Richard Burton’s first jewellery purchase for Elizabeth Taylor was the 33.19-carat Asscher-cut Krupp Diamond, in 1968. This had formerly been part of the estate of Vera Krupp, second wife of the steel magnate Alfred Krupp. Miss Taylor wears this stone in a ring. She has worn it in a number of her post-1968 films, during her interview on CNN’s Larry King Live in 2003, and just about everywhere else she goes.
Next came the La Peregrina Pearl for which Burton paid £15,000. The stone has a long and complex history. For Elizabeth’s 40th birthday in 1972 Richard Burton gave her a heart-shaped diamond known as the Taj-Mahal. The stone is fairly large and flat, with an Arabic inscription on either side. It is set with rubies and diamonds in a yellow gold rope-pattern necklace. “I would have liked to buy her the Taj-Mahal,” he remarked, “but it would cost too much to transport. This diamond has so many carats, its almost a turnip.” Then he added, “Diamonds are an investment. When people no longer want to see Liz and I on the screen, then we can sell off a few baubles.”
By the far the best known of Richard Burton’s purchases was the 69.42-carat pear-shape, later to be called the Taylor-Burton Diamond. It was cut from a rough stone weighing 240.80 carats found in the Premier Mine in 1966 and subsequently bought by Harry Winston. Here there is a coincidence: Eight years before, another cleavage of almost identical weight (240.74 carats) had been found in the Premier. Harry Winston bought this stone too, commenting at the time, “I don’t think there have been half a dozen stones in the world of this quality.” This wouldn’t be the first time the Premier Mine would have the last word because the 69.42-carat gem cut from the later discovery is a D-color Flawless stone.
After the rough piece of 240.80 carats arrived in New York, Harry Winston and his cleaver, Pastor Colon Jr. studied it for six months. Markings were made, erased and redrawn to show where the stone could be cleaved. There came the day appointed for the cleaving, and in this instance the usual tension that surrounds such an operation was increased by the heat and glare of the television lights that had been allowed into the workroom. After he had cleaved the stone, the 50-year-old cleaver said nothing — he reached across the workbench for the piece of diamond that had seperated from it and looked at it through his horn-rimmed glasses for a fraction of a second before exclaiming “Beautiful!” This piece of rough weighed 78 carats was expected to yield a stone of about 24 carats, while the large piece, weighing 162 carats, was destined to produce a pear shape whose weight had originally been expected to be about 75 carats.