Elizabeth Taylor

"Big girls need big diamonds," Liz once said. Her husbands over the years were happy to comply


"The French are glad to die for love," sang Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. "They delight in fighting duels. But I prefer a man who lives, and gives… expensive jewels." So does Dame Elizabeth Taylor.

The grande dame and famed actress was the recipient of perhaps the most prized of precious gems: the Taylor-Burton diamond. In a dazzling display of love, Richard Burton presented a jewel fit for a queen to the legendary beauty – a 69.42-carat, pear-shaped, D-flawless diamond, cut by renowned jeweller Harry Winston himself.

The rough stone was uncovered at the Premier mine in South Africa in 1966. When first excavated, the diamond was roughly 244 carats but it was soon divided into two rocks. Cartier purchased the larger piece at auction in 1969 and the very next day Burton secured it for an undisclosed sum. But Liz – who later launched a fragrance called, fittingly, White Diamonds – put the diamond on the auction block ten years later and donated the profits to charity.

In 2002, Elizabeth penned Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair With Jewellery, which was released in conjunction with a spectacular display of her jewels at the New York branch of Christie's in September of that year. And the Hollywood legend put one fabulous piece, an emerald and diamond Bulgari ring which was also a gift from Burton, under the hammer. A lucky fan snapped up the bauble – a 7.4-carat stone surrounded by 12 diamonds – for $80,000, nearly double its minimum estimated pricetag.