By Michelle Graff

The March death of screen stunner, fervent AIDS activist and jewelry collector Elizabeth Taylor turned my thoughts to one of the most astonishing stones to pass through this star’s hands--the 69.42-carat, pear-shaped Taylor-Burton diamond.

Before I even started working on this blog, I had an idea that this diamond no longer was in Taylor’s collection and thus wouldn’t be part of the December auction of her pieces, which is bound to include some incredible items given the Oscar winner’s well-documented love affair with jewelry.

Still, I was curious what happened to this headline-making stone and, while I didn’t get a definitive answer, the research was well worth it. The who’s who of who had their hands on this diamond reads like the guest list at a very posh, and very exclusive, industry party.

According to Famous Diamonds by Ian Balfour--one of the best books I inherited when I started at National Jeweler about four years ago--the stone that eventually came to be known as the Taylor-Burton diamond emerged from the Premier Mine in 1966. The famous diamantaire Harry Winston himself had it cleaved from 240.80-carat piece of rough.

Harriet Annenberg Ames, sister of media mogul Walter Annenberg, bought it from Winston. (Annenberg seemingly spent his life surrounded by jewelry-loving women who weren’t afraid of a little self purchase. His wife, Leonore “Lee” Annenberg, bought herself a 32.01-carat D-flawless diamond ring on her 90th birthday in 2008. She died the following year at the age of 91, and Christie’s sold her stone, the “Annenberg Diamond” for an incredible $7.7 million.)

In 1967, Ames sent the pear-shaped stone to Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc. in New York for auction. Cartier paid $1.05 million for the diamond at that auction and sold it to Burton for $1.1 million four days later, Balfour notes in his book. Taylor, in turn, sold the stone 11 years later, in 1978, two years after the end of her second marriage to Burton.

In Famous Diamonds, the Taylor-Burton trail ends in 1979, with New York jeweler Henry Lambert buying the diamond for about $3 million and selling it by the end of the year, with the diamond “last reported to be in Saudi Arabia.”

Further research, though, revealed that it was Robert Mouawad who scooped up the stone in 1979, with a number of sources indicating that he had the stone re-cut to 68 carats. During his lifetime, the Lebanese diamond dealer has had his hands on many of the world’s most renowned diamonds, including the 69.68-carat pear-shaped Excelsior I, the 245.35-carat antique cushion-cut Jubilee and the Premier Rose, a 137.02-carat pear-shaped diamond.

Today, Mouawad no longer owns the Taylor-Burton, a spokesperson confirmed to National Jeweler. She said Mouawad sold the Taylor-Burton to a private collector, though the company declined to reveal when the stone was sold or give any specifics on the seller.

While I’m fairly certain this pear-shaped stunner won’t be making an appearance at the auction of Taylor’s jewelry slated for later this year, it’s likely to pop up again on the auction market at some point in time.

Famous diamonds always do.

TAGS:   Celebrities
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