25 March 2011

Flashback Friday: Dame Elizabeth Taylor

"Big girls need big diamonds."
-Elizabeth Taylor

So sad this week, learning that Elizabeth Taylor had passed away. I adored her - not that that's a surprise. My love of Things That Are Fabulous is well documented.
The woman owned a tiara! Just because she could! Come on.

Elizabeth Taylor was Hollywood royalty, and I thought we'd pay tribute to her this week by flashing back to her very real royal connections. I mean, if you hang around in the movie business as long as she did, you're bound to rack up the royal meet-and-greets.

Do you know the Princess Margaret story?
Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor the 33.19-carat Krupp diamond as a present, and she wore it as one humongous ring. 
Princess Margaret (yet another lady who was possibly too fabulous for her own good) had a look at the ring while face-to-face with Taylor herself. She declared the huge stone "vulgar", to which Liz replied, "Ain't it great?" And then Margaret tried it on, and Liz said, "Not so vulgar now, is it?" (Love.)

Burton also gave Taylor a 69.42-carat pear-shaped diamond, which was thus known as the Taylor-Burton diamond. (Are special finger exercises required to wear this ring, do you think?)

Le sigh. They don't make 'em like that any more. And they certainly don't make jewel stashes like hers anymore, either. She had a collection that could easily rival some of the royal houses in size, and some of her pieces had serious royal connections:

The Grand Duchess Vladimir Suite
These delicious emeralds (a brooch, earrings, necklace, and bracelet) were designed by Bulgari and given to Taylor by Richard Burton. The set includes stones that belonged to the Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia. Jewels from the Grand Duchess's collection can also be found today in the British royal family's collection, having been scooped up by Queen Mary.

La Peregrina
La Peregrina is an enormous pear-shaped pearl found in the early 1500's by a slave in the Gulf of Panama. It made its way to the Spanish royal court, where Philip II gave it to Mary Tudor (Mary I, or Bloody Mary) of England as an engagement present (above, right). After Mary's death it was worn by various Spanish queen consorts until Napoleon made his brother king of Spain in 1808. Joseph Bonaparte took the pearl with him when he was forced to leave the country and thus it received its name: La Peregrina, or "The Pilgrim", or "The Wanderer". The pearl was sold off to the aristocratic Abercorn family who held onto it until they auctioned it in 1969 and Richard Burton bought it. Cartier designed the diamond, ruby and pearl necklace setting that houses La Peregrina today.

The Prince of Wales Insignia Brooch
This piece belonged to the Duchess of Windsor, whose husband had been the Prince of Wales before becoming Edward VIII (and subsequently abdicating the throne). At one point, Taylor received permission from the Duchess to have a replica made, so much had Liz admired the piece. This is the original, though: she bought it at an auction of the Duchess's jewels in 1987. The cost? $623,000, ponied up after she won out in a bidding war with Prince Charles.

According to Liz herself, her jewels should be auctioned off after her death to benefit AIDS research. One last good deed from a great lady, may she rest in peace.

"I adore wearing gems, but not because they are mine. You can't possess radiance, you can only admire it."
-Elizabeth Taylor