Diamonds and coloured gemstones. Both amazing treasures, sourced from the depths of mother earth, revered for centuries. Both beautiful and inspiring, significant and sacred.
Not always but typically, diamonds are prized for the absence of colour within them. Whereas more often than not, coloured gemstones are cherished for their inward abundance and intensity of colour (the exceptions being pink diamonds – which are extremely rare and valuable; and it is true that subtle hues are also venerated amongst coloured gemstones).
One almost takes a step back to marvel at the grandeur of a flawless solitaire diamond projecting and sparkling with fiery brilliance, in all its glory. Whereas we are drawn into the internal, profound depth in coloured gemstones. We want to get right up close and gaze into the heart of a ruby, the endless ocean of a sapphire, the soul of an emerald. Both are universally much admired, but from different angles – metaphorically and literally.
Is one the extrovert and one the intravert? Like some couples who seem oddly matched – but work perfectly together – diamonds and coloured gemstones are like yin and yang. They come from the same place, fit perfectly alongside each other and function wonderfully in harmony.
Some do prefer the dazzle of diamonds, and some are drawn to the charisma of coloured gems. But most people probably appreciate equally the different characteristics and charm of both, and how consummately they work side by side. Many people have rings and jewellery comprising diamonds and coloured gemstones featuring adjacent one another, in superlative precious metal settings.
Three ladies who loved their diamonds and adored their coloured gemstones too are discussed below. Famous, fabulous women who had amazing jewellery collections befitting of their incredible lives and legacies.
ELIZABETH TAYLOR’S RUBIES
Elizabeth Taylor – the Hollywood screen legend and style icon, is probably better known for her multiple marriage odyssey and extraordinary jewellery collection, rather than her films. She is most often associated with spectacular diamond pieces, but she also possessed a marvellous collection of coloured gemstone jewellery. The most famous item, a magnificent ruby and diamond ring, which was given to her by love of her life and husband twice over, Richard Burton. He had told Taylor, “One day I’m going to find you the most perfect ruby in the world”. A romantic mission, which he duly fulfilled.
A Van Cleef and Arpels creation, the Burmese ruby weighing 8.24 carats, surrounded by diamonds in an 18k gold setting. Burton declared his love for the colour which was “the same as Wales,” his homeland. The gift was a surprise, and apparently the purchase involved lengthy discussions with the jewellers over quite a long period of time. He communicated with the Paris based firm in French, which he spoke fluently, but Taylor could not understand, and so the secret was kept under wraps. He gave her the ruby and diamond ring for Christmas in 1968.
The story goes that Burton stuffed the gleaming jewel into her stocking. The leading lady recalled, in Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry, “I opened the box very, very slowly. Inside it glowed with fire of the most perfect colored stone I’d ever seen. With the most perfect cut. I’m sure I almost fainted. I screamed, which probably echoed over the mountains, and I couldn’t stop screaming. I knew I was staring at the most exquisite ruby anyone had ever seen.” When interviewed about the book, Taylor told the New York Times journalist that, when Richard Burton gave her jewellery, “I would get so excited, I would jump on top of him and practically make love to him in Bulgari.”
The actress often wore the remarkable ruby ring on her right-hand ring finger, blending it in with other jewellery seamlessly, and even wearing it on set, on several occasions.
Elizabeth Taylor’s ruby and diamond ring was later sold at auction, at Christies’s in 2011, for $4,226,500. At that time, it was the record for a ruby piece. The result certainly establishing its reputation as one of the most perfect rubies ever.
It wasn’t the only rare and resplendent ruby jewellery in her incredible inventory.
Husband number three, Mike Todd, presented Taylor with a stunning suite of ruby jewellery, comprising necklace, earrings and bracelet created by Cartier, in 1957. They were holidaying at the romantic Villa Fiorentina in Cote d’Azur, France. The moment was caught on film as another friend staying with the couple had his camera rolling at the time. It’s still often viewed on Youtube to this day.
The ruby and diamond pieces were also sold under the hammer at Christie’s 2011. The necklace fetched $3,778,500, the earrings $782,500 and the bracelet $842,500.
It was the third marriage for the dashing movie producer as well. He also gave Taylor the gobsmacking 29.5 carat diamond and platinum engagement ring, which she famously referred to as her ‘ice skating rink’. Mike Todd was the only one out of the seven husbands of Elizabeth Taylor’s whom she did not divorce. Tragically he died in a plane crash just over a year after they exchanged vows.
JACKIE O’S EMERALDS
The engagement of Senator John Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier was announced in the press in 1953. Naturally, everyone wanted to see the ring, but there wasn’t one as yet. Apparently, they had been shopping around but just couldn’t find the right one. Jackie told writer Jay Mulvaney, author of Kennedy Weddings, “Jack and I have looked at dozens of them. Some I didn’t like and others weren’t the right type.”
Soon they came upon a gorgeous ring at Van Cleef and Arpels in New York. It was a 2.84 carat emerald cut emerald with 2.88 carat emerald cut diamond, and baguette cut diamonds and emeralds decorating the band – in an unusual design, called ‘bypass’. This is a distinctive style whereby the bands overlap or cross over each other and part. This design is particularly suitable for featuring two good sized gorgeous stones together in a ring.
There was a feeling at the time that Jackie was not especially ‘showing off’ the ring, as many brides do. She was often photographed after their nuptials wearing the gold wedding band only. And often she wore gloves, which was quite common for women in those days; but was she not mad about the ring, perhaps? It seems so, because in 1961 she had the ring refashioned by Van Cleef and Arpels. It was rumoured that she may have thought the ring too ostentatious, although the second iteration was certainly just as fancy, but a little more formal. The beautiful emerald and diamond ring in its second guise would co-ordinate better with her other gold and emerald jewellery.
Jackie Kennedy had a stunning suite of emerald jewellery, which was much admired and worn often by the fashion icon in those years. The ‘drop suite’ comprised necklace, bracelet and earrings with dazzling emeralds and sparkling diamonds set in yellow gold. The earrings featured a voluptuous pair of pear-shaped emeralds suspended from striking round cut emeralds – all surrounded by shimmering diamonds. The bracelet and necklace flaunted a swathe of glamorous emeralds and brilliant diamond accents. Jackie wore these to John F Kennedy’s first Presidential Ball and on many other official occasions. It was said that the emerald suite was one of her most beloved possessions.
On the occasion of their 10 year anniversary, President John F Kennedy gifted Jackie a ravishing emerald eternity ring – it featured ten glorious green stones – one for every year of their marriage. It was 1963, which heartbreakingly would be the last year of their union; the President was assassinated in Dallas later that year.
Diana, Princess of Wales, Lady Spencer, Princess Diana.. or simply Diana. Her extraordinary life was cut short.
The most famous woman of the 20th century it has been said. Arguably the most acclaimed engagement ring of the epoch – the iconic diamond and sapphire ring given to her by Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1981. The ring consists of 14 solitaire diamonds surrounding the feature stone, a bold 12 carat Ceylon sapphire, in 18 carat white gold setting. Traditionally such an auspicious ring was custom made, but Diana swam against the tide, as we know; she selected the piece from a catalogue. It was the made by Garrard, the British Crown Jewellers.
The ring was beloved by the people as was the Princess, and it is still one of the most often requested designs by today’s brides. In a gesture which was so meaningful and touching for millions around the world, Diana’s son William presented the ring to Kate Middleton upon their engagement. The Duchess of Cambridge wears the ring regularly, so the ring’s legend lives on, as does Diana’s.
As a wedding present, Diana was given an extremely large sapphire and pearl choker by the Queen mother, which she was also fond of wearing to glamorous events.
In the year of her marriage to Charles, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia gifted the Princess of Wales a diamond and sapphire set which became known as the ‘Saudi Sapphires Suite’. It’s a collection of stunning diamond and sapphire pieces; an enormous Burmese sapphire and diamond pendant with accompanying bracelet, ring and wristwatch. One of the sapphires was later converted into an eye-catching velvet choker; it is thought the stone was taken from the watch.
In 1986 during a royal tour of the Arabian Gulf, the Sultan of Oman proffered an extremely conspicuous gift to the Princess. The striking set comprising a necklace and earrings featuring a multitude of diamonds and rich blue sapphires, in the form of a crescent. The exotic yet contemporary looking set was to become one of Diana’s favourites.
Princess Diana also owned some remarkable emerald rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings. She was often photographed wearing pearls and yellow gold chains. Her collection ranged from quite humble, simple jewellery to show stopping classics and avant-garde masterpieces.
Paul Bram has an extensive range of magnificent, coloured gemstones. Rubies, emeralds, sapphires and others – in various items and matching suites. Contact us to discuss the many vibrant and distinctive coloured stone options.
Words by Nick Resch