The Taylor-Burton Diamond

The One That Mesmerized All Of Hollywood

The Taylor-Burton Diamond adorned the stunning l Elizabeth Taylor for many years. Soon after its discovery, the gemstone began attracting the attention of the industry’s watchful titans. As it is customary for those seeking a spot in the spotlight or to head into the headlines, the stone quickly made its way to New York. Industry leader, Richard Burton, made every effort possible to purchase the diamond for his wife – Elizabeth; Burton claimed the diamond was made for her and that he could not bear to see it on another woman – be it Jackie Kennedy or a random housewife.

If you’d like to learn more about the Taylor-Burton Diamond, in this article you will find:

Taylor Burton
Taylor Burton
Discovered in
Country of Origin
South Africa
Mine of Origin
Premier Mine
Carat Weight
  • Original rough diamond: 240.80 carats
  • Final cut: 69.42 carats
Cut Shape
Grade D (highest clarity grade), IF (Internally Flawless)
Previous Owners
  • Harry Winston
  • Harriet Annenberg Ames
  • Cartier (Robert Kenmore)
  • Richard Burton (purchased from Cartier)
  • Elizabeth Taylor (worn by her)
  • Henry Lambert
Current Owner
Robert Mouawad
Estimated Value
  • Purchased by Richard Burton from Cartier for $1,100,000 in 1969 (a world record at that time)
  • Elizabeth Taylor sold it in 1978 for nearly $5,000,000, most of which was used to build a hospital in Botswana. Subsequently purchased by Robert Mouawad for an undisclosed amount.

The Origins of the Taylor-Burton Diamond

The Taylor-Burton Diamond was discovered at the Premier Mine in South Africa in 1966. It was yet another brilliant discovery at a mine that had proved itself to be on a world level of efficiency and expertise. The Premier Mine had already produced several beautiful gems such as The Cullinan and The Premier Rose. Given the mine’s reputation following these initial finds, it was no surprise that the Taylor-Burton immediately drew interest.

Harry Winston purchases the Taylor-Burton Diamond

The coveted diamond was purchased in its rough form of 240.80 carats by Harry Winston as soon as it reached New York. Having bought the Jonker Diamond from South Africa a few years beforehand, Winston was convinced of the country’s potential to produce one-of-a-kind gemstones.  

The Cutting of the Taylor-Burton Diamond

The diamond tycoon and his cleaver, Pastor Colon Jr. carefully studied the gem for six months. What might seem like a frustrating delay, is the minimum degree of preparation one might expect from an expert.

Harry Winston studies the Taylor-Burton Diamond

The team was researching the best way to cut and polish the Taylor-Burton to ensure optimal results. They drew and re-drew several markings showing where the diamond could be cleaved. There were a lot of people, cameras, and pressure in the room on the day of the cutting. Winston agreed for the process to be recorded; it would be the first time this had ever happened.

The Taylor-Burton Diamond becomes a 69.42-carat beauty

The Taylor-Burton Diamond weighed 78 carats and the subsequent jewel was expected to weigh around 24 carats. The remaining large piece weighed 162 carats and was expected to produce a 75-carats jewel. Harry Winston cut it into the shape of a pear weighing 69.42 carats. The diamond’s current owner tweaked it a little bit and the diamond now weighs 68.09 carats.

The Modern Ownership History of the Taylor-Burton Diamond

The diamond was unearthed in the famous De Beers Premier Mine in South Africa. Their reputation as the most productive mine in the world preceded them so it was no wonder the stone immediately caught the eye of the famous Harry Winston. He purchased the diamond to be able to cut it himself and sell it.

Harry Winston sells the Taylor-Burton Diamond to Harriet Annenberg Ames 

After a short while, the Taylor-Burton was sold to Harriet Annenberg Ames in 1967 for an undisclosed amount. Ms. Ames was the sister of billionaire publisher Walter Annenberg. She had the diamond mounted in a platinum ring embellished with two smaller side diamonds. 

However, due to the size of the jewel, the owner felt very uncomfortable wearing it around her native New York. She has been quoted saying “I found myself positively cringing and keeping my gloves on for fear it would have been seen. I have always been an extremely gregarious person and I did not enjoy the feeling. It sat in a bank vault for years. It seemed foolish to keep it if one could not use it. As things are in New York one could not possibly wear it publicly.” This has often been pointed out as the reason Ms. Annenberg decided to put up the Taylor-Burton diamond at a Parke-Bernet Galleries auction in New York.

The record-breaking auction sale of the Taylor-Burton Diamond

The auction was held on 23 October 1969. There was much interest in the Taylor-Burton diamond. The media was speculating left and right about who will attend and who was going to manage to acquire the impressive stone. Elizabeth Taylor’s name was mentioned amongst those interested and not in vain. Ms. Taylor had the diamond flown out to her home in Switzerland for a closer inspection. When the day of the auction arrived, the room was full of eager people ready to bid on the Taylor-Burton. The bidding started at $200,000. It is said the entire room erupted saying ‘Yes!’. The jewel was so impressive that this seemed a small sum for it and indeed it was. The bids kept steadily increasing. 

At $650,500 only two bidders remained. Al Yugler, representing Richard Burton – Elizabeth Taylor’s husband and Robert Kenmore who was the Chairman of the Kenmore Corporation which owns Cartier. Mugler dropped out when the price reached $1,000,000 as he was instructed. 

Kenmore bought the diamond for $1,050,000, an extraordinary sum that set a new world record. Before this sale, the highest amount ever dispensed for a stone was $305,000 as of 1957. Moreover, the negotiation deal dictated that whoever owned the jewel was entitled to rename it. From this moment forward the gem became ‘The Cartier Diamond’.

Burton, however, could not let it go. He believed that the diamond was made to adorn his beloved and could not bear the thought of seeing the diamond on anyone else, be it Jackie Kennedy or a common housewife. 

The actor spent the next 24 hours on the phone fighting for the diamond. In the end, he was successful and purchased it for a whopping $1,100,000. Cartier was very open about making a profit off of this sale – they were businessmen after all. The sale of the diamond did come with one condition – Cartier was to display the diamond in New York and Chicago when it was not being used by Elizabeth Taylor. 

The Taylor-Burton Diamond receives its name

Thus the jewel became the Taylor-Burton Diamond. It was a combination of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s names. They agreed Taylor’s name should come first as she was going to be the one wearing it. Elizabeth Taylor wore it on multiple occasions, notably on Princess Grace’s fortieth birthday at the ‘Scorpio Ball’, at the Hermitage Hotel in Monte Carlo, and the 42nd Academy Awards on 7 April 1970.

The Taylor-Burton Diamond helps to build a hospital in Botswana

After her second divorce from Richard Burton in 1978, Taylor decided to sell the diamond. The buyer was New York jeweler Henry Lambert who stated that he paid nearly $5,000,000. Elizabeth Taylor used most of the money to help build a hospital in Botswana. Henry Lambert sold the diamond again, in the same year, to Robert Mouawad – its current owner – for an undisclosed amount.

The Technical Characteristics of the Taylor-Burton Diamond

The Taylor Burton Diamond is a pear-shaped diamond. It weighs 69.2 carats. It was cut down from a 162-carat rough crystal which was cleaved off of the original 240.80 carats. The diamond is white. It is a grade D clarity diamond – the highest awarded. The Gemological Insitute of America (GIA) has given it an IF clarity grade.

The Significance of the Taylor-Burton Diamond

The Taylor-Burton Diamond came from one of the most famous mines in the world. It went through the hands of powerful and famous people like Harry Winston and Elizabeth Taylor. It delighted the public for many years while it was in the possession of the gorgeous actress. It broke a world record and was the first diamond in history to be sold for more than $1,000,000. One of its sales helped a much-needed hospital to be built in Botswana. The Taylor-Burton has moved gracefully through history. It will be exciting to see where it goes next!

We hope you enjoyed the read!

If you’d like to read about other famous diamonds like the OrlovEureka, or Premier Rose diamonds, you can visit Ajediam’s Famous Diamonds glossary. Or, if you’re feeling inspired, you can browse Ajediam’s premium diamond collections shop.