The whole story of the Taylor-Burton diamond is glamorous to a fault. The 68-carat stone even had illustrious beginnings, having come from the same South African mine as the fabled Golden Jubilee and Cullinan diamonds.
The Taylor-Burton diamond was discovered in 1966 and was originally known as the Cartier. Harriet Annenberg Ames, the sister of billionaire publisher Walter Annenberg, is the one who first bought it.
Ames had it mounted in a platinum ring in between two smaller diamonds. Yet she felt conspicuous wearing the huge stone and decided to sell it two years later. The auction was scheduled to take place on the 23rd of October 1969.
When Elizabeth Taylor heard about the sale, she asked to see it. The wish of the world famous actress was clearly the auctioneer’s command. They arranged for it to fly to Gstaad in Switzerland for viewing and back to New York in time for the auction.
Taylor’s husband Richard Burton saw how much his wife loved the diamond and became determined to buy it. Although the couple were staying in England at the time of the sale, Burton had his lawyer bid for it via telephone.
Burton had set his maximum bid at $1 million. But when he found out that he had been outbid, he became even more determined that his wife must have it. The final sale price was $1.05 million (£460, 250). This was a world record for any diamond at the time.
To give you an idea of the scale of this romantic gesture, Burton actually outbid the Sultan of Brunei, and world-famous jeweller Harry Winston to buy the diamond for Taylor.
The Cartier exhibits
As part of the terms of the sale, the pear-shaped diamond would take pride of place in displays at Cartier’s New York and Chicago stores. The company then took out a large advertisement in the New York Times.
Until the exhibit ended in November 1969, 6000 people queued up each day to see the diamond up close. Its sheer beauty had to be seen to be believed.
Taylor makes the diamond her own
Soon after Taylor took possession of the diamond, she decided it was much too large to use in a ring, so she had it made into a necklace instead.
Ames felt conspicuous wearing the diamond. Yet it took Hollywood royalty to match the diamond in sophistication and glamour. Everyone agrees that it looked just right on Taylor; it was as though it was made just for her.
Yet the million dollar insurance policy allowed Taylor to wear the diamond for just 30 days a year. It is also stipulated that the actress could only wear it in public while under armed guard. Taylor would wear the diamond at Princess Grace’s 40th birthday party in Monaco and at the 42nd Academy Awards ceremony in 1970.