In the summer of 1966 when production finally concluded on “Cleopatra,” a movie that was more well-known for its shocking love story offscreen as the romantic tale from antiquity, which was lost in the almost four-hour run duration.
While the true Cleopatra could have had the famous asp as an accessory, Elizabeth Taylor, as the Egyptian queen made the Roman jewelry maker Bulgari into an international brand because of a certain serpent-themed watch — when she was juggling a jealous third husband, a new love as well as a three-year schedule of filming and, in the end, the $44 million critically dismal turkey of a film.
As the world of cinema awaits the release date of 2023 for “Cleopatra” starring Gal Gadot (“Wonder Woman”) The Egyptomania style of jewelry which has appeared time and time again throughout history could be in the process of being remade as well.
“I do like to think we’ll see a bib necklace or some armbands, or maybe an asp headdress comes from the new ‘Cleopatra,’ and my mind keeps jumping to ‘Wonder Woman’ and those fabulous cuffs she wore,” said Marion Fasel, founder, and editor-in-chief for The Adventurine, an online jewelry magazine. “Scarabs are something that I could think of coming back to, too. Charms of luck and talismans continue to evolve while scarabs will never go out of fashion.”
The role that jewelry played in the production of 1963’s “Cleopatra” at Cinecitta Studios in Rome all began with a little mystery about a watch that has been deemed by many to be a symbol of Bulgari and the Serpenti watch, a timepiece that is a double-wrist watch that wraps around your wrist it was a watch that the actress. Taylor somehow acquired this during her stay in Italy.
Did the diamond and the gold a gift from her former husband the heartthrob of the ’50s, Eddie Fisher? Perhaps it was the gift of Richard Burton, her lover, and co-star (playing Mark Antony, who in an art-mirrors-life jolt that was ironic, is actually the actual Cleopatra). Perhaps Taylor purchase the item for herself?
“One of Bulgari’s first serpent watches appears on her in a photo from the set of ‘Cleopatra,’ and we know it was sold in 1962, but there’s no record accounting for who purchased it,” stated Amanda Triossi, a consultant located in Rome who helped establish Bulgari’s collection of jewelry and watches as well as precious objects throughout her 18-year working life there. “It’s a question mark. The person who gave her the mark?”
Nobody seems to know. However, Madame. Troisi said, perhaps it’s not a surprise the actress was attracted by her Serpenti: “Snakes in jewelry are commonplace, particularly in the form of a bracelet. In the past, in Rome and Egypt, there were necklaces of snakes.”
Ms. Taylor’s personal jewelry as well as her costume jewelry in the film (she was reported to have worn sixty-five costume modifications) was the subject of many years of newspaper, magazine, and television reports.
“Obviously, it was a defining moment for jewelry that is now sadly gone, along with the era of ‘la dolce vita’ and an amazing love story,” said Stefano Papi, a jewelry expert, author, and historian who has worked for Sotheby’s as well as Christie’s. “It was a time in which jewelry was as significant for its image. Elizabeth Taylor was on every issue of magazines in jewelry.”
A Tiara and a Solitaire
The actress’s list of jewelry and husbands began in 1950, at the age of 18, when she got married to Conrad Hilton Jr., also known as Nicky who gave her the four-carat diamond platinum engagement ring. The wedding lasted for eight months. Husband No. 2 British actor Michael Wilding, 20 years younger than her, presented her with an engagement ring with diamonds. However, it was the third man in her life, Hollywood producer Mike Todd, who lavished her with diamonds and the Cartier parure that featured a diamond and ruby necklace along with earrings, bracelets, and a necklace.
The most well-known of all, he handed her the diamond tiara she carried during the Oscars in 1957 which was the year that the movie “Around the World in 80 Days” was awarded the best picture (that diamond tiara was sold at a price of more than $4 million when it was auctioned off following the death of Ms. Taylor’s passing in the year 2011).
In 1961, she was wearing pearl and diamond pendant earrings by Ruser which was a renowned mid-century Hollywood jeweler who won her the Oscar for best actress for her role in the film “Butterfield 8.” (Her second award was the year 1967, to be a part of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”)
But her romance with her husband Mr. Burton — and her waning marriage to the late Mr. Fisher — seemed to propel her love of jewelry to a higher level which is a fact that Mr. Fisher seems to have played with at the time.
“In February 1962, Eddie Fisher went to Bulgari in Rome and purchased quite a few yellow diamond jewels, drop earrings, a ring, and a flower-spray brooch to try to woo her back,” Ms. Triossi said. “Eddie decided to try the Bulgari card.”
However, the actress. Taylor left Mr. Fisher and Mr. Burton became husband No. 5 in the year that followed the time “Cleopatra” opened.
“Elizabeth joked in her book, ‘My Love Affair with Jewelry,’ that, when she didn’t come back to him, Fisher presented her with a bill,” Ms. Triossi said (the 2002 book doesn’t mention that the watch was a serpent).
A few film historians have suggested that the Taylor-Burton scandal could be the most beneficial option for “Cleopatra,” which became the most successful box office hit in the entire year (and received four Oscars however just in the technical category).
Mr. Burton gave Ms. Taylor an 18.6-carat diamond emerald ring that was adorned with diamonds cut into pear shapes from Bulgari on their wedding day. Credit…Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
The jewelry historians have stated similar things about Bulgari. “The only word Elizabeth knows in Italian is Bulgari,” Mr. Burton reportedly once said. “I introduced Liz to beer, she introduced me to Bulgari.”
It was an impressive introduction. “This time was so iconic for Bulgari and a turning point in our brand evolution,” declared Lucia Boscaini, the house’s brand curator. “It made a connection that is still a major influence that continues to be felt to the present. It’s a very emotional tale.”
The jewelry company was established in 1884, in Rome in the year 1884 by Sotirio Bulgari the Greek silversmith. In the 1940s, it was moving to gold and also introduced the Serpenti design. By the 60s, cabochon-cut and polished semiprecious and precious stones and gems — were a trademark of the brand.
Bulgari is keeping its ties with Mrs. Taylor alive as the years went by. In 2016, for instance, its “SerpentiForm” exhibition in Rome included four of her “Cleopatra” costumes.
Mr. Burton’s presents for the actor from different jewelry manufacturers included a 69.42-carat pear-shaped diamond ring made by Harry Winston. It was later referred to as “the Taylor Burton diamond and she then was able to make it into a necklace that she wore to the 1970 Oscars during the ceremony she presented the best film prize in the category of “Midnight Cowboy.”
He also gave an opal, ruby, and diamond necklace from Cartier The principal pearl was a present to the King Philip II of Spain to Mary Queen of Scots. (It sold for nearly 12 million dollars in Christie’s auction off 80 jewels of Cartier’s jewelry including the tiara of the late Mr. Todd, for $116 million after her demise in the year 2011.
A Brooch and a Sautoir
“Elizabeth Taylor really understood the quality of jewels,” Mr. Papi said. “There was a strong emotional connection. Today, the diamonds that grace the carpets are borrowed. The big names are sporting big names.”
10 Movies to Watch This Oscar Season
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“Don’t Look Up.”Two scientists discover that a comet is headed towards Earth. If they share the bad news with President Obama of the United States has other things on her agenda to think about, other than the imminent disaster.
“Drive My Car.”A director of a theater struggles with the loss of his wife while he puts on a show that is based on “Uncle Vanya.” A chauffeur employed by the theater company transports him to and back from work while protecting their huge emotional reserves for her.
“Licorice Pizza.”In Paul Thomas Anderson’s come-of-age love story, a child actor who’s reached the peak of awkwardness as an adolescent is beginning to fade out of his field. The encounter with twenty-something Alana who he instantly loves is what sparks the story’s muse.
“Nightmare Alley.”A Grifter with empty pockets and a mysterious past is a part of the sleazoid of the 1930s back-road carnivals. He soon starts cycling through women as well as a psychic whose husband was once an enthralling mentalist show.
“The Power of the Dog.”Phil Burbank has been a cowboy throughout his entire life and has been taking care of livestock on the family’s Montana ranch for many years. As his younger brother George is married to a widower who has a teenage son, the family dynamics are disrupted.
“West Side Story.”Steven Spielberg’s reimagining of Broadway’s best-loved productions — which is a contemporary version of “Romeo and Juliet” -that focuses on the forbidden romance between Tony and Maria who are in a relationship with two street gangs that fight each other in Manhattan’s West Side in the 1950s.
Some of her most renowned Bulgari items — bought, for example, the Serpenti watch at the company’s flagship located on the Via Dei Condotti in Rome and included the diamond and emerald brooch in 1963. In 1964, for their wedding the groom, Mr. Burton commissioned a matching necklace.
“There is a picture of Elizabeth Taylor at her 31st birthday party on the set of ‘Cleopatra’ in 1963 with the huge Colombian emerald and diamond brooch that became part of the necklace later,” Ms. Boscaini said. “They each divorced after which Burton returned to Bulgari and purchased jewelry that matched the emeralds perfectly. We added the brooch, and altered it by including a hook.”
Mr. Burton also presented the actress with an 18.6-carat engagement ring that was adorned with diamonds cut in pear shape from Bulgari on the day of their wedding. (It is their very first marriage. The couple split in 1974. They remarried in 1975, and divorced a mere year after.)
In their first marriage, it was this 33.19-carat type IIa Krupp Diamond that Mr. Burton reportedly bought for $305,000 in the year 1968. From Bulgari, the diamond was a sapphire-diamond sautoir necklace that had a center stone of 65 carats that he gifted to Mrs. Taylor for her 40th birthday in the year 1972. (Mr. Burton bought it for between $600,000 and $850,000; Bulgari bought it back at auction for a whopping $6 million, and much other jewelry owned by Taylor in the past 10 years or so, for its ongoing Heritage Collection).
Jessica Chastain, nominated for the Best Actress Oscar the year she was nominated to film “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” was wearing the sautoir necklace during the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, which screened a restored version of “Cleopatra” for its 50th anniversary.
Ms. Taylor’s love for jewelry has never waned. Marina Cicogna, an Italian film producer (“Belle du Jour,” among other films) and socialite whose grandfather was the one who created the Venice Film Festival, recalled in a recent interview from Rome an unforgettable moment during her friendship with the actress. In London, in late 1967 she along with Mrs. Taylor had attended a production that featured Mr. Burton. The two ladies went back to Mrs. Taylor’s lodging ( probably at The Dorchester she claimed however she wasn’t certain) to have a drink.
“She was returning to Los Angeles the next morning, and for some reason had to leave her jewelry behind,” Ms. Cicogna said. “So she spread them all out on the bed and kissed them all goodbye.”
The Next Cleopatra
The Taylor-Burton movie certainly wasn’t the first story of the tragic love affair between the pharaoh queen and Roman general and politician. Plutarch’s account was published two centuries after the deaths of both. Shakespeare’s play from the 1600s. Two silent films from the period and another in the 1930s with Claudette Colbert. There are dozens of films and television shows. The new “Cleopatra” was bound to be released.
“It would be interesting to see the new ‘Cleopatra,'” Ms. Boscaini stated. However “Elizabeth Taylor was more than an actress who wore jewelry and performed Cleopatra. Taylor was an individual who was in control, and she violated every rule.”
The Cleopatra attraction is likely to return within the next year or two the nebulous nature of entertainment today will not allow it to get as close to the craze of 60 years ago.
“They’re redoing ‘Cleopatra,’ but that’s like remaking ‘Gone With the Wind’ without Vivien Leigh,” Mr. Papi said. “It’s a love tale that is within the love story that’s equally fascinating. Perhaps they could create a film about the making of Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra.'”