By Michelle Graff

When the edit team at National Jeweler was trying to select a style icon for the cover of our 100th anniversary issue we knew that just another pretty face wouldn’t do.

There were, it seemed, almost too many recognizable faces who were stylish for their time, loved jewelry and still seemed hip today. How could it not be Audrey Hepburn, unforgettable in her pearls and black gown as she stared longingly into a Fifth Avenue window in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? And what about Marilyn Monroe and her sultry send up to gems in "Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend?"

In the end, we set up an online poll and asked our readers what they thought. Liz Taylor was the favorite by a landslide.

Maybe it's not surprising that jewelers have a soft spot for Dame Elizabeth Taylor, given her well-known devotion to collecting jewels. An award-winning actress—famously married seven times— she mentions the men but truly exalts their jewelry gifts in her 2002 autobiography My Love Affair with Jewelry.

I personally love her recollection of receiving the stunning 33.19-carat Krupp diamond from ex-hubby Richard Burton: "When it came up for auction in the late 1960s, I thought how perfect it would be if a nice Jewish girl like me were to own it," she writes.

What’s even more perfect is that this "nice Jewish girl" is now not only the owner of the largest private jewelry collection in the world but a jewelry designer and principal shareholder for House of Taylor. But her star status over the years has, of course, stretched far beyond Hollywood, her Academy Awards, her business ventures and her jewelry collection, to her role as crusader for AIDS fund-raising and research since the 1980s. She is, quite simply, a legend in an era where it seems like there’s a shortage of new ones emerging.

Which modern actress could step into Liz’s high heels and serve as a style icon for the ages? Would it be fashion magazine regulars like Keira Knightley or Sienna Miller? I’d say no. Sure they have style and talent, but even more seasoned, well-dressed actresses such as Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow lack the gravitas that Taylor has held for so many years, and I’m not so sure that age has anything to do with it.

Maybe the celebrity stylists in their efforts to make today’s stars stand out have done just the opposite, sending these ladies out onto red carpets in outfits that their own moms or best friends would have advised against. Or, perhaps in a fast-paced era with an inconceivable number of choices, it’s harder for even the stars to pick one signature, recognizable style to call their own.

Whatever it is, it’s clear that Liz has held court well above the crowd for decades now and we’re glad you made her your (and our) choice.

TAGS:   Celebrities
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Since 1906, National Jeweler has been the must-read news source for smart jewelry professionals--jewelry retailers, designers, buyers, manufacturers, and suppliers. From market analysis to emerging jewelry trends, we cover the important industry topics vital to the everyday success of jewelry professionals worldwide. National Jeweler delivers the most urgent jewelry news necessary for running your day-to-day jewelry business here, and via our daily e-newsletter, website and other specialty publications, such as "The State of the Majors." National Jeweler is published by Jewelers of America, the leading nonprofit jewelry association in the United States.