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Famous Jewelry In The Movies, Vol. 10: Cleopatra

Famous Jewelry In The Movies, Vol. 10: Cleopatra
Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

Famous Jewelry In The Movies, Vol. 10: Cleopatra

If you are a true jewelry lover, then you know one of the greatest collectors of all time was Elizabeth Taylor. Richard Burton was coined as saying, “I introduced Elizabeth to beer. She introduced me to Bulgari. The only word Elizabeth knows in Italian is Bulgari.” Taylor and Burton met on the set of Cleopatra and history was made.

Famous Jewelry In The Movies, Vol. 10: Cleopatra
A pair of Bulgari emerald and diamond ear pendants, a gift from Burton in 1960, which she later wore to the premiere of Lawrence of Arabia, a meeting with the queen and as part of her costume in the VIPs. Photo: left: Getty Images/ right: Christie’s
Famous Jewelry In The Movies, Vol. 10: Cleopatra
A Bulgari emerald and diamond brooch (worn here in her hair) c. 1960, yet another gift from Burton. Photo: left: MGM/right: Christie’s

Not only did the movie break production spending records ($44M then, which would equate to over $300M in today’s dollars) and almost bankrupt 20th Century Fox but it also ignited the now infamous Burton/Taylor love affair. An affair so steamy and torrid, it prompted The Vatican to denounce the couple as “erotic vagrancy.” And while the film had amazing costumes (65 costume changes for Taylor alone) most of the jewelry, even the iconic serpent armband that’s oh so reminiscent of a Bulgari motif, was costume.

The Tau Mahal by Cartier - A gift from Richard Burton to Elizabeth Taylor.
The Taj Mahal, a ruby and gold chain by Cartier (c. 1972) a 40th birthday present from Burton to Liz, held a heart-shaped diamond from the 17th century, once given by Shah Jahan to his wife Mumatz-i-Mahal, the inspiration for India’s Taj Mahal. Photo: Christie’s

Taylor’s 24kt gold cloth cape, designed to look like the wings of a phoenix, was made of tiny straps of leather, encrusted seed beads, bugle beads and bead anchored sequins. There were fake headdresses, armbands, breastplates and crowns all glittering about. But the real jewels of Cleopatra, were those acquired off-screen.

Famous Jewelry In The Movies, Vol. 10: Cleopatra
An emerald and diamond Bulgari pendant/brooch, rumored to be an engagement gift from Burton to Liz, c.1958. She wore it to their wedding when they married in Montreal in 1964. Photo: left: Rex USA/right: Christie’s
The Granny Necklace by VCA, given to Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton when he became a grandfather for the first time.
The “Granny Necklace” by Van Cleef and Arpels to commemorate Liz becoming a grandmother (through one of Richard’s children) at age 38. Photo: Christie’s

While Burton’s mistress and then later his wife, Elizabeth Taylor was bestowed with sparkling gift after sparkling gift from Burton. Heck, even her husband at the time of the filming, a heartbroken Eddie Fisher, whose marriage to Carrie Fisher’s mom, Debbie Reynolds, Taylor had broken up, tried to woo Elizabeth back with yellow diamond jewelry from Bulgari, taking a page from Richard Burton’s playbook.

Famous Jewelry In The Movies, Vol. 10: Cleopatra
A Bulgari emerald and diamond ring (we’re seeing a pattern here) a gift from Burton in 1962 Photo: Christie’s

But alas, it was to no avail. Burton had already won – perhaps solely via his choice of baubles. Which is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below.

And last but not least, perhaps the supreme gift from Richard to Liz, the Krupp Diamond, a 33.19ct, D flawless sparkler deemed “My Baby” by Liz. Photo: left: Getty Images/inset: Christie’s 

Famous Jewelry In The Movies: Cleopatra


2 Responses

  1. In the top 3 most fun things I’ve ever gotten to do – attending the Elizabeth Taylor auction. So many beautiful things (and some really awful tacky ones too!)

    1. Ugh! I’m so jealous!! I wanted to attend so very badly. Same with the Marie Antoinette/Jewels of Parma auction. Would have sold off a step-daughter to attend either (I’m kidding. Mostly.). 😉

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