The Fascinating History of Elizabeth Taylor’s Engagement Ring July 30, 2018 – Posted in: Jewelry Blog
Elizabeth Taylor was famous for many things. An acclaimed actress who had parts in many major TV shows and movies, her name is known worldwide. But it’s not just for her acting that she is well known.
As well as collecting movie roles, Taylor also collected jewelry. She didn’t actually buy much of it, however. Instead, the men she dated, and sometimes married, just kept buying it for her. And it wasn’t just any old jewelry. Taylor’s collection at the time of her death contained pieces which are the stuff of legend.
But one ring, and one vintage diamond, in particular, have come to epitomize Elizabeth Taylor and her jewelry.
The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond
To have a diamond named after you usually means two things. That you are significant enough to warrant it, and that the diamond is something special. Originally named the Krupp diamond, after its original diamond, it became the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond after Richard Burton bought it for Taylor in 1968.
When the diamond came up for auction after the death of Vera Krupp, Burton paid $307,000 to buy it. He presented it to Taylor on board their yacht whilst moored in London. Taylor chose to have the diamond set into a ring, and the finished piece became part of her legend as well as her collection.
The Taylor-Burton “Engagement Ring”
The Krupp Diamond became known as the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond on her death in 2011. It had actually been set into a ring shortly after it was presented in 1968. From that point, it was always known as the Elizabeth Taylor’s engagement ring. The only issue with that description is that Taylor had married Richard Burton 4 years previously, in 1964. Despite this jumbled timeline, the name stuck, and the ring entered jewelry folklore.
At 33.19ct, the diamond is extremely impressive. Factor in the D color and VS1 clarity, and you have a diamond worthy of anybody’s finger. The GIA report indicates the diamond is Type IIa. Such diamonds have exceptional transparency and are chemically purer than other diamonds. The famed Cullinan 1 and Koh-i-noor diamonds are also Type IIa. Despite its value, Taylor wore the ring regularly. She actually almost always wore her own jewelry on TV and in movies, rather than have designers provide it.
It wasn’t Taylor’s first big engagement ring, however. Mike Todd, Taylor’s 3rd husband presented her with a Cartier engagement ring in 1957. It says something about the Taylor-Burton ring that Todd’s emerald cut, 29.4ct ring is often almost an afterthought in the Taylor Collection.
The Life Of The Ring
As we’ve said, the ring was made in 1968, shortly after Burton presented the diamond to Taylor. Taylor long described the ring as her favorite piece in her entire collection.
Taylor and Burton actually married twice. After they married in 1964 ended in divorce in 1974, the pair realized they needed each other. And so, they married again in 1975. This gave the engagement ring a little more validity as an actual engagement ring, rather than just another ring with a big diamond in it.
After they divorced again in 1976, Taylor sold several items from her collection that Burton had given her. These included the enormous Taylor-Burton diamond, which Burton bought from Cartier in 1969 for $1.12m. She chose to hang on to the engagement ring despite its modest size in comparison to the Taylor-Burton diamond. Although slightly bitter towards Burton at the time, she was adamant that where she went, the engagement ring would go with her.
Taylor’s Death and the Sale of the Ring
Elizabeth Taylor died in 2011 aged 1979. Years of illness, together with addictions to both alcohol and prescription medicines earlier in life had taken their toll. In her final years, she took to using a wheelchair due to long-term persistent back problems and rarely appeared in public. Due to her poor timekeeping throughout her life, people had said to Taylor that she “…would be late for her own funeral”. And so she made arrangements to do just that. At her request, the funeral service began 15 minutes behind schedule, cementing her legend as Hollywood royalty.
The entire collection of Taylor’s jewelry went for auction at Christie’s on the 16th of December 2011. The final sale total came to an astonishing $156.8m. This included $8.8m for the engagement ring containing the Krupp – now renamed Taylor – diamond. At the time, it was the highest per-carat price ever for any colorless diamond at just over $265,000. The buyers were E-Land, a South Korean corporation.
It’s a little sad that Liz Taylor’s not-really-an-engagement ring is no longer in public view. Beautiful jewelry is not meant to be hidden away or exhibited like a curiosity. Part of that beauty is its ability to excite and enchant. Given it was Taylor’s favorite piece, we’re sure, she too would like to see it on someone’s finger.