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ElizabethThe Legend of Elizabeth Taylor

Diamonds were her best friends

As we mourned the death of screen goddess Elizabeth Taylor on March 23 2011, we remember not only the extraordinary life of this talented actress and humanitarian, we are also fascinated by her unmatched jewellery collection. Married eight times, to Conrad Hilton, Michael Wilding, Michael Todd, Eddie Fisher, Richard Burton, Richard Burton (again), John Warner and Larry Fortensky, Taylor collected jewellery as prolifically as she collected husbands. In 2003 she published a book titled “My Love Affair with Jewellery” in which she described her passion for jewellery.

“I mean, how many young women get a set of rubies just for doing something wholesome like swimming 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.”


The most precious of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels were borne out of her tumultuous love affair with Richard Burton who gave her most of her jewels, especially the Bulgari pieces. She loaned her vast collection of Bulgari jewellery to Bulgari for their 125th anniversary of their store in Rome. In 2007 she auctioned off three of the couture pieces. The best known gifts from Burton include the 33.19 carat Asscher-cut Krupp Diamond which was last sold at Sotheby’s on May 16th, 1968, for $305,000, to Elizabeth Taylor. The stone weighed 33.19 carats and was mounted in a ring and was the highest price ever paid at the time at auction for a diamond ring. It is said she wore it nearly every day and in every film since acquiring it - it was even animated into her special guest appearance on The Simpsons.

Another legendary diamond owned by Elizabeth Taylor was a 69.4-carat pear shaped, D-color, flawless diamond. When it came up for auction at Sotheby’s on October 23, 1969 Cartier outbid Richard Burton who was bidding over the phone, but he later negotiated with them to the record breaking tune of $1,050,000 for the stone. When the stone changed hands, it was set in a ring. It was named the Taylor-Burton Diamond and mounted as a pendent on a $25,000 necklace by Harry Winston. In 1978 Elizabeth Taylor sold the stone for $5 million, and the proceeds went to help build a hospital in Botswana. It was later that year sold to Robert Mouawad. TAYLOR’S JEWELS UP FOR AUCTION The announcement to put Taylor’s jewels on auction barely a month after the actress’s death by Christie’s America means that collectors will soon have the opportunity to own items from her exclusive collection. An agreement was reached between Christie’s and the Taylor family to sell the Hollywood star’s pieces which are estimated to be worth 94 million pounds (about R1-billion).


Despite her reputation as a much-married movie star, fashion icon and perfume mogul, Elizabeth Taylor was also one of the first to put her name and money to fighting AIDS. A great friend of actor Rock Hudson, who died from the disease in 1985, Taylor became a leading advocate for victims of AIDS, raising millions for research and treatment. She was actively involved in a number of charities and founded the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. The late Michael Jackson was a great supporter of her work and her great friend.

Born on the 27th February 1932 in Hampstead, London to American parents Francis Lenn Taylor and Sara Wiloa Warmdrodt, Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor moved to Los Angeles with her family at the start of World War II. Her extraordinary beauty, even as a child, was noticed and at the age of ten was cast in the film There’s One Born Every Minute followed by the legendary Lassie Come Home then National Velvet in 1944.

Her performance and those violet eyes captured the hearts of movie goers and catapulted her to stardom in a career that spanned seventy years and included a string of movies in the 50’s and 60’s including Giant, Raintree County, Suddenly Last Summer and the famous Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – nominated for an Oscar for the latter three. It was in the superb Butterfield 8 in 1960 that Taylor nabbed her first Oscar, followed in 1966 by another one for Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf. But fans best remember her for her scalding portrayal of Cleopatra which also marked the start of her fiery on-off love affair with Richard Burton.

A woman of great strength and courage who courageously fought on-going ill health, Taylor was honoured by Queen Elizabeth II in her Millennium New Year’s Honours List with the title Dame of the British Empire.


Elizabeth Taylor leaves behind her children, Michael Howard Wilding, Christopher Edward Wilding and Elizabeth Frances Todd and adopted daughter Maria Burton, 10 grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren. She truly was a star and might be gone, but her legacy both as an actress and as a humanitarian lives on – not to mention her love of precious jewels.



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