Elizabeth Taylor and Bulgari: A Love Story

    Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Cleopatra wearing an original Serpenti watch, still missing today

    Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Cleopatra wearing an original Serpenti watch, still missing today

    “I introduced Liz to beer, she introduced me to Bulgari,” Richard Burton famously said during the filming of Cleopatra in 1963 in Italy. Elizabeth Taylor’s love affair with jewelry was no surprise to the world. She famously changed diamonds necklaces faster than she changed husbands. Burton (whom she married twice in a decade’s long turbulent affair) showered her in jewels for no occasions. He gave her “It’s a beautiful day, I love you” diamond necklaces, “It’s Tuesday, I love you” emerald rings and “You’re beautiful” sapphires for no occasion. Liz was dubbed the most beautiful woman in Hollywood (she was also the highest paid actress by this time), and Burton wanted to keep her in the only way he knew how.

    Though Elizabeth Taylor’s collections ranged from Cartier brooches to royal tiaras bought on auction, she had a particular addition for Bulgari. It was even rumored that she had requested the Italian Maison to wait around the set of Cleopatra with their latest collection, just so she could go shopping in between takes. During the newly engaged couples stay in Italy, they would take walks to the Bulgari flagship on Rome’s Via Condotti. There, he would purchase anything she wanted: pendants, rings, watches, diamonds—and kept them with care and love. Liz, was in fact, a connoisseur. She knew clarity, value and even the technical side of jewelry making.

    Hearsay says that Richard Burton bought so much jewels for the actress between the early 60s to the mid 70s that he was in financial crisis, borrowing money from family and friends just so that Liz could have her weekly dose of glitter. Of course, one should take this with a grain of salt. After all, it is Hollywood we’re talking about, and stories on Liz and Dick have become hammy exaggeration over the years.

    1960: A Bulgari brooch she wore for the film The V.I.P.s

    A Bulgari emerald necklace given to Elizabeth Taylor by Richard Burton during their walks to the flagship store in Rome, 1962

    Christie’s dubbed Taylor’s collection as one of the most impressive ever assembled by a single person. They were assigned the task to the sell everything at auction after her death. Curators commented that they haven’t seen such a glorious array of jewels since that of Miss Wallace Simpson’s, who was married to a royal and not an Oscar winning actor. Worth an estimated $30 million, her diamonds, rubies, pearls, sapphires and emeralds were all auctioned off in a two-day session in New York City (this included Cartier, Harry Winston, antique pieces, and of course—Bulgari). Liz, however, did want this happen. Writing in her 2002 memoir My Love Affair with Jewelry, she stated that she hoped that whoever would own them after her death, would give them a good home.

    Some of Liz’s most famous Bulgari pieces include the emerald brooch she wore in 1960 as a hair accessory in the film The V.I.P.s. Her emerald necklace gifted to her during those Italian summers were seen on occasion. It was her engagement gift from the actor, and she would be seen wearing it on Oscar night 1967, when she accepted the statue for her performance in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. A Bulgari platinum sapphire and diamond pendant combination is a sight to behold, and was given to Taylor by Burton for her 40th birthday in 1972. “The only word Elizabeth knows in Italian is Bulgari,” he would tell friends after making a lavish purchase. In one vintage photograph on the set of Cleopatra, she wore one of the first iconic Serpenti watches (still being sold at Bulgari today) which have mysteriously disappeared—like many of Taylor’s personal Bulgari pieces from this era.

    A 321-carat Burmese sapphire pendant set on a diamond and sapphire sautoir necklace, 1969

    Today, many are still fascinated with the late actress’ collection of Bulgari jewels. Like the Serpenti, many are still missing from the public eye. Many believe they were sold off during Burton’s rumored financial crisis. It is a mystery that Bulgari itself is trying to solve and uncover. The jewelry brand has even hired a team of professionals to track down all of Liz’s priceless pieces to return back home to them. Though the road may be long while searching for these unaccounted pieces, the public remains to be enamored by the idea of Elizabeth Taylor’s hidden treasure.

    By Chino R. Hernandez


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