Great collectors;Discover jewellery;Discovery series

23rd July 1999 at 01:00
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

Ms Taylor is fabulously fond of diamonds and has accumulated several shining examples during her lifetime. One of the first was the 39-carat Krupp diamond, which Richard Burton bought for her in 1968 for $300,000.

A year later, Cartier of New York acquired a 69-carat, pear-shaped diamond for more than $1 million. Burton bought this as well (for an undisclosed sum) and renamed it the Taylor-Burton diamond. Taylor auctioned it in 1979 to raise money to help build a hospital in Botswana.

For her 40th birthday, Burton gave Taylor a heart-shaped diamond engraved with the name of Queen Mumtaz. Its 17th-century owner, Mumtaz Mahal, was the Indian queen for whom the Taj Mahal had been built. Because it cannot be removed from its setting, the diamond has never been weighed.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor

The largest jewellery sale ever held was that of the Duchess of Windsor's collection at Sotheby's in Geneva, on April 3, 1987. It raised $31.4 million. The Windsors were prodigious buyers of jewellery. They patronised the most famous houses, but particularly Van Cleef amp; Arpels and Cartier.

It was on a brief visit to England in 1946 that some of the Duchess's jewels were apparently stolen. The hoard, valued at $25,000, was never recovered and there were those who maintained that the robbery had been masterminded by the royal family in an attempt to snatch back Queen Alexandra's emeralds. One of the many ugly rumours that circulated about Wallis Simpson was that besides running off with the king, she had snaffled half the crown jewels.

The Duke certainly spent an incredible amount of money on jewellery for Wallis (perhaps to make up to her for not being Queen), and the magnificent emeralds he gave her had indeed belonged to Alexandra. But it has since emerged that Alexandra left them to her daughter, who sold them to Garrards, from whom Edward had bought them.

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