There is an old story about Cleopatra that’s pretty good, even though it can’t compare to the Hollywood version. The queen really liked to flaunt her assets and impressed the Romans with her emerald flair. She not only seduced Julius Caesar and married Marc Antony, but was also famous for her generosity. She gave gifts of the green gemstone to visiting dignitaries and their wives. The good will accrued by Cleopatra for the trinkets might have been less if the recipients had known that the green stones were actually the volcanic glass known as peridot.
On March 30, a new chapter in the never ending story of Cleopatra and Elizabeth Taylor was written.
Reuters reported that a golden cape shaped like a pair of wings which was worn by Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra was auctioned. Although the wardrobe prop was expected to go for $20,000, excited bidders drove the price to almost triple that amount.
The collection of jewelry that belonged to the late, great Elizabeth Taylor has been certified as the genuine article. When Elizabeth was 30, she signed on to play the part of Cleopatra for a firm and well rounded figure of a million bucks. It was the first time a female star had crossed that boundary. She was married at the time to crooner, Eddie Fisher, whom she had stolen from Debbie Reynolds. The gossip sheets had enjoyed some nice sales figures, but no one could have predicted the avalanche of publicity that was about to descend.
The Welch Shakespearean actor Richard Burton was not so well known in the U.S., but he was having some success after the original version of “Alexander the Great.” Clearly this was an actor capable of chewing up the scenery. He was dashing and handsome with his weathered profile and enormous gravitas. Elizabeth was smitten by him and their love scenes for the movie began to take on a chemistry that was riveting. Of course, the publicity department tried to deny the rumors since both actors were already married. Soon however, the nascent paparazzi began to follow them everywhere. Photographs of the pair were on the news stands on magazines and papers across several continents.
The first notable gift of jewelry from Richard to Elizabeth was the fabulous Krupp Diamond. Weighing in at over 30 carats, this rock has a pedigree too long and historical to be covered here. For a later birthday present, she received a heart shaped diamond known as the “Taj Mahal” that she wore as ring. Burton joked that he would have preferred to give the real “Taj Mahal,” but the shipping costs would have been exorbitant. The best known item in this selection of love gifts was cut from a rough stone and is known as the Taylor-Burton Diamond. It is a pear shaped boulder of ice exceeding 69 carats! The story goes that he bought it for her while feeding coins into a pay phone. Part of the deal with Cartier required that he allowed them to display it for awhile before the delivery. Alas, after the divorce between Liz and Dick, she sold it for 5 million, breaking his heart a little more. Even without that bauble in the jewelry box, Elizabeth’s estate was recently auctioned off by Christie’s for a record one hundred plus millions, give or take the loose change..
Gentlemen, when you buy your sweetheart a little something on that birthday or anniversary, remember the philosophy of Richard Burton. He considered his diamond purchases as an investment for his and Liz’s retirement. Even though he did make a comeback in their wedding sequel, poor Richard did not make it until the last reel. Diamond’s might be a girl’s best friend ,after all, especially since they live longer than we do!