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July 30, 2011

WWLW: What Would Liz Wear?

Vintage jewels from two Atlanta purveyors that would have made Elizabeth Taylor’s amethyst eyes sparkle!

<p>Vintage jewels (left) from J. S. Fearnley</p>

Vintage jewels (left) from J. S. Fearnley

By Nancy Staab

  • J.S. Fearnley Jewelry photographed by
  • Richters jewelry images courtesy of Richters Atlanta

With the recent passing of the last of the Old Hollywood-style movie stars, LuxeCrush offers a paen in the form of priceless jewels to movie gem Elizabeth Taylor. With the help of Atlanta fine estate jewelers Richters and J. S Fearnley, we’ve unearthed some pedigree pieces that would have sent Dame Elizabeth (or the Queen of the Nile for that matter) summoning her ducats.

Aside from her treasure trove of movies and her laudable charity work, much of the late Dame Elizabeth Taylor’s passions can be summed up with b’s:  Burton, booze, and last, but not least, legendary baubles. Often those three ingredients combined serendipitously at once, resulting in the gifting of some stupendous rocks. For example, Taylor was ceremoniously presented with the 33.19 carat Krupp diamond when Richard Burton beat her in a game of ping-pong! The even more massive, pear-shaped Taylor-Burton diamond, weighing in at a staggering 69.42 carats, came when he had insulted, of all things, her hands (delivered in his Shakespearian, Welsh baritone) and the ensuing brawls between the famous and feisty couple inevitably led to even more vigorous make-up sessions and more bequeathing of jewels.

The tempestuous couple led a glamorous life of his-and-hers Rolls-Royces, entourages before entourages were really invented, furs, parties, jets and gems---their larger-than-life love affair and attendant extravagances documented in the magnificently moving and dishy, recent book Furious Love, based on the spirited Burton-Taylor love letters and given Taylor’s own seal of approval before her death. Indeed, Taylor proudly sported the bejeweled emblems of her Burton love affair on every occasion, rarely leaving the house without one of her prize pieces like the “La Peregrina” pearl  ( originally presented to King Philip II or Spain in 1554 and later in the possession of Napolean) nestling strategically in her décolleté.  She even named her first perfume White Diamonds, so synonymous was her name by the height of the ‘80s with museum-quality jewels. However, Burton wasn’t Taylor’s only gem pusher. Before Burton, producer and husband #3 Mike Todd did quite well in that department. Among the bauble booty Taylor raked in during their brief courtship and marriage (ending in his tragic death by plane crash):  a $350,000 ruby and diamond set from Cartier, a 29.4 carat diamond engagement ring, and a $25,000 diamond tiara for the screen queen. Movie stills and paparazzi snaps of Taylor often feature playful animal-shaped brooches, dazzling chandelier earrings, matching gem sets and glittering gumball-size cocktail rings offsetting her own amethyst-colored eyes.

Tiffany Schlumberger vintage gold fish pin with dimonds, amethyst and acquamarine at Richters Tiffany Schlumberger vintage gold fish pin with dimonds, amethyst and acquamarine at Richters

Taylor, who was quite knowledgeable about jewelry, always considered herself merely a temporary custodian of these pieces. But while she was in possession of them, she flaunted them with pride, even penning a book My Love Affair with Jewelry. Perhaps its fitting that the last of the movie goddesses, the woman who first broke the million dollar glass ceiling for movie star salaries playing Cleopatra, and who, cat-like, led nine lives (with nearly as many husbands—eight) and countless near-death come-backs and rise and falls in public favor, should in the end gravitate to the hard, cold permanence of stones. In the end these stones even helped fund her famous AIDS and other charities, demonstrating that behind the vulgar and seemingly self-aggrandizing flashing of jewels, lay the heart of a truly compassionate human being and grand dame. 

Elizabeth: these jewels are for you. From coral drops and bejeweled cuffs to a spiral diamond choker, these locally-sourced, vintage  jaw-droppers from Richters and J.S. Fearnley scream Butterfield 8 vixen, imperious Egyptian Queen and sensuous Suddenly Last Summer scene-stealer. Channel a little of Liz’s bodacious beauty with these spectacular baubles (prices for these estate jewelry pieces upon request). SEE SLIDE SHOW OF MORE VINTAGE JEWELS BELOW.


Richters of Atlanta: 2300 Peachtree Road NW, 404.355.4462

J.S. Fearnley: 87 West Paces Ferry Road, Suite 2, 404.812.6464,


Van Cleef & Arpels platinum diamond earrings and vintage French diamond necklace from J.S. Fearnley Van Cleef & Arpels platinum diamond earrings and vintage French diamond necklace from J.S. Fearnley