Designing for the Diva

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Elizabeth Taylor on the set of “Ash Wednesday” 1973 with Henry Fonda and Helmut Berger. She wears a pair of earrings with natural pearls and diamonds by Bulgari. Credit: Contrasto

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Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton at their exchange of marital vows in Montreal. Elizabeth wears an emerald and diamond brooch, March 15, 1964.

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The brooch was probably given to Elizabeth Taylor by Eddie Fischer, her husband at the time and was worn both as a brooch and hair ornament.

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1961. Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher at the party organized to celebrate the first anniversary of Kirk Douglas’ film Spartacus. She wears her earrings end Tremblant brooch in platinum with emeralds and diamonds. Credit: Corbis

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Elizabeth casually came across this ring, perfectly complementing the sautoir she received two years before. The two pieces were not intended to be a parure, yet they became a ‘perfect couple’.

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Elizabeth received it as a wedding gift from her husband Richard Burton in 1964. The pendent element, created by Bulgari in 1958 as a brooch, was given to Elizabeth Taylor by Burton for their engagement in 1962 and worn by the actress in their wedding day in 1964. The actress was then immortalized in the necklace in 1966, when she received the Oscar as best actress.

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Created in 1962, it was the first jewel that Elizabeth Taylor received from Richard Burton in Rome during the filming of Cleopatra, when their ‘scandalous’ love story started. The actress sold it in 2002 at a charity auction for “The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation” and in a letter addressed to the new owners, Taylor wrote “Wear it with love!”

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1963. Elizabeth Taylor on the set of the movie “The V.I.P.s” Directed by Anthony Asquith. Credit: Photofest.

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Elizabeth Taylor on the set of “The V.I.P.s” in 1963. She wore a brooch with diamonds and emeralds 18.61 carats, which Richard Burton gave to her as a gift when they fell in love in 1962. Credit: Grazia Neri

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Gold hand mirror decorated with an Egyptian inspired raptor set with calibrated cut turquoise. Created in 1962 at the time when Elizabeth Taylor was enacting Cleopatra in the homonymous Hollywood colossal.

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The jewel was a gift from Richard Burton to Liz Taylor in 1972 for her fortieth birthday.

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This sautoir was a great favourite with Elizabeth, who wore it on numerous occasions, including the day her engagement to John Warner was announced in 1976.

Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, renowned actress and heart throb to many, was an ardent lover of all things shimmering. And her favourites came from the 130 year old jewellery masters at Bulgari. Sharon Carvalho delves into the relationship to find out what drew her to the brand

Celebrated as having one of the greatest ever assembled personal collections of jewellery, Elizabeth Taylor was known for her impeccable taste. But her journey with Bulgari began in 1961 when she arrived in Rome to play one her most iconic roles as the lead in Cleopatra. She stated that, “one of the biggest advantages to filming Cleopatra in Rome was Bulgari’s shop. I used to visit Gianni Bulgari in the afternoon and we’d sit and swap stories.” Priding herself on being known as the ‘guardian’ of the fabulous jewels, Elizabeth began her collection with an emerald and diamond En Tremblant brooch. Next came an exquisite mirror commissioned by her then husband, Eddie Fisher. The mirror, dubbed the ‘Cleopatra Mirror’ was designed in 18 karat gold and turquoise with Egyptian Revival motif of a bird with outstretched wings. Rumoured to have been a 30th birthday present from Eddie, it always remained unclear whether it was to be used in the film or not.

By 1962, Richard Burton arrived in Rome to play Marc Antony and what followed would become known as Le Scandale. It is said that no sooner had he filmed his first scene with her, that the two fell instantly in love, despite the fact that both were very much married at that point. Quickly growing used to Elizabeth’s glamorous lifestyle and love of jewellery, Richard took immense pleasure in showering her with a fortune of jewels. For him, having been born in a poor Welsh miners’ town, it reminded him of how far he had come. He was known to have said, “I introduced Liz to beer, she introduced me to Bulgari.” Through the time they spent shooting the film, Richard and Elizabeth would hide out in the private and hidden ‘money room’ at Bulgari, where Gianni Bulgari would tempt them with some of his most magnificent pieces. Shortly after, Richard presented Elizabeth with his first gift to her, an emerald ring fondly known as the ‘Taylor Burton fiancée ring’.

And when they were finally engaged, he picked up a diamond brooch with a 23.44 octagonal step-cut emerald, which she wore as the only piece of jewellery on the day they got married. The piece ended up representing their deep love for each other. He then returned to Bulgari and bought her an emerald and diamond necklace. Elizabeth exclaimed, “It’s like two for the price of one!” because her engagement brooch could be attached to the necklace and worn as a pendant. Over the years, Elizabeth wore the entire set of emeralds at some of the most important milestones of her life, from when she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ in 1967 to her meeting with Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1976.

It was for her 40th birthday in 1972 that Richard gifted her a sautoir in platinum with diamonds and sapphires. She wore the piece in her film ‘Ash Wednesday’ and later bought a matching Trombino ring to complement the jewel. He was once known to have said, “The only word Elizabeth knows in Italian is Bulgari.”

But one of the pieces she wore most frequently through the 70s was a gold and diamond sautoir set with six sculpted coin. The style used to create this piece was one that the brand began in the 60s with mounting ancient coins in their jewellery. This style quickly became recognised and iconic and was a way to honour the family’s Greco-Roman heritage.

Elizabeth remained true, kind and grounded despite her unsurpassed lifestyle. Similarly, Bulgari became known for combining precious stones with antique coins, ceramic and silk cords; items of no value. For this reason and perhaps, their understanding of juxtapositions, it is said that there couldn’t have been a more apt celebrity to fall in love with Bulgari.

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