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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The world lost a screen goddess today: actress Elizabeth Taylor has died at the age of 79. She lived an amazingly long life considering her myriad health problems, which included a bout of pneumonia and an emergency tracheotomy in 1961. Shortly after that crisis, Taylor won her first Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as a call girl in 1960’s BUtterfield 8. Shirley MacLaine, who was considered a front-runner for her role in The Apartment, said, “I lost to a tracheotomy!” Liz herself hated BUtterfield 8 and thought she won due to the sympathy vote. She said of the successful film, “I still say it stinks.” I have to disagree with her. Any movie with the line “Mama, face it. I was the slut of all time,” simply can’t be bad. And when has anyone ever looked so sexy in a slip?

Liz lounges in BUtterfield 8.

No one besides Taylor herself, who had previously sexed up a foundation garment in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958).

As a jewelry designer, I’ve always had a special love for Elizabeth because not only did she have a passion for jewels — she actually OWNED them! None of that business of borrowing stuff for special events and sending it back the next day like actresses do now — or, even worse, being paid cash to wear certain jewelers’ designs. One of Taylor’s most famous pieces was a 69.42-carat pear-shaped diamond that became known as the Taylor-Burton diamond when it was purchased for Elizabeth by actor Richard Burton, who was both her fifth and sixth husband. She wore it to the Oscars in 1970. Wearing an Edith Head dress that matched her eyes and accompanied by Burton, she epitomized red-carpet glamour. They don’t make ’em like this anymore.

After her second divorce from Burton, she sold the diamond, planning to use part of the proceeds to build a hospital in Botswana.  As she said in her book, Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair With Jewelry, “I’ve never thought of my jewelry as trophies. I’m here to take care of it and to love it, for we are only temporary custodians of beauty.”

Her unabashed enjoyment of her jewelry also delights me. “I mean, how many young women get a set of rubies just for doing something wholesome like swimming laps? Or win a diamond ring at Ping-Pong with their husband…? Well, I did, and for all of these memories and the people in my life I feel blessed,” she wrote in her book.


Elizabeth Taylor & Mike Todd from STONED on Vimeo.

More recently, Kim Kardashian interviewed Liz for Harper’s Bazaar and elicited some good jewelry quotes. “Size does matter,” Taylor said of her diamonds, “but so does the size of the emotion behind it.” Totally agree with you, Liz. Bon voyage.


I tip my Elizabeth Taylor-print hat to Liz.

A version of this post ran on The Huffington Post. Check it out and leave a comment!

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54 Responses to “Elizabeth Taylor: A Diamond’s Best Friend”

  1. Kristin says:

    I was so sad to hear about this. My Nonnie has always been a big fan and Liz always makes me think of her. RIP sweet lady. You will be missed.

  2. “I’m here to take care of it and to love it, for we are only temporary custodians of beauty”

    I feel the same about my clothes. What a lady she was!

  3. patni says:

    Love the one of the 1970 oscars. If you cut Richard out of the picture you are left with two dudes transfixed by the magical boobs of Liz.

  4. What a sad day this is….the world last an icon who will be sorely missed. I couldn’t agree more with her last quote……

  5. stacy says:

    Lovely post Wendy 😉

  6. lisa says:

    Such elegance, grace, and sly wit (judging from the quotes that are popping up in tributes everywhere). You’re right in saying that they don’t make ’em like that anymore. She will be sorely missed.

  7. Susan Tiner says:

    That is sad, she was some actress.

    It’s too bad you didn’t have the jewelry business back when Burton was overcome with generous jewelry giving desire as I’m sure you would have designed something far-superior to that gaudy necklace.

    A couple other sexy slip ladies are Eva Marie Saint in On the Waterfront and Jessica Lange in The Postman Always Rings Twice.

    • WendyB says:

      Those ARE two sex-ay slip ladies…but they just don’t live up to Liz for me. I might be biased in favor of brunettes 😉

      And, yes, I would have fun doing a very different design for that diamond. But she and Burton were over-the-top, no? So it suits them.

      • Susan Tiner says:

        Liz was the queen of sexy slip ladies.

        Yes, they were over-the-top, so it suits them in that sense, but what a God awful waste of precious stones!

  8. She was such a class act.
    I love this quote
    “I’ve never thought of my jewelry as trophies. I’m here to take care of it and to love it, for we are only temporary custodians of beauty.”

  9. And her fierce loyalty probably helped end the stigma of AIDS earlier … back at the beginning, Ms. Taylor stood for her friends, Rock Hudson being most notable. AIDS terrified people, certain fundamentalist Senators had discussions about special camps to isolate the spread. Doctors and dentists refused to treat the patients. She stood up and embraced AIDS, shoved dollars for research into the battle and put thoughts of segregation to rest. A mighty great dame.

  10. StefM says:

    If they gave an Oscar for Best Appearance in a Slip . . . Love the hat!

  11. savvygal says:

    she is just beautiful. That necklace is to die for. : )

  12. Miss Janey says:

    She was beyond fabulous in so many ways.

  13. Lara says:

    She was always sooo glamorous. Never in the public eye and not looking every bit a lady. They definitely don’t make em like her anymore.

  14. I was hoping you’d post your hat!

  15. gina says:

    i was so saddened to hear of elizabeth’s death and will always remember her as an icon of style and beauty.

  16. Elizabeth will be missed for her beauty and for her activism. And you in your Elizabeth Taylor hat-PRICELESS.

  17. qin says:

    Great post. She was an icon.

  18. Eli says:

    Great tribute Wendy, thank you for putting this together.

  19. Love your comment about her buying jewellery! I’m sad because she was a complete star and has been part of my love of cinema and costume. Elizabeth Taylor was captivating xx

  20. Vix says:

    I’ve read some fab Liz tributes tonight but your hat is the best! xxx

  21. niki says:

    also, awesome eyebrows

  22. I just saw Butterfield 8 recently for the first time and have to disagree with her also, I loved it

  23. Sabine says:

    Phew, you’re quick Wendy. I take my hat off to your Elizabeth Taylor one… I had no idea that she even had a book titled her love with jewellery. Your kinda girl, for sure!

  24. eyeliah says:

    My fav Liz Taylor post today.

  25. She had true glamour and will definitely be missed. We have actresses now, rather than icons.

  26. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for a great, jewelry insider’s tribute to La Liz. She was superb.

  27. K-Line says:

    Fab tribute W. I too appreciate that she loved her jewels. She was a beneficent custodian in the best possible way.

  28. Audi says:

    A great tribute to a wonderful actress — but Wendy, you being the eyebrow aficionado that you are, I’m surprised you didn’t mention what a lovely pair Liz had. She was never one to shy away from a bold brow.

  29. Kristin says:

    Oh, my heart dropped when I saw your pic wearing that hat of her. I love her. What an icon. She was so beautiful. She will be sorely missed. I am only happy thinking that she will finally be reunited with her BFF Michael. Rest in piece Queen Elizabeth!

  30. Thank you for a fantastic tribute and some great memories of a star whose life was drama and glamour but also one filled with compassion and wit.

  31. Kristin says:

    PS – I love that comment about being a temporary custodian of beauty. How poignant. I have to get this book.

  32. Ofelia says:

    Wendy, thanks for this post!!!
    What an amazing woman: beautiful, talented, giving, funny, stylish, strong, charismatic…..
    Rest in peace.

  33. Marian says:

    honey this is such a beautiful tribute. You are truly a wonderful writer.

    P.S I’m sure if Liz Taylor had even seen your work, she would have loved it.

  34. Mary says:

    Liz T is one of my favourite actors of all time. Thanks for this beautiful tribute. No-one can wear a slip the way Liz did! I have loved her since watching National Velvet (one of the only films that can make me cry) when I was a horse-obsessed young girl. RIP Elizabeth Taylor. Your glamour and beauty will be missed.

  35. Great post. I feel so inspired by all the posts dedicated to Elizabeth, she touched so many people.

  36. Julie Marie Matos says:

    Lady B, you are alway’s on it!!! The Liz piece is absolutely fabulous.
    A rare one of a kind beauty, and ooohhh so many men and jewels.
    Do you think Elizabeth Taylor (she hated being called LIZ ), only gave him a
    little peck of a kiss on the mouth after receiving that amazing diamond & Ruby
    necklace and chandelier earrings on a boat??? She was a real ‘Sex Goddess’.

  37. Brenda says:

    I will miss her so! She was an incredible person and an incredible actress.. the world lost a great.
    xoxo, B

  38. lyrebirdgully says:

    Re her eyes: it is said Ms Taylor was one of the few persons whose eyes are naturally violet http://www.who2.com/blog/2011/.....aylor.html
    The violet does not seem to come through in online images, but it does show on film. The violet effect is actually an illusion: her eyes are blue with flecks of reddish-brown scattered across the blue – which in combination create the impression of violet.

  39. mystyle says:

    Hi there-such a sad loss, she was truly stunning-just like her jewels and a lovely tribute post too xx

  40. Marissa says:

    This is a really lovely tribute, Wendy! So heartfelt and personal. Congrats on the Huffington Post!

  41. Winnie says:

    Oh this is the best tribute post I’ve read on Elizabeth Taylor! She really was a fabulous woman.

  42. Denise says:

    I knew you’d do her right! This is a huge bummer. We need Liz in our world, our generation and those after sure aren’t producing anyone like her.

  43. Rebecca says:

    This is a great tribute. I used to watch National Velvet over and over again as a kid.

  44. This is a lovely tribute. Such a tragedy… she was such a gem.

  45. Dear Wendy, I love your hat.

    Wasn’t she amazing? What a figure. I’ve seen a picture I want of her by Russell Young. I hope it’s not too expensive xx

  46. Cheryl Lynn says:

    When my mom and dad took me to see Cleopatra, even as a little girl, I thought that she was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen (along with Lena Horne). I have no doubt that your style of design would have been greatly appreciated by her.

    Great tribute.