Elizabeth Taylor wearing some of the sparkling gems in her large jewelry collection.
This article is part of The Elizabeth Taylor Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood.
Big girls need big diamonds," -- Elizabeth Taylor
Elizabeth Taylor's tumultuous love life often made the headlines, but there's one passion that she sustained for a lifetime. Taylor's famous love affair with jewelry reportedly began when she was an infant and continued throughout her eventful life as she collected some of the most precious gems on the face of the earth.
Taylor was born on Feb. 27, 1932, in London with a taste for all that sparkled and glittered. According to family legend, the infant Elizabeth didn't open her violet eyes until eight days after she was born when her gaze was attracted by a large diamond. "The first thing I saw was an engagement ring," she recounted in Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair With Jewelry. "I was hooked."
Taylor's passion for collecting jewelry began when she was a child star at MGM. After making Lassie Come Home in 1943, the 11-year-old actor used her salary to buy a lovely costume jewelry brooch with a flower design as a Mother's Day gift, which she presented to her beloved mother, Sara. As a teen, Taylor began wearing charm bracelets, which grew more elaborate as the years passed (Click on this link for a slideshow of Taylor's gems that include the brooch she gave her mother and a charm bracelet she owned during her first marriage to Richard Burton).
Taylor really didn't begin seriously collecting gems until her engagement and marriage to hotel heir Conrad "Nicky" Hilton, Jr., in 1950. Hilton presented Taylor with a relatively modest, at least by Taylor's later standards, 4-carat diamond and platinum engagement ring that cost $10,000. The marriage to Hilton soon ended, but Taylor quickly rebounded with husband No. 2, English actor Michael Wilding, who presented her with a much more elaborate cabochon-cut sapphire ring that started a mini-trend for sapphire engagement rings in the early 1950s.
|Elizabeth Taylor on a jewelry shopping expedition.|
However, Taylor finally met a man who shared her extravagant taste when she married theater and film producer Mike Todd in 1957. The flamboyant Todd loved to shower Taylor with necklaces, earrings, and even a tiara, and she soon had a collection of sparkling gems that rivaled that of royalty.
The Mike Todd Diamond Tiara
|Elizabeth Taylor wearing The Mike Todd Diamond Tiara at the Cannes Film Festival.|
The Cartier Ruby Suite
|Elizabeth Taylor wearing the Cartier Ruby Suite|
The Krupp Diamond, AKA The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond
|Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in 1972. She is wearing the Krupp Diamond.|
However, fifth (and eventually sixth) husband Richard Burton knew how to keep his lady love happy, at least as far as jewelry was concerned. During their tumultuous decade together, Burton often went jewelry shopping with Taylor: "I introduced her to beer; she introduced me to Bulgari" he liked to quip. Burton also showered Taylor with presents, including the world famous Krupp Diamond, which he bought for her in 1968 "just because it was a Tuesday."
The 33.19-carat Asscher-cut ring once belonged to a family of German industrialists and is rated as one of the purest diamonds in the world by the Gemological Institute of America. Taylor wore the ring almost every day -- the down-to-earth star would often urge others to try it on -- and she never ceased to marvel at its exquisite beauty.
After her death, the gem was renamed The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond. It sold at auction for a record $9.59 million, which was a pretty good return on Burton's $307,000 investment.
The Taylor-Burton Diamond
|Elizabeth Taylor wearing the Taylor-Burton diamond.|
The large stone was originally the property of billionaire Harriet Annenberg Ames, who kept it in a bank vault for years because she was too frightened to wear it on the streets of New York City. Taylor had the pear-shaped stone set as a necklace, and she debuted it at the 40th birthday party of Princess Grace of Monaco. Burton proudly crowed to his diary that Taylor outshone everyone at the party, including Grace herself. "Of course, nobody can wear it [the diamond] better," he concluded.
After the couple's divorce, Taylor sold the stone for around $4 million.
La Peregrina Pearl
|Elizabeth Taylor wearing La Peregrina Pearl on the set of Anne of a Thousand Days (1969).|
Taylor had La Peregrina mounted as a necklace, and she often wore it, including in her cameo in the Tudor drama Anne of a Thousands Days (1969). Ironically, Burton plays the much-married English monarch Henry VIII and Henry's daughter, Queen Mary I, once owned the precious gem. In honor of that fact, Taylor and Burton donated a portrait of Mary wearing La Peregrina to the National Portrait Gallery.
I'll leave you with a video about the auction of Taylor's jewelry clothes, and purses (It's nine minutes long, but well worth the watch). You can also view a news report about the auction here.