During Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s famously wicked affair—or “Le Scandale,” as they cheekily called it—on the Italian set of Cleopatra in 1962, the couple frequented the Bulgari boutique on Rome’s Via Condotti. Burton apparently had a preternatural talent for knowing what his ladylove desired, such as a brooch featuring a 23.44 ct. Colombian octagonal step-cut emerald surrounded by pear-shape diamonds and set in platinum, which he gave Taylor to signify their engagement. When they married two years later, the bride wore lilies of the valley and hyacinth in her hair, a daffodil-yellow chiffon dress, and that pin. The same day, Burton gifted her with a matching necklace, and the brooch was later converted into a pendant for the new piece. The suite was one of Taylor’s favorites: She wore it to the BAFTAs, in the pool—even to meet the Queen.
“This particular emerald possessed a vivid deep-green color,” remembers Rahul Kadakia, head of jewelry for Christie’s Americas and Switzerland. “It breathed Elizabeth Taylor’s life and personality.” Kadakia wielded the gavel in 2011 when the brooch alone sold for more than $6.5 million during an auction of Taylor’s jewelry collection. The buyer remained anonymous—though it now, once again, belongs to Bulgari.