Elizabeth Taylor’s ‘Perfect’ Ruby Is an Auction Record-Breaker; Was a Christmas Gift From Richard Burton in 1968

When Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry collection hit Christie’s auction block late in 2011, one of the six record-breaking lots was a stunning 8.24-carat ruby-and-diamond ring — a Christmas present given to the actress by then-husband Richard Burton in 1968. In honor of July’s official birthstone, let’s take a closer look at what Burton promised would be the “perfect” ruby.

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Ruby symbolizes deep and passionate love, so it was very appropriate that Burton promised Taylor early in their marriage that he would buy her a special ruby, one with perfect red color. “But it has to be perfect,” he warned.

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Four years later, in 1968, he delivered on his promise when he tucked a small box from Van Cleef & Arpels into the bottom of her Christmas stocking. The box was so small that she missed it at first and had to be reminded later by her daughter, Liza, that there was something special that she still needed to open.

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Commenting on the Burmese ruby and diamond ring, Taylor said, “It was the most perfect colored stone I’d ever seen.”

Bidders at the 2011 Christie’s auction clearly agreed as the same ruby-and-diamond ring sold for $4.2 million and set a per-carat record for a ruby at $512,925. The winning bid crushed the pre-sale estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million.

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In total, Taylor’s landmark collection of 80 baubles netted $115.9 million (an auction record), with 24 lots selling for more than $1 million and six lots selling for more than $5 million.

Among the other records set during the sale were the highest price ever paid for a pearl jewel ($11.8 million), highest price paid per carat for a colorless diamond ($8.8 million), highest price ever paid for an Indian jewel ($8.8 million), highest price paid for an emerald jewel ($6.6 million), and the highest price paid for natural pearl earrings ($1.9 million).

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