Few diamonds have drawn as much attention as the stone that became known as the Taylor-Burton. The 240.80-ct. rough was unearthed in 1966 at South Africa’s Premier Mine and began its time in the limelight when buyer Harry Winston had it cleaved on television.
In 1967, Winston sold the stone to Harriet Annenberg Ames, sister of publishing magnate Walter Annenberg, who, after making TV Guide the highest-circulation magazine in the US, served as Richard Nixon’s ambassador to England. Two years later, Ames put the stone up for auction through Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York, saying that during the time she owned the diamond, it had spent its time in a bank vault because she was afraid to wear it in public.
Bidding took place among representatives of actor Richard Burton, jeweler Harry Winston, and businessman Robert Kenmore of the Kenmore Corporation, owners of Cartier USA. Competition drove the price to $1.05 million. Kenmore won the prize and named it the Cartier.
Burton was determined to have the diamond for his wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor, so he contacted Kenmore’s representative. The purchase was negotiated from a hotel pay phone in England. Reportedly, the scene took a comic turn when Burton had trouble keeping pace with the phone’s demand for coins for the transatlantic call.
Part of the purchase agreement gave Kenmore the right to display the newly-named Taylor-Burton in Cartier’s Chicago and New York stores. In New York, more than 6,000 people a day flocked to see the diamond, forming a line down the block.
Liz wore the stone in public for the first time when she attended Princess Grace’s 40th birthday gala in Monaco. She and the diamond traveled to Europe separately. The stone went under armed guard.
Unfortunately, all did not remain rosy in the Taylor-Burton marriage. The couple divorced, and in 1978 she put her namesake up for sale. She dedicated part of the proceeds to building a hospital in Botswana. New York jeweler Harry Lambert bought the stone in mid-1979 for nearly $5 million. By December of that year he had resold it. The latest know owner is Robert Mouawad of Geneva, Switzerland.
Source: Gemological Institute of America, Diamond Essentials