Iconic actor Elizabeth Taylor’s two marriages to her Cleopatra co-star, Richard Burton, produced a lot of press attention. And though she married seven men in her life, her unions with Burton seemed to inspire much of the legend surrounding her expensive style.
Specifically, Burton had a knack for chasing down some highly coveted jewels for his bride. And notably, Taylor said one of her most famous diamonds was so extravagant, it spoke to her. But what message did she say she received?
Elizabeth Taylor and the Krupp Diamond
On Taylor’s website, there are a couple of stories about how she came to own some of her most famous diamonds. In her own words, she talked about a 33.19 carat stone Burton won at auction for $307,000 in 1968. According to an inflation calculator, that’s about $2.4 million in today’s money.
The diamond’s backstory told of actor, Vera Krupp, and it fascinated Taylor. Krupp received the jewel as a gift from her husband, a munitions manufacturer who supplied Germany in World War II.
“This remarkable stone is called the Krupp Diamond because it had been owned by Vera Krupp, of the famous munitions family which helped knock off millions of Jews,” the Boom! actor explained. “When it came up for auction in the late 1960s, I thought how perfect it would be if a nice Jewish girl like me were to own it.”
But the jewel possessed a highly unique quality. Taylor noted “the deep Asscher cuts” which were “so complete and so ravishing — [they] are like steps that lead into eternity and beyond.”
She said the ring gave her “the strangest feeling for beauty.”
“With its sparks of red and white and blue and purple, and on and on, it sort of hums with its own beatific life,” she described. “To me, the Krupp says, ‘I want to share my chemistry — my magic — with you.’”
Elizabeth Taylor and the Cartier Diamond
Another jewel made famous by Taylor and Burton is a 69.42 carat pear-shaped diamond. As the story goes, Taylor was so interested in the jewel when it went up for sale, she had it privately flown to her chalet so she could see it.
According to her website, “it was love at first sight” for Taylor, so Burton was intent on getting her what she wanted. He ordered his lawyer to bid at auction in 1968, but he capped it at a million dollars. Then, he was reportedly furious after someone outbid him by $50,000.
Robert Kenmore of the Kenmore Corporation, a parent company of Cartier, ended up with the ring. Thus, it became known as the Cartier Diamond and the behemoth was displayed in store windows in major cities. But Burton hadn’t given up his quest.
“I wanted that diamond because it is incomparably lovely,” Burton wrote in his diary, per Taylor’s website, “and it should be on the loveliest woman in the world.”
Of course, Taylor eventually received the jewel.
What happened to Elizabeth Taylor’s diamonds?
The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond, formerly the Krupp Diamond, was an extravagant accessory she held for the rest of her life. The jewel sold at Christie’s for $8.8 million following Taylor’s death in 2011, according to her website.
The Taylor-Burton diamond, on the other hand, was supposedly sold by 1979 following the end of their rollercoaster relationship. Per her website, Taylor received $3.5 million from the sale and used a portion of the money to build a hospital in Botswana, where she and Burton were married for the second time.