The Taylor-Burton Diamond: A Symbol of Power, Love and Extravagance

The Taylor-Burton Diamond: A Symbol of Power, Love and Extravagance


Elizabeth Taylor wearing the Taylor Burton Diamond 

Elizabeth Taylor wears the Taylor-Burton diamond on a necklace at the 1970 ‘Oscar’ Ball at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, California //  Frank Edwards / Fotos International / Getty Images


I. Introduction

The allure of diamonds is an age-old human fascination, and among the pantheon of these revered gems, few can match the mystique and grandeur of the Taylor-Burton Diamond. This gem has been at the center of opulence and celebrity, named after two of its most famous owners, actress Elizabeth Taylor and her then-husband, actor Richard Burton.


II. Description and Unearthing

The Taylor-Burton Diamond is a pear-shaped gem weighing in at an impressive 69.42 carats. This stone's size alone is a testament to its extraordinary nature. It was initially part of a rough diamond found in the Premier Mine in South Africa in 1966, which weighed a staggering 240.80 carats.

This colossal rough diamond was purchased by Harry Winston, a renowned New York jeweler known for acquiring some of the world's most famous diamonds. He entrusted the cutting to Pastor Colon Jr, a master cutter, whose meticulous work over a period of six months resulted in an elegantly polished gemstone of a breathtaking size, clarity, and brilliance.


III. The Sale and Subsequent Owners

Taylor-Burton Diamond as a Ring //

Taylor-Burton Diamond //


Between 1967 - 1969, the diamond was owned by Harriet Annenberg Ames, the sister of the billionaire publisher Walter Annenberg. Annenberg Ames feared wearing the diamond in her native New York City, and decided to sell the stone. 

The announcement came that a much-anticipated auction would transpire on October 23, 1969. The diamond, identified as lot 133, was to be featured at Parke-Bernet in New York City. The story goes that during a dinner argument, Richard Burton, the distinguished actor and husband of Elizabeth Taylor, used terms like "unattractive," "large," "strong," and "masculine" to describe Elizabeth's hands, sparking the actress's ire. Seizing the moment, she made a demand that he buy her the diamond, which was at the time renowned as the largest and most costly in the world. This purchase, she reasoned, would serve to diminish the perceived size and ruggedness of her hands. Burton, known for his lavish gifts for his beloved wife, as an act of atonement, agreed to purchase the massive 69.42-carat diamond! The gemstone made a special trip to Gstaad, Switzerland, providing Elizabeth Taylor, the celebrated actress, an opportunity to marvel at its splendor, before returning to the United States for the auction. 

Richard Burton established a top bid of $1 million for the diamond. Burton's bidding was conducted through two proxies, his attorney, Aaron Frosch, who participated via telephone from London, and Al Yugler of Frank Pollock and Sons Jewellers, who was present at the auction, representing Burton's interests.

The bidding kicked off at $200,000, a figure met with enthusiastic affirmations from the crowd. As the stakes climbed to $500,000, the bidders dwindled to a mere nine. Following this threshold, the bids rose in increments of $10,000. By the time the bid reached $650,000, only two contenders remained. At the $1 million mark, Yugler, representing Burton and Taylor, withdrew from the race, which concluded soon after.

Amid the bustling crowd, the identity of the victorious bidder remained shrouded in mystery, only later to be unveiled as Robert Kenmore of the Kenmore Corporation, the parent company of the prestigious jewelers, Cartier.

Among the underbidders were notable figures such as the renowned jeweler Harry Winston, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah, and the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, the latter of whom backed out at $700,000. The final hammer fell at a whopping $1,050,000, a figure that smashed the existing record for a jewel sold in a public auction. The previous record for a diamond, a comparatively modest $305,000, had been established in 1957.

A particular term of the sale allowed the buyer to christen the diamond, leading to its new moniker - the "Cartier Diamond."

Yet the diamond's journey didn't stop there. Later, Burton successfully purchased this spectacular gem for Taylor from Cartier for $1.1 million, on the condition that the diamond could be displayed at Cartier in New York and Chicago where it was viewed by thousands of people each day. Though the purchase was not merely an expression of affectionBurton presented it to the press as merely a gift for his spouse.


IV. The Taylor-Burton Affair


 Taylor Burton Diamond Pendant


Under the stewardship of Richard Burton, the diamond transformed into an emblem of one of Tinseltown's most romantic tales. It was bestowed with a new name - the "Taylor-Burton Diamond," a title that secured its position in the historical archives of gemology and pop culture. Taylor frequently donned the diamond for high-profile gatherings, enhancing its legendary stature. Its appearances included the grand celebration of the Princess of Monaco's 40th birthday at the Scorpio Ball and the 42nd Academy Awards. At this illustrious event, Taylor, while wearing the diamond, presented the Best Picture Oscar to Midnight Cowboy, thereby etching another unforgettable moment in the annals of Hollywood history.

Another most famous anecdote about the Taylor-Burton diamond involves Taylor wearing it for a trip to a hospital in Monaco. As the story goes, Taylor was visiting a friend and wore the diamond in a necklace. She leaned over the friend's bed, and the diamond fell from the necklace. Panic ensued, and even the Monaco police were involved in the search. Luckily, the diamond was found in a bedsheet at the hospital, and it returned to its rightful owner.


V. After Taylor

Taylor-Burton Diamond

Taylor-Burton Diamond // Mouawad


Following her divorce from Burton, Taylor sold the diamond in 1979 for $5 million to New York jeweler Henry Lambert, stating that she wanted the sale to benefit a hospital in Botswana. The diamond was subsequently sold to its current owner, Robert Mouawad, a member of the illustrious Mouawad family known for their collection of extraordinary gems.


VI. Current Status and Value

The diamond's last publicly known price was the $5 million paid in 1979, but its current value is certainly many times higher. Given the rise in diamond prices, the inflation-adjusted value, and the gem's historical and cultural significance, experts estimate its current value could easily exceed $30-50 million.


VII. Conclusion

The Taylor-Burton Diamond's journey reflects the complex dance of opulence, fame, love, and generosity. It was unearthed from the earth's bowels, transformed into a magnificent gem, became an emblem of love in Hollywood's golden age, and continues to enchant as a symbol of rare beauty and opulence. Today, it remains one of the world's most famous diamonds, a testament to its rich history, extraordinary size, and the enduring allure of these remarkable gemstones.

From its birth in the Premier Mine to its voyage through some of the most glamorous hands in the world, the Taylor-Burton Diamond is more than just a gem; it is a captivating narrative inscribed in facets and carats. Its value lies not only in its size and beauty but also in its fascinating journey and the stories it continues to tell. The allure of the Taylor-Burton Diamond, therefore, remains as timeless as the gem itself.


Image credits unknown.


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