Along with her talent and beauty, when we think of Elizabeth Taylor, we can’t help but be reminded of her incredible collection of jewelry. Married a remarkable eight times – and twice to the same man – there’s no doubt she led an interesting life. It’s her passion for sparkling diamonds that we at Ritani, of course, find most appealing. While over the years she added to her collection herself, it’s her engagement rings that have fueled the most fascination; perhaps because of what they represented. Whether Taylor really was a hopeless romantic or not, she wore some simply stunning pieces and was emblematic of how women in diamonds are timelessly exquisite, whatever their age.
At 18, Taylor married Conrad Hilton – yes, Paris Hilton’s great uncle. While the the couple divorced just eight months later, after a seriously troubled relationship, Liz’s first engagement ring sparked a love affair with precious gems that lasted a lifetime. A $10,000 4 carat diamond platinum ring would have been an extravagant choice for many, but as we know, it was only a hint of what was to come for Elizabeth’s sophisticated tastes.
Three months after her divorce, Elizabeth was remarried; to Michael Wilding. Her next engagement ring was a cabochon sapphire that had a domed, polished effect, rather than a faceted look. Elizabeth was fond of rare styles that set her apart. By wearing a sapphire ring, she began a trend, with many couples at the time opting for sapphires instead of – or as well as – diamonds in their engagement rings.
In 1957, Mike Todd proposed to Elizabeth Taylor, who this time was gifted a 29.4 carat emerald cut Cartier engagement ring. It was gorgeous, and while again the marriage was short-lived – Todd died in a plane crash the following year – the piece has gone down in celebrity history as one of the most dazzling diamond rings ever. Mike Todd also presented to Elizabeth her famous Cartier tiara, which she unforgettably wore to the 1957 Academy Awards.
After Mike Todd died, Taylor began an affair with his best friend, Eddie Fisher. Once Fisher had divorced his wife Debbie Reynolds, he proposed to Taylor, rather unconventionally, with a bracelet. Perhaps he thought she had enough diamond rings? In any case, this was no ordinary cuff. Made with 50 diamonds, the 40 carat bracelet was a statement of their scandalous love, complementing Taylor’s growing collection beautifully.
While still married to Fisher, Taylor met the great love of her life, Richard Burton. They became romantically linked on the set of Cleopatra, and when Burton proposed marriage, he did so with a platinum-set Bulgari pendant featuring an 18.61 carat emerald surrounded by diamonds, that could be detached and worn as a brooch. Burton famously said “The only Italian word Elizabeth knows is Bulgari”.
Burton was the man who most contributed to Taylor’s precious collection over the years, an indication of how much she meant to him, and how well he knew her tastes. Five years into their first marriage, he gave her one of the most renowned diamonds in the world – the Krupp asscher cut, now known as the Elizabeth Taylor diamond. An incredible 33.19 carats, it’s widely reported that she wore it almost daily.
After ten years of a drama-filled marriage that fueled the tabloids, Taylor and Burton divorced. However, just sixteen months later the couple were remarried in Botswana, with Burton offering to Elizabeth the Grand Duchess of Russia’s emeralds. That’s right, Elizabeth Taylor was firmly in jewelry history by actually owning the emeralds of royalty! A set of earrings, bracelet and a matching necklace of glittering diamonds and emeralds; they were a truly spectacular gift.
Despite later describing Burton as one of the true great loves of her life – alongside the ill-fated Mike Todd, and of course, jewelry – her second marriage with the legendary actor was even shorter than the first, lasting from October 1975 to July 1976. Throughout their marriage, Burton had bought other historically famous pieces for Elizabeth, including La Peregrina pearl, and the diamond now known as the Taylor-Burton diamond, an incredible 68 carat pear-shaped diamond that Taylor wore set in a necklace, premiering it at Grace Kelly’s 40th birthday party.
After Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor’s next husband was a Senator from Virginia, John Warner. The life of a politician’s wife never seemed to satisfy her, and growing problems with alcohol and depression led to her entering the Betty Ford Center. Warner’s proposal gift has never been quite established: some say he proposed with a diamond ring, others say a band of rubies, diamonds and emeralds.
It’s also not clear what she received as an engagement present for her final marriage – which ended 15 years before her death. Larry Fortensky was a construction worker she met while staying at the Betty Ford Center, who she then married at Michael Jackson’s home.
While Elizabeth Taylor had many other romances outside of marriage, it seemed that she was something of a traditionalist, saying “At first, I guess I didn’t know what was love and what was not. I always chose to think I was in love and that love was synonymous with marriage. I couldn’t just have a romance; it had to be a marriage…”. It’s clear, however, that some of her greatest loves in life were her diamonds and other jewels. She saw herself as their keeper, watching over them while she was alive so that others could enjoy them after her.