By Nick Resch
Celebrities. Whether closer to home or international – the rich and famous, movie stars, royalty or other – one thing many have in common is a love of all things bling. So, when it comes to engagement rings, it’s little wonder some of the most amazing examples ever seen have been exchanged by couples in the public eye, and what an eyeful are some of these enormous rocks! We take a closer look at the 10 best celebrity engagement rings, in particular diamond engagement rings.
The giving of engagement rings is known to have become popular in ancient Roman times, although it is believed the tradition began even earlier. The ring finger on the left hand was thought to have a blood vessel which led directly to the heart. Rings were most commonly fashioned from gold.
The first documented instance of the gift of a diamond engagement ring was that given by the Emperor of Austria-Hungary, Archduke Maximillian, to his fiancée Mary of Burgundy, in Vienna in 1477. The diamond engagement ring became wildly popular in the second half of the 20th century, in large part due to the famous advertising campaign of the British company De Beers who coined the phrase “A Diamond is Forever”. Hollywood stars of the era championed the diamond engagement ring and vied with one another to impress lovers and fans with their largesse and glamour.
Any discussion (worth its weight in gold?!) of the 10 best celebrity engagement rings has to start with Dame Elizabeth Taylor. In fact, 10 different diamond engagement rings actually belonged to her at one time or another, as she became engaged 10 times! Her other form included 8 marriages, 7 divorces and she was widowed once.
Elizabeth was only 17 when she was first presented with a diamond engagement ring. An old-fashioned classic ring was proffered to the teenager in 1949 by Mr William Pawley Jnr, the son of a US Ambassador. It was a cushion cut diamond engagement ring which was to be the first of many.
The next year, in 1950, aged 18, Elizabeth was proposed to by Hotel mogul Conrad Hilton. The four carat diamond platinum-set diamond engagement ring did the trick for Hilton, as they were to walk down the aisle shortly thereafter. The movie studio MGM paid for the wedding. Mr & Mrs Hilton were divorced 8 months later.
Soon after, Elizabeth Taylor was proposed to by English actor Michael Wilding. This time, the diamond engagement ring was rather more flamboyant and dramatic – the diamonds arranged as studs surrounding an enormous pyramid shaped sapphire. They stayed together for 5 years and had 2 children together.
In 1956 the big time Hollywood theatre and movie producer Mike Todd presented the 24 year old Elizabeth Taylor with a diamond engagement ring which was a gobsmacking “not quite 30 but twenty-nine-and-a-half” carat ring. She referred to it as her “ice skating rink”. Divorce with her previous husband had not yet been finalised; when it was, Taylor and Todd married in Mexico weeks later. He was sadly killed in a plane crash the year after, and Elizabeth continued to wear the ring for years afterwards, along with other fabulous diamond jewellery given to her during the marriage, some of which she wore in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Her next marriage was to Eddie Fisher. He was a good friend of Mike Todd’s, and his previous wife was Elizabeth’s old friend since childhood, Debbie Reynolds. Seeing as she was still in the habit of sporting the gigantic diamond engagement ring given to her by her late husband, Eddie went for a bracelet – comprised of a row of 50 diamonds.
Three years later, on the set of Cleopatra in 1962, she met Richard Burton. Despite the extraordinary amount of jewellery lavished upon her by the Welsh actor over the course of their marriages and relationships (!), he never actually gave her an engagement ring. The most prized of her gifts from Burton were the Bulgari necklace featuring the 32 carat Burmese sapphire pendant and the fantastic “Krupp” diamond, for which Mr Burton paid a record amount to purchase in 1968. It was a whopping 33.2 carats and was re-named the Taylor Diamond. It sold at auction in 2011 for $9 million.
In 1976 John Warner the US Senator proposed to Elizabeth Taylor with a large engagement ring consisting of rubies, emeralds and diamonds. The marriage did not last very long, as she grew tired of playing a politician’s wife. In 1983 she was proposed to again, by Mexican lawyer Victor Luna. The ring’s hero was a bold 16 carat sapphire. They did not proceed with a wedding but remained good friends. In 1984 American businessman Dennis Stein tried his hand, requesting her hand by way of a beautiful diamond engagement ring. They called it off before committing to wedlock. A few years later Elizabeth Taylor became engaged again, for the tenth and final time. In 1988 she met construction worker Larry Fortensky whilst a guest at the Betty Ford clinic. The diamond engagement ring was a simple pavé diamond band. The wedding was held at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. They divorced five years later, remaining friends until Dame Elizabeth’s death in 2011.
No-one will ever outdo Elizabeth Taylor in the diamond engagement ring stakes. Making the list of 10 best celebrity engagement rings though, is Ms Taylor’s contemporary 1950’s Hollywood style icon, Grace Kelly. She met Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1955 at the Cannes Film Festival and a flame was lit. They courted for a year, then The Prince got down on one knee, offering the Golden Globes winner a 10.5 carat, emerald cut Cartier diamond engagement ring. The ring today would be worth an estimated $4.5 million. They were married in 1956, and Grace became Princess of Monaco.
Around the same time, Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe wed baseball star Joe DiMaggio; the famous ring a platinum eternity band surrounded by 35 baguette cut diamonds. The item later sold for close to $1million dollars, even though it had lost one diamond from the setting.
Lady Diana Spencer was only 19 years old when Charles, Prince of Wales popped the question at Buckingham Palace with a 12 carat oval Ceylon sapphire, surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds, set in 18 karat white gold. Diana’s ring is arguably the most famous celebrity diamond ring of the last half century. Charles’ son William proposed to Kate Middleton with his late mother’s ring and in 2011 they were married, with 300 million viewers watching on television.
The beauty presented to Jennifer Aniston by beau Justin Theroux makes the 10 best celebrity engagement rings register. It was much talked about, the emerald cut solitaire diamond a serious show stopper, worth at least half a million dollars.
Power couple Victoria and David Beckham have a collection of diamond engagement rings. Yes, a collection! Fourteen at last count, including a much admired 17 carat pear-cut on platinum stunner.
Beloved American actress Reese Witherspoon married Jim Toth in 2011. He had proposed with a rare stone – Ashoka cut weighing in at 4 carats.
Ashton Kutcher wed Mila Kunis in 2012. They had played lovers on the popular TV hit show “That Seventies Show”. Fans were rapt. Mila later admitted she keeps the Tiffany solitaire diamond engagement ring in a safety deposit box.
Hollywood couple Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake tied the knot in 2012. She wore a vintage style aquamarine and 6 carat diamond engagement ring which was designed by Justin, the actress declaring she had no say in it and her husband had “a real eye for design”.
No list of the 10 best celebrity engagement rings would be complete without mention of the 18 carat, flawless, octagon cut diamond ring given to Beyoncé by Jay-Z. It’s said to be worth at least $5 million.
Other amazing pieces are the 7 carat, emerald cut diamond engagement ring George Clooney gave his wife Amal, the colossal 20 carat diamond gifted to J-Lo by hubby Alex Rodriguez and the 12 carat, oval cut diamond set on rose gold presented by Ryan Reynolds to Blake Lively, rumoured to be valued at around $2 million.
The public are fascinated by the lives of celebrities. Their lifestyles, houses, cars, fashions and holidays can be amazing adventures into the exotic which most of us can only dream about. Celebrities influence international trends and styles in many ways and this includes weddings, wedding rings and of course diamond engagement rings. Many people look to the red carpet and the accoutrements of the rich and famous for inspiration when choosing the look of that special piece. So definitely check out the best celebrity engagement rings for stimulus, intrigue and fun!