Elizabeth Taylor’s expansive jewellery collection reflected a life filled with love and loss. The actor was engaged 10 times, married eight, divorced seven and widowed once. Her personal life was only marginally less colourful than the precious stones that shone from her many rings, necklaces, bracelets, brooches and diadems.
Though she had been presented with three before it, Taylor’s first gobstopper jewel came when Mike Todd proposed to the then 24-year-old with a “not quite 30 but twenty-nine-and-a-half” carat engagement ring in 1956.
While for most women, their engagement ring is likely the showpiece of their jewellery collection, some of Taylor’s were modest compared to her non-matrimonial rocks – she had been married to Richard Burton for five years when the couple bought the famous $1million (£750,000) stone that was christened the Taylor-Burton diamond.
Vogue takes a closer look at the famous jewellery-lover’s engagement rings.
To William Pawley Jr
Elizabeth Taylor first became engaged to William Pawley Jr, the son of US ambassador William D Pawley, in 1949. A cushion cut diamond engagement ring kicked off the then 17-year-old’s jewellery collection. © Bettmann
To Conrad Hilton
Hotel heir Conrad Hilton proposed to Taylor with a four carat diamond platinum-set engagement ring. The couple married when Elizabeth was 18, in an MGM-funded wedding at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills on 6 May 1950. They divorced eight months later. © Clarence Sinclair Bull/Mgm/Kobal/Shutterstock
To Michael Wilding
English actor Michael Wilding proposed to Elizabeth Taylor with a diamond-studded sapphire engagement ring. They married in London’s Caxton Hall and Taylor and Wilding — who was 20 years her senior — had two sons, Michael and Christopher. A change in pace for their careers — hers on the ascent, his not so much — is thought to be behind their divorce in 1956. Talking to Life magazine in 1964, Taylor said she married Wilding for “the calm and quiet and security of friendship”. © Ac/AP/Shutterstock
To Mike Todd
Film producer Mike Todd proposed to 24-year-old Taylor with an emerald-cut diamond ring that the actor fondly called her “ice skating rink”. As she was still married to Wilding at the time, Taylor would tell the press that it was not an engagement ring, but a friendship ring. Todd confirmed otherwise, and the couple wed in a ceremony in Mexico on 2 February 1957 – just weeks after her divorce was finalised. The third marriage for both Todd and Taylor lasted just over a year, as Todd was tragically killed in a plane accident in March 1958, when the couple’s daughter, Liza, was just seven months old. Years after Todd’s death, Taylor continued to wear the ring, along with the many jewels she accumulated during their marriage — including the ruby and diamond suite by Cartier, a diamond tiara, a pair of costume earrings that Todd had reset in diamonds, and a comparatively small diamond heart pendant, which she can be seen wearing in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. © New York Daily News Archive
To Eddie Fisher
Taylor married Todd’s close friend, Eddie Fisher, on 12 May 1959, following his swift divorce from her childhood friend, Debbie Reynolds. As Taylor was still fond of wearing the ring given to her by the late Todd, Fisher presented his soon-to-be bride with a bracelet made up of a row of 50 diamonds. The couple remained married until the actor started working on Cleopatra in 1962. She met Richard Burton on set. © Bettmann
To Richard Burton
Although Taylor married Welsh actor Richard Burton twice, he never gave her an engagement ring. The first proposal was accompanied by an emerald Bulgari brooch that Taylor pinned to her marigold wedding dress. “Richard was so romantic that he’d use any excuse to give me a piece of jewellery,” Taylor wrote in Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair With Jewellery. “He’d give me, ‘It’s a beautiful day’ presents, or, ‘Let’s go for a walk’ presents. During their marriage Taylor acquired a Bulgari necklace featuring a 32 carat Burmese sapphire pendant, and the Krupp diamond, which Burton paid $305,000 (£233,000) for in 1968. © Reginald Davis/Shutterstock
To John Warner
Taylor wed Republican politician John Warner in 1976, having been presented with an engagement ring made up of rubies, emeralds and diamonds. More low-key than many of her previous weddings, the couple said “I do” at Warner’s estate in Middleburg, Virginia, and the bride wore a lavender grey ensemble of a turban and silver fox fur coat. Once her husband was elected to the Senate, the actor grew disillusioned with life as a politician’s wife, and they divorced in 1982. © Images Press
To Victor Luna
Mexican lawyer Victor Luna proposed to Taylor with a 16-carat sapphire ring in 1983, though they called off the engagement in August 1984, before the wedding. “The couple remarked they will remain strong friends,” Taylor’s publicist said at the time, and insisted that the decision was not linked to the death of Richard Burton earlier in the month. © Time & Life Pictures
After a whirlwind two-month romance, businessman Dennis Stein became Taylor’s ninth fiancée when he proposed with a sapphire and diamond ring at the end of 1984. Photographed here together at the Golden Globes, the pair called off their engagement in February 1985, with the LA Times reporting that they were in constant communication and remained “amicable and friendly”. © Ron Galella
To Larry Fortensky
Taylor met construction worker Larry Fortensky during a stay at the Betty Ford Centre in 1988. A simple pavé diamond band was her final engagement ring. The October 1991 wedding, however, was less subtle. The ceremony at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch reportedly cost Taylor $2million (£1.5million). The couple sold the photographs to People for a $1million (£750,000) fee that was used to start the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. They divorced five years later, but remained friends until Taylor’s death in 2011. © Ron Galella