl by Cartier in Gold, Diamonds, Rubies and Pearls, Credit CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013

Portrait of Queen Marie Tudor and Elizabeth Taylor, both wearing the Peregrina pearl

- The Taylor-Burton, a 69.42 carat pear-cut diamond by Harry Winston, was once again given to her by Richard Burton at the end of 1969. This diamond has an interesting history in the world of precious stones. Originally owned by a wealthy heiress, she eventually put it up for auction because she didn't dare wearing it. Elizabeth was immediately interested and asked to see it before it went on public display. It was love at first sight for the actress. But Richard Burton was up against several tough competitors, including Robert Kenmore, the owner of Cartier at the time, the jeweller Harry Winston, the Greek shipowner Aristotle Onassis and Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei. Despite a hefty budget of $1 million at the time, and after a fierce bidding war, Robert Kenmore won the auction, setting a new record for the price of a diamond by tripling the previous one. The next day Richard Burton, out of love or refusing to accept defeat (who knows), called Kenmore to offer him $1,100,000 and became the proud owner. The stone was immediately renamed Taylor-Burton and was mounted by Cartier on a fabulous necklace that Elizabeth wore for the first time at Princess Grace of Monaco's 40th birthday party the following month. Following her divorce from Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor put the diamond up for sale again, selling it for 5 million dollars. She donated part of it to fund the construction of a hospital in Botswana.

Elizabeth Taylor wearing the Taylor-Burton on a necklace and the Krupp as a ring


Among the other jewels, and there were many, Elizabeth Taylor loved :

- An extraordinary Monkey diamonds, emeralds and rubies yellow and white gold half-set by Massoni, a gift from Michael Jackson in 2000. « These little monkeys are perfectly at home with all my other beloved jewelry ».

Massoni Half-Set featuring monkeys and bananas in yellow and white gold, diamonds, rubies and emeralds, Credit CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013


- A white gold set named ‘Frost’ with diamonds and pearls, designed and signed by Elizabeth Taylor herself via House of Taylor, her jewellery brand.

Jewelry Set "Frost" House of Taylor in white gold, pearls et diamonds, Credit CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013


 - A wide range of Van Cleef & Arpels yellow gold, amethysts, coral and diamonds jewels, including items from the Dodecanese, Panka, Lamartine, Pompon and Ibiza collections, all gifts from Richard Burton.

Serie of jewels from Van Cleef & Arpels, Credit CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013


- A ‘Daisy’ set by Van Cleef & Arpels in yellow gold, diamonds, coloured diamonds and chrysoprase.

"Daisy" set signed Van Cleef & Arpels NY, Credit CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013


- A ‘Triphanes’ set by Van Cleef & Arpels in yellow gold set with kunzites, amethysts and diamonds, a gift from Richard Burton.

"Triphanes" set from Van Cleef & Arpels, Credit CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013


- A wide range of David Webb jewels featuring various animals.

Bracelet in yellow gold featuring a lioness made of coral, paved with diamonds and emeralds, Credit CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013


- The famous ‘Trombino’ ring in white gold signed Bulgari and set with an unheated sugarloaf-cut sapphire and diamonds.


"Trombino" ring from Bulgari, Credit CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2013


François Curiel, director of Christie's Europe, who was one of the first to appraise Elizabeth Taylor's collection, said ‘her collection is so special because it breathes and carries the memory of Elizabeth Taylor's life and personality, each piece is there for a reason and was chosen for a special occasion’.

There are gifts from her friends, including Michael Jackson and Malcolm Forbes, and others that she bought herself. All the greatest jewellers of the era are represented, including Boucheron, Bulgari, Cartier, Oscar Heyman, Schlumberger, Tiffany, Van Cleef & Arpels, David Webb, as well as Marina B, Elsa Peretti, Paloma Picasso and, of course, JAR.


We took great pleasure in writing this article, which brings together an exceptional collection that bears witness to a bygone era when glamour was king. We have drawn a great deal of information from the beautiful catalogue of Christie's 2011 sale, as well as from Elizabeth Taylor's incredible book.


Whether you're interested in buying a piece of jewellery or a stone, a free jewelry appraisal or jewelry resale, Pierres de Julie welcomes you to its Parisian boutique in the Village Suisse, a stone's throw from the Ecole Militaire and the Esplanade des Invalides.

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