“She was the Queen of Hollywood & she had the jewels to match.”
Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor was a British and American actress who began her career as a child actress in the early 1940s and was one of the most popular stars of classical Hollywood cinema in the 1950s.
Throughout the rest of her life, she remained a well-known public figure thanks to her eight marriages, outlandish way of life, and her dazzling collection of exquisite jewellery.
By 1961 Elizabeth Taylor was the highest paid actress in the world. She received $1 million to play the leading role in the epic film ‘Cleopatra’.
After a false start in London, the film moved to Rome and it was there that Elizabeth met and fell in love with her co-star Richard Burton.
This relationship caused a scandal for several reasons. Not only were they both married but Elizabeth’s spouse was her deceased third husband, Mike Todd’s best friend, Eddie Fisher.
It was in Rome that Elizabeth would introduce Richard to the renowned Roman jeweller, Bulgari.
In her book ‘My Love Affair with Jewelry’ Elizabeth would describe her visit:
Undeniably, one of the biggest advantages to working on Cleopatra in Rome was Bulgari’s nice little shop…
One day Richard said “I want to buy you a present. I feel like buying you a present” and I said “Wow, What did we do today that you…that’s amazing! Where! Where shall we go?” “Bulgari of course” he said.
Elizabeth’s Emerald suite was gradually expanded by Richard Burton over their years together, comprising of a number of remarkable pieces.
Christie’s catalogued them as:
AN EMERALD AND DIAMOND FLOWER BROOCH, BY BVLGARI
Mounted en tremblant, designed as a spray of variously-shaped diamond flower blossoms set with oval-cut emerald pistils and petals, extending baguette-cut diamond stems, mounted in platinum, 1960
A PAIR OF EMERALD AND DIAMOND EAR PENDANTS, BY BVLGARI
Each suspending a pear-shaped emerald, within a graduated circular-cut diamond surround, to the marquise and circular-cut diamond quatrefoil surmount, mounted in platinum, 1960
AN EMERALD AND DIAMOND NECKLACE, BY BVLGARI
Set with a graduated series of sixteen rectangular-cut and square-cut emeralds, each within a circular-cut diamond surround, spaced by graduated circular-cut, marquise-cut and pear-shaped diamond quatrefoils, mounted in platinum, 1962, 14¼ ins., with pendant hoop for suspension, may be worn suspending lot twenty-nine
AN EMERALD AND DIAMOND PENDANT BROOCH, BY BVLGARI
Set with a rectangular-cut emerald, within a pear-shaped diamond surround, mounted in platinum, 1958, may be worn suspended from lot twenty-eight
*These were separate pieces but wore often worn together
AN EMERALD AND DIAMOND RING, BY BVLGARI
Set with a rectangular-cut emerald, within a circular and modified triangular-cut diamond surround, mounted in platinum, 1962
AN EMERALD AND DIAMOND BRACELET, BY BVLGARI
Set with a graduated series of thirteen rectangular-cut and square-cut emeralds, spaced by rectangular-cut diamonds, trimmed with circular-cut diamond trefoils and pear-shaped diamonds, mounted in platinum, 1963, 6¾ ins.
Burton and Taylor would become the biggest stars of the 1960s. Not only for their jet set lifestyle but for the classic films they made together.
When she won her second Oscar for ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf’ Elizabeth chose to wear her Emerald suite.
She and Burton divorced in 1974 but reconciled soon after, remarrying in 1975. The second marriage ended in divorce in 1976. Burton died in 1984 but Elizabeth maintained that they would probably have married again.
She would continue to wear her emeralds in later life.
When she died in 2011, it was decided to auction her jewels to raise money for her AIDS foundation.
It was at this time that a very strange rumour regarding the origins of the Emeralds began. It had been suggested that they once belonged to Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, The Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia.
However, Jewellery Historian Vincent Meylan refuted this story:
From time to time, I read that the emerald necklace created by Bulgari for Elizabeth Taylor was, at least partly, created with some of the extraordinary emeralds from the Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia ‘s necklace!
This is not true and further more, it is impossible. Grand Duchess Vladimir´s emeralds were spectacular. As most of you know, after her death, her emeralds were sold at Cartier who used seven of them on a necklace which was sold to Barbara Hutton. In 1966, Barbara Hutton got tired of her necklace and she brought it at Van Cleef and Arpels in Paris. Van Cleef bought the emeralds. In April 1967, Elizabeth Taylor appeared at a public event in London wearing a rather spectacular emerald necklace created by Bulgari. Around Elizabeth Taylor’s jewellery auction in 2011, a rumour started : some of the emeralds included in Elizabeth Taylor’s necklace may come from from Barbara Hutton’s necklace and therefore from Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia. Neither Christie’s, who organised the auction, or Bulgari, who bought back the necklace ever commented on that subject. But some still wanted to believe in that legend.
With Elizabeth Taylor’s passing in 2011, the emeralds were sold at Christie’s in a legendary auction that raised $137.2 million for her AIDS foundation. These exquisite gems, once a symbol of love, continue to sparkle as a reminder of her timeless elegance and legacy in the world of cinema. The Emeralds are now part of the Bulgari Heritage Collection