In life, there are romances, and then there are epic romances. Elizabeth Taylor was one of the lucky few who enjoyed the experience of multiple all-encompassing love affairs in her life, but two stand out from the rest: true passion found with her co-star Richard Burton and an obsession with Bulgari jewelry.
Many remember Cleopatra as the most expensive film ever made—one that almost bankrupted the studio— but it was actually the backdrop for a magical meeting … and a lifetime appreciation for one-of-a-kind gems. To celebrate the film and its star, the crew of the movie gifted Taylor a handheld mirror encrusted in emeralds, made especially by Bulgari. The mirror would make its way into the movie, and begin the insatiable attraction Taylor felt for the creations made by the Italian design house.
Simultaneously, as she fell for the baubles, Taylor fell for a man as well. Though both were married at the time, Cleopatra’s two stars, Burton and Taylor, embarked on what became known as “Le Scandale,” quite possibly the world’s first tabloid romance in celebrity culture. The two were reportedly incapable of staying away from each other, and when filming finally ended three years (and about $44 million) later, they married.
Over the following tumultuous years of their relationship, Burton would adorn his beautiful wife with emeralds, rubies, and sapphires from Bulgari, amassing a collection worth millions. From birthdays to wedding celebrations, no expense was spared as he helped perpetuate the famous quote he once gave, saying of his wife, “The only word in Italian she knows is Bulgari.”
In celebration of the film’s 50th Anniversary, Bulgari and Cleopatra came back to life for a select few, unwrapping the mysteries of the magical jewelry, and bringing Taylor’s obsessions to life. Glam’s Editorial Director, Bianca Posterli, was lucky enough to travel to London and Rome to delve into the magical relationship that Taylor built with the film and the jewelry. Here, she shares her dazzling diary:
After a quick jaunt across the Atlantic Ocean, I arrived at Heathrow Airport to find a dapper gentleman waiting to whisk me away to the Bulgari Hotel. We hopped into a Mercedes, sped through London, and by early afternoon I was checked into a luxurious room at the hotel, complete with a rain shower, a bed that felt as though it was made with feathers, and hardwood touches throughout.
Later that evening, I joined my fellow travelers in the hotel’s theatre for a champagne toast and introduction to all things Cleopatra. As we clinked our glasses, indulged in bubbly, and snacked on popcorn, we were transported to the 1960’s, watching Taylor in all her Egyptian glory, entering Rome on her golden throne.
All it took was one scene and we were under her magical spell; we listened attentively as impressive stories were recounted to us from filming. From the illness Taylor experienced to the hurdles executives had to handle in order for the film to see the light of day, it’s a Hollywood miracle that this piece of brilliance finally made it to theaters.