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Aug / Sep 2015
Set in Stones

WRITER: Maya Khoury

Many jewellers would swear by Elizabeth Taylor’s ability to pick out high quality and exquisite diamond jewellery and by the time of her death, in 2011, she had amassed the world’s most impressive collection that included her most prized pieces by Bulgari.

 

Elizabeth Taylor’s personal jewellery collection was touted as one of the greatest ever assembled. Amanda Triossi, who’s a well-known jewellery historian and author of the first official book on Bulgari (written in 1994), said, “Elizabeth Taylor was as passionate about collecting husbands as she was jewellery and one of her enduring love affairs was with Bulgari.” It turns out that the late Hollywood actress once confided that the best part of filming Cleopatra in Rome was the proximity to the Bulgari shop on Via dei Condotti. “She never once mentioned that this was where she secured the film industry’s first million dollar contract. It just shows you her priorities.”

 

Left and right: Taylor wore this emerald and diamond Bulgari necklace with its 23.44 carat detachable octagonal step-cut emerald pendant in 1967 to accept her Oscar for ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’.

 

All 270 pieces of Taylor’s collection were put to auction by Christie’s New York in 2011, amassing almost 157 million USD, which is a world record for a single owner auction. Eight of the lots were spectacular Bulgari pieces, including two very hotly contested items: a 52.72-carat sapphire-and-diamond sautoir and an emerald necklace and brooch set, presented to her by Richard Burton in their early courtship. It turns out that all eight were actually bought back by the Roman jewellery house for a total of 20 million USD.

Elizabeth Taylor’s Bulgari jewellery is now travelling around the world in a glamorous retrospective that I personally managed to catch in Dubai. Amazed and almost intimidated by the size and beauty of these pieces, I do wonder if anyone will ever be able to outmatch Taylor’s eye for breathtaking jewellery. She certainly had a knack for it. Then again, maybe her secret was that, as Richard Burton once quipped, “Elizabeth knows only one Italian word: Bulgari.”

 

Left and right: This sapphire and diamond sautoir, featuring an impressive 52.72 carat blue sugarloaf cabochon sapphire pendant, which can be detached and worn as a brooch, was a 40th birthday gift from Richard Burton, Taylor’s fifth and sixth husband (she married him twice).

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