Fashion & Lifestyle December 2023

Elizabeth Taylor’s Bulgari Sapphire and Diamond Sautoir

Unlike the stars of today who borrow lavish pieces to wear on the red carpet, Elizabeth Taylor owned all of her extravagant jewelry collection, and Bulgari was one of her favorite designers by far. Her fifth husband Richard Burton adored indulging her love for the Italian label, gifting her unforgettable pieces like the art deco-style Bulgari sapphire and diamond sautoir. 

Elizabeth received the Bulgari sapphire as a 40th birthday gift from Richard on February 27, 1972, in Budapest, Hungary while he was on location filming Bluebeard. The Burtons invited their families an famous friends to celebrate the milestone birthday. The guest list included Susannah York, Ringo Starr, Michael Caine, Princess Grace of Monaco (Grace Kelly), and Raquel Welch — though rumor has it Raquel wasn’t officially invited. What’s a good party without a little drama?

While Elizabeth was clearly the star of the show, her Bulgari sapphire was a close second. When she debuted the piece in Budapest, she wore the long chain doubled up to showcase how pronounced and structural the pendant is. Featuring a pavé-set diamond octagonal pendant set with a sugarloaf cabochon sapphire, the extraordinary stone weighs approximately 52.72 carats. Elegant calibré-cut sapphires and four bullet-shaped diamonds frame the pendant. The 29 1/2-inch long necklace mimics the pattern on the pendant with more calibré-cut sapphires and pavé-set diamond links.

The night of her 40th birthday party would not be the last time people would see Elizabeth in the famed sautoir. She would wear it for Richard Burton’s 50th, another epic function, to Studio 54 in honor of dear friend Halston, and to many other events throughout her life. Only Elizabeth could take a piece so grand and transform it into a staple. As of now, the sapphire and diamond sautoir is back in the hands of Bulgari after the brand’s Heritage Department repurchased it from Christie’s for a massive $5,906,500 in 2011.