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The Taylor-Burton Diamond

IT WAS A GIFT for his wife, fellow Brit and actor Elizabeth Taylor. Unfortunately the abnormally large stone was much too heavy to be worn as a ring, which led Taylor to commission an $80,000 diamond necklace glistening with several hundred round diamonds and one in a marquise-cut. The piece, affectionately called the Taylor-Burton Diamond, was specifically tailored to complement Taylor’s neck, with the diamond left dangling over the remains of a tracheotomy scar that she had picked up in 1961, after surviving a battle with pneumonia.

So where did this stunning statement piece come from? And how exactly was it made?

Well, the diamond that later adorned Taylor’s pendant was actually cut from a rough 240.80ct specimen that wwas unearthed in the deep Premier Diamond Mine of South Africa in 1966. Unsurprisingly this treasure quickly caught the eye of the leading American jeweller, Harry Winston, who procured the auspicious discovery to go with another 240.74 diamond he’d acquired from the same mine eight years earlier. It hardly seems possible that two of these marvels had been plucked from the same square mile of soil, considering that precious few of these high quality stones had been found since gemstone mining first began.

Once this rough 240.80ct piece had been transported to New York, Harry Winston enlisted the help of his most seasoned cleaver, the 50-year-old Pastor Colon Jr., and together they spent months studying stone and planning their masterpiece. Scrawled sketches were made, erased and redrawn, until finally the appointed day came and the stone was ready to be cleaved. Tension mounted as the stone was taken to the workshop. Then Pastor Colon peered through his loupe and began his work, tirelessly shaping the diamond under the flickering digital light emitted from a nearby television. After wielding his diamond cleaver for several hours he stepped back and adjusted his horn-rimmed glasses. He didn’t speak, but instead reached across the workbench and pinched a broken-off shard of diamond between his fingers.

“Beautiful,” he cried.

The rough piece between his fingers weighed approximately 78cts and would one day yield a 24ct stone. The larger diamond from which it had detached was a staggering 162cts and eventually became the 69.42ct pear-cut Taylor-Burton Diamond – a D-colour Flawless centrepiece that later embellished the curvaceous beauty, Elizabeth Taylor.