This diamond is a stone whose destiny involved two of Hollywood’s biggest stars. At its discovery in 1966 at the Premier Mine in South Africa, the diamond weighed 240.80 carats. This magnificent, yet still unnamed diamond was purchased by Harry Winston and fashioned into a more manageable 69.42 carat pear-shaped design before being sold to Mrs. Harriet Annenberg Ames. Reportedly afraid to wear such an ostentatious gem she eventually decided to relinquish ownership of this diamond without a moniker.
The diamond was put up for auction by Parke-Bernet in 1969 with the proviso that the new owner could have the honor of naming it. Bidding was intense for the stone and pandemonium ensued. Once things settled down it was determined that the bid of $1,050,000 by Robert Kenmore of the Kenmore Corporation, owners of Cartier, had won the day. Stage and screen actor Richard Burton’s representative had dropped out of the bidding at $1,000,000, thus narrowly missing out. This winning bid by Cartier resulted in the stone initially being named the “Cartier” diamond. Certified by the GIA’s Gem Trade Laboratory, the stone was graded as Internally Flawless, F Color.
However, the gem’s new name turned out to be very short-lived. Burton, it was reported, immediately contacted Kenmore’s representative and, from a pay phone in an English hotel (most likely at the bar), he purchased the stone for the reported price of $1,100,000 dollars. The diamond was given as a gift to his wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor. Taking advantage of the terms of purchase that allowed them to rename the stone, Dick and Liz re-christened it the “Taylor-Burton” diamond.
Under the terms of the sale, Cartier was permitted to display the stone as the “Cartier” in New York and Chicago to record crowds. Finally, the impressive stone made its first appearance as the “Taylor-Burton” on Ms. Taylor in mid-November. She wore it as a pendant at a charity ball, in Monaco, honoring Princess Grace’s 40th birthday. Later, Ms. Taylor was seen wearing it as a ring.
By 1978, the now-divorced Ms. Taylor decided she had owned the diamond long enough and put it up for sale. Her plan was to use a part of the proceeds to build a hospital in Botswana. Prospective buyers were charged a fee of $2,500 just to inspect the diamond. Henry Lambert, a New York jeweler, claims to have purchased it for $5,000,000.
Rumors of Ms. Taylor’s reputation for mistreating her jewelry (her dog once chewed a very rare and expensive pearl) were confirmed when the stone was re-graded by GIA as VVS2. Later the stone was sold to Robert Mauawad who had it re-cut to 68.09 carats to regain its Internally Flawless status.