At the height of her fame, Elizabeth Taylor took on an uncredited role in the 1969 film Anne Of The Thousand Days, starring alongside her then husband, Richard Burton, who was playing Henry VIII in the Anne Boleyn biopic. A cameo as a masked courtesan might have seemed like a curious choice for the world’s most famous woman, but it presented Taylor with the opportunity to immortalise her La Peregrina pearl onscreen. A gift from Burton to Taylor, the pearl belonged to the Spanish royal family for over 250 years, was part of Mary Tudor’s collection, and eventually found a home in the starlet’s jewellery box after it was sold at auction in 1969.
It wasn’t the first time Taylor gave her personal jewels a starring role – she often incorporated her most precious gems into her characters’ wardrobes. Her Bulgari floral brooch — given to her by her fourth husband Eddie Fisher — made cameos in several films, while her penchant for record-breaking diamonds became so famous it would ultimately influence the movies she appeared in.
Here, on what would have been her 89th birthday, British Vogue reveals 13 times Elizabeth Taylor’s love affairs with film and jewellery overlapped.
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, 1958
As Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Elizabeth wore the dainty diamond heart-shaped pendant given to her by her third husband, Mike Todd, shortly before his untimely death in a plane crash in March 1958. She also wore the sentimental piece onscreen in Suddenly, Last Summer (1959).
The V.I.P.s, 1963
When Taylor took on the role of stranded movie star Frances Andros in The V.I.P.s, she brought along her suite of emeralds to the set. Amongst the pieces worn in the film were a pair of Bulgari earrings, as well as an additional Bulgari spray brooch given to the actor by her fourth husband, Eddie Fisher, which she wore in her hair. The white dress photographed here was worn by Taylor offscreen to the Lawrence of Arabia premiere, which she attended with Richard Burton in Paris in March 1963.
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The V.I.P.s, 1963
The actor shares the screen with Richard Burton, Maggie Smith and Orson Welles in this film, but none of her co-stars dazzled quite like her antique sapphire and diamond brooch — a gift from Richard Burton that she wore on their wedding day. The Burmese stone sold for over £1.3 million at her estate sale in 2011.
For her seminal role as Cleopatra, the actor wore pieces that nodded to the queen’s fascination with snake detailing. Later, Taylor would acquire her own collection of Bulgari’s Serpenti pieces. Most notably, a diamond and emerald watch given to her on the set of Cleopatra by costar and future husband, Richard Burton.
1968’s Boom proved to be the perfect opportunity for Taylor to flaunt her now namesake prized possession. Once known as the Krupp diamond, the Asscher-cut rock was renamed the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond when Burton purchased it for his wife for $307,000 (£234,000). In 2011, it sold at Taylor’s estate auction for $8.8 million (£6.7 million).
Elsewhere in the movie, Taylor pinned her emerald and diamond spray Bulgari brooch to her costume, to glisten alongside her diamond ring.
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Anne Of The Thousand Days, 1969
Taylor had a brief cameo as a courtier in a film that starred Burton as Henry VIII, and she wore the La Peregrina pearl as part of her costume. The pearl was the largest in the world when it was discovered in the 1500s. Burton bought it for Taylor at Sotheby’s as a Valentine’s Day gift for $37,000 (£28,000) in 1969.
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Night Watch, 1973
Taylor wore her Van Cleef & Arpels oval-cut ruby and diamond surround ring for her role in thriller Night Watch, which was given to her by her then husband, Richard Burton, for Christmas in 1968. The ring sold for $4.2 million (£3.2 million) in Taylor’s post-humous Christie’s auction in 2011.
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Ash Wednesday, 1973
Taylor wore a pair of her own detachable drop-shaped natural pearl earrings for her role in Ash Wednesday. The earrings, comprised of two pearls joined by a circular and marquise diamonds, were a gift from Bulgari given to the actor by lawyer Aaron Frosch the year before.
Ash Wednesday, 1973
In another scene, the actor wore her Van Cleef & Arpels ruby ring, a string of pearls and a matching bracelet with diamond hoop earrings.
A Little Night Music, 1977
Taylor wore the La Peregrina pearl set into a Cartier necklace commissioned by the actor when she starred as Desiree Armfeldt in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.
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Here’s Lucy, 1974
Appearing as themselves in Here’s Lucy, Taylor and Burton were involved in a skit that saw host Lucille Ball get the Taylor-Burton diamond stuck on her ring finger.
The Mirror Crack’d, 1980
For her role as movie star Marina Gregg-Rudd in Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d, Elizabeth wore a coral, amethyst and circular-cut diamond pendant as a brooch on her left shoulder. The Van Cleef & Arpels piece, which could also be worn as a sautoir necklace, was a gift from Burton during their marriage.