Elizabeth Taylor’s collection of exquisite jewellery pieces is legendary as the most important private collection in the United States, and at the time of her death, was estimated at $150 million. In December 2011, the auction, “The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor, the Legendary Jewels”, took place at Christie’s in New York, and featured such iconic pieces as the 33.19ct asscher-cut Elizabeth Taylor Diamond (formerly known as the Krupp diamond), the La Peregrina Pearl, and a range of Emerald and Diamond pieces designed by Bulgari.
In her famous book, “My Love Affair with Jewellery”, Taylor describes her passion for jewellery. She was married a total of eight times to seven men. Well-known figure Richard Burton was married to Taylor twice. He, in particular, he loved to splash out and surprise her with expensive jewellery.
This is the story of one of the most famous diamonds, the Taylor-Burton Diamond.
In 1966, a 241ct rough diamond was unearthed at the Premier Mine in South Africa. Harry Winston cut into a pear shape 69.42ct and sold it to Harriet Annenberg Ames in 1967. The enormous diamond was set in a platinum ring with two smaller side diamonds.
The ring went up for auction in 1969, with much interest from many famous parties. Burton had set his cap at $1 million but a representative from Cartier outbid Burton and the diamond was sold at $1,050,000. The stunning gem was named “The Cartier Diamond”.
Burton could not stand that he had been outbid and was determined that his lovely wife should own the diamond. He contacted Cartier the very next day and secured its purchase for $1.1 million. It was shipped to the couple after it had spent a week on display at Cartier Fifth Avenue Mansion.
Even Elizabeth Taylor felt that the enormous pear shape was too big to be worn in a ring, and the couple had Cartier design a stunning custom neckpiece. This she wore to the 1970 Academy Awards. Insurance required her to be accompanied by armed guards whenever she wore the diamond in public.
A year after her second divorce from Burton in 1978, Taylor sold the diamond to jeweller Henry Lambert, with part of the proceeds being put towards construction of a hospital in Botswana. Later that year, the diamond was sold to Robert Mouawad, who had it recut to 68ct, and who remains its proud owner to this day.