the taylor burton diamond


Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton on their wedding day.  March 15, 1964.

In 1961 on the set of Cleopatra when Elizabeth Taylor met and began dating co-star Richard Burton, despite both being married to other people. They tied the knot on March 15, 1964 in a small ceremony in Montreal 9 days after her divorce was finalized. Elizabeth and Richard were initially married for 10 years during which time they were arguably Hollywood’s most high-profile couple. During their marriage, Richard presented his wife with some of her most famous and expensive jewelry – from the 70-carat flawless pear-shaped diamond ring that was subsequently renamed the Taylor-Burton Diamond, to the 33-carat Krupp jewel she wore in several of her movies. They divorced on June 26,1974 in Switzerland only to remarry in a secret ceremony in October 10, 1975 in Botswana. Their second marriage ended on July 29, 1976.


Elizabeth Taylor at the 1970 Academy Awards. 

She wore a Violet gown by Edith Head, who was inspired by the star’s legendary eyes. The dress remained one of Elizabeth’s favorite dresses she ever wore. She accessorized with the Taylor-Burton diamond, a violet ribbon in her hair and violet eye shadow. At the awards show, she presented the Oscar for Best Picture to Midnight Cowboy, which beat out her husband Richard Burton’s movie, Anne of a Thousand Days; Richard would also lose the Best Actor Oscar to John Wayne.

“As movie stars go, Dame Elizabeth was the gold standard. She was always a creature of paradoxes: possessed of exquisite beauty, she loved to curse like a longshoreman. She lived her life out loud and in public, yet she ensured her four children and ten grandchildren a private life, which they enjoy to this day. Raised in relative luxury by an art dealer and an actress, she loved the company of working men and women, made friends with the crews of all her films, and embraced Richard Burton’s Welsh coal mining family. She was comfortable with vulgarity. She ate and drank to her heart’s content. Her lust for life informed everything she did, and everything she did was outsized: her eight marriages (two of them to Burton, the love of her life); her six decades’ worth of films; her two Academy awards; her astonishing jewels, including the 33.19-carat Krupp diamond and the 69.42-carat Taylor-Burton Diamond. The English called her “The Wife of Bath.” She was made a Dame of the Realm in 2003. She knew how to be a movie star and, in truth, her stardom and her fabled personal life eclipsed her real gifts as an actress—gifts that most dazzled in A Place in the Sun, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer, Butterfield 8, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and The Taming of the Shrew. She taught the theatrically trained Burton how to act for the camera: he praised her quality of stillness, and learned from it. But off-stage, and in the third act of her life—when Richard was gone, when her marriages to John Warner and Larry Fortensky were over, when her late-career forays into acting on film, onstage, and in television ended—she was anything but still.

Some might say her third act was her greatest, and her most fearless. Like Maggie the Cat, she seemed to have nine lives, as she survived a brain tumor, a broken back, the scoliosis she’d had since birth, hip replacements, and heart surgery. In the early 1990s, she took on the daunting cause of raising awareness of and finding a cure for AIDS, by founding the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Fund—at a time when mainstream America was still recoiling from the disease, and from gay America.” — Vanity Fair. Photo of Elizabeth at the premiere of “Moby Dick” in Los Angeles, 1956.

Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor at Grace’s 40th birthday party, Monaco, 1969. Elizabeth infamously turned up with the Taylor-Burton diamond (a recent present from Richard Burton) which got a lot of attention from guests present. After the party, Grace wrote to a friend, recalling how she was barely able to keep her eyes off Elizabeth , whom she considered “unbearably beautiful”. 

‘My first night there, Ava and I went to dinner with Meade Roberts, and Richard and Elizabeth Taylor. Elizabeth looked marvellous in a white, flowing caftan and matching turban, with the longest, dangling diamond earrings I had ever seen.
'Careful, love,’ Richard told her as she ate, 'your earrings are in your soup’. Elizabeth laughed and said 'Jesus Christ, these goddamn earrings!’ And she took them off and handed them to the waiter and said 'would you be a dear and keep these in the kitchen for me?’ The waiter was absolutely floored. He took the earrings. Richard said, 'luv? Those earrings are worth $300,000 and you just gave them to the waiter?’ She said, 'only for safekeeping dear. I’m sure he’ll take very good care of them’.
After the meal, she went to the kitchen to retrieve her earrings and when she came back she told us that they had put them in the freezer for safekeeping. She just thought that was hysterical. 'Ice on ice’ she said.

- Lucille Wellman