Today we’ve got a brooch that combines all the best things about May — flowers and emeralds! Here’s a look at the emerald floral brooch that belonged to one of the greatest Hollywood jewelry collectors, Dame Elizabeth Taylor.
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The brooch was made in 1960 by Bulgari. When it was sold in 2011, the auction lot notes described it as “mounted en tremblant, designed as a spray of variously-shaped diamond flower blossoms set with oval-cut emerald pistils and petals, extending baguette-cut diamond stems, mounted in platinum.”
The brooch was part of Elizabeth’s parure of diamond and emerald jewels from Bulgari, a married set that evolved over several years. The brooch was given to Elizabeth by her fourth husband, Eddie Fisher, probably in 1961, shortly after the production of Cleopatra moved from England to Italy.
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Here, Elizabeth wears the brooch (as well as a pair of diamond and emerald earrings, also made by Bulgari) for a party at the Imperial Room of the Grand Hotel in Rome in October 1961. Eddie and Elizabeth threw the party to mark the first anniversary of the release of the film Spartacus, and the glittering partygoers also included Kirk Douglas (star and producer of the film) and his wife Anne, Jack Lemmon, Robert Wagner, Gina Lollobrigida, Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Dorothy Malone, Anthony Quinn — and, of course, Richard Burton.
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By 1962, Elizabeth embarked on her famous affair with Burton, one that would lead to a pair of marriages and several films. He also became the purchaser of the rest of her Bulgari emerald suite, including the diamond and emerald bracelet she wears in the image above. The photograph was taken in January 1962, when she finally received the David di Donatello Award that she’d won in 1961 as best foreign actress for the film Suddenly Last Summer.
Elizabeth and Eddie officially divorced in 1964, and she married Burton nine days later. But Elizabeth didn’t believe in putting away jewelry just because it was a gift from a former spouse, and she continued to wear the floral brooch with the rest of her emeralds, including the grand necklace and brooch/pendant later provided by Burton. In ’60s fashion, Elizabeth often wore the floral brooch in her hair. In this image, you’ll see it nestled in her curls during a UNICEF gala at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris in December 1967.
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Elizabeth kept the brooch until her death in March 2011. The brooch was sold, along with numerous other pieces from her jewelry collection, in a landmark auction at Christie’s in New York in December 2011. The brooch was estimate to sell for between $200,000 and $300,000 — but it smashed that estimate, fetching a whopping $1.5 million. Since its sale, the brooch has been displayed a few times, including a 2014 exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and a showing at the Bulgari flagship store in New Bond Street in London in 2016.