Monthly Archives: August 2011

Queen of Diamonds

Elizabeth Taylor, Hollywood icon

(Amanda Freeman, Flickr)

Hollywood glamour – old-school, that is – suffered a huge loss earlier this year when legendary screen siren Elizabeth Taylor died. But there is some comfort in the fact that her jewels, which themselves are legendary, are to be not just auctioned off but displayed to the public by the auction house Christie’s. In case you don’t realise, Liz’s collection includes some of the most expensive jewels known to mankind – she even wrote a book about her passion, entitled Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry.

One of the gems that won’t be on display is the famous Taylor-Burton diamond, a 69.42-carat pear-shaped diamond bought for Liz by her then husband, Richard Burton. You won’t be able to see it because it was sold after the couple’s divorce (she said she was going to use some of the cash to fund the building of a hospital in Botswana). It was bought by a New York jeweller who sold it almost immediately to its present owner, who subsequently had it re-cut (it now apparently weighs 68.09 carats – which is still mighty impressive if you’re into size where diamonds are concerned).

When Burton bought the diamond from a Cartier big-wig in 1969, part of the deal was that the diamond could first be displayed in the Cartier store in New York. Legend has it that 6,000 people queued up every day to catch a glimpse of it. It was a celebrity in its own right, you could say.

Whether or not some of Liz’s other famous jewels will make the Christie’s auction I’m not sure, as I don’t know if they are still in her collection. But if they are, they’re well worth a look. There’s the 33.19-carat Asscher-cut Krupp Diamond – seen in some of Liz’s films – and the La Peregrina Pearl. And there’s also the Taj-Mahal diamond, a heart-shaped diamond set with rubies and diamonds in a heavy gold snake-chain-like necklace. It’s got to be one of my favourites. Originally belonging to Emperor Shah Jehan, this flat-shaped diamond features a 17th century Persian inscription (translated, it says ‘For my beloved Mahal’). Emperor Shah Jehan was head of the Mughal Empire in the Indian subcontinent in the 17th century and is famous for building the other Taj Mahal – the building, this time, in Agra. The Mahal from the inscription is the Emperor’s wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth and for whom the Taj Mahal (the building, not the diamond) was built.

Burton bought the Taj-Mahal diamond for Liz in 1972 to mark her 40th birthday.

The collection – rumoured to be worth around $145 million – will go under the hammer to raise funds for Liz’s charity, The Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation. Christie’s is said to be organising a series of events and exhibitions featuring highlights from the collection starting next month (September 2011) that will tour Moscow, London, Los Angeles, Dubai, Geneva, Paris and Hong Kong, culminating in four days of auctions at Christie’s New York.

If you can catch the exhibition, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see such amazing jewels in one place – before they become separated forever.

See you at Christie’s!