Category Archives: Designer News

Alfried and Vera Acquire the Krupp Diamond

Devastated Krupp Works in Essen, taken before the city was occupied by the US Army in 1945.
Devastated Krupp Works in Essen, taken before the city was occupied by the US Army in 1945. Photo credit.

While the mine which produced the Krupp Diamond appears to be undocumented, the stone is closely associated with the famed Krupp mines of Germany’s steel age {6}. From these mines, the family Krupp pulled raw iron, coal, manganese, and more before transforming it into steel.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, this steel was molded and shaped into formidable armaments, including Big Bertha (used during WWI), as well as the Paris Gun and Fat Gustav (colossal cannons used during WWII). During World War II, Krupp was well represented at the front lines of every German battle, showing their loyalty to the Fuehrer of the Holocaust.

Slave Labor Camps


In addition, Krupp industries openly participated in labor camp operations. In an attempt to recover from the loss of German life exacted during the war, Nazi leaders initiated a new order for extermination by labor. German industrialists were encouraged to set up armament factories within or near concentration camps.

While the Jews and prisoners of war housed in these facilities were spared the gas chambers, they were perhaps the more unfortunate victims of the Holocaust. These camps were essentially the same as the extermination camps. They featured close quarters, barbed wire, abuse and threats, starvation, inadequate medical attention, and armed guards whose job it was to ensure the work was done {7}.

Elizabeth Borgwardt, in an essay titled “Commerce and Complicity: Human Rights and the Legacy of Nuremberg,” writes of the cold hard truth of Krupp’s complicity in this new policy throughout 1942. She writes of the 70,000 (perhaps as many as 100,000) laborers used solely by Krupp, reporting that a fair number of them were children {4, p. 95}. According to her research, the Krupp family insisted on using this labor force to build their factories and war machines, and that at no time did the family or its senior employees express remorse for their actions during the war {4}.

Alfried Krupp

In 1948, Alfried Krupp, as acting owner of his family’s company Fried. Krupp, was tried and convicted on charges of exploitation of occupied countries, for committing crimes against peace, and for participating in crimes against humanity to include “use for slave labor of civilians who came under German control, German nationals, and prisoners of war” {6}.

The judge sentenced Alfried to 12 years in prison and ordered the confiscation of all of his assets, holdings, and properties. However, in 1951, in accordance with the orders of John J. McCloy, American High Commissioner for American-occupied Germany, Alfried was released. What remained of his vast holdings and fortune was returned to him.

He went immediately to work restoring the Krupp name and industry. While Russia demonstrated their full support of Alfried’s rearmament strategies, Britain and France fought to prevent Krupp from reacquiring the coal and iron mines and steel mills that had been sold off prior to his release {1}.

Alfried Marries Vera

In a rare moment of what some consider self-indulgence, while attempting to please the Russians and put the rest of Europe at ease, Alfried ventured to Hamburg. It was here that he met the petite, blonde divorcee Vera Hossenfeldt. Within a year, the two were married, and Vera attempted to make Essen, Germany, her home.

Peter Batty describes Vera as a dedicated hostess, and the writer for the World War II Database calls her Krupp’s chief publicist. A former actress and shop girl, she must have been thrilled to be wearing diamonds and gowns, courting the heads of state from around the world. The publicity events held at the House of Krupp were the talk of the town for several years {1}.

At some point during this time, Vera Krupp began wearing a 33.19-carat Asscher-cut diamond. The Krupp Diamond was mounted in a platinum Harry Winston band with two baguette diamonds set horizontally on the shoulders. Reports are vague about when and why the stone was purchased.

Some report that this diamond ring was her wedding gift from Alfried {2}, while others imply Vera’s purchased it after she moved to Nevada in 1955 {3}. That it was a wedding gift is possible, though it is far more likely that Vera acquired the diamond from Harry Winston in the States. It is widely believed that the stone was purchased while Vera was married to Alfried, which would place it in her possession before 1956.


  1. Batty, Peter. The House of Krupp. New York: Stein and Day, 1966.
  2. “Krupp – Steel and Diamonds,” World’s Luxury GuideApril 25, 2012.
  3. Oberding, Janice.  The Haunting of Las Vegas. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 2008.
  4. Schulman, Bruce J. Making the American Century: Essays on the Political Culture of Twentieth Century America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  5. Simkin, John. “Alfried Krupp.” Spartacus Educational. Accessed January 10, 2015.
  6. Watson, Peter. The German Genius: Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution and the Twentieth Century. London: Simon & Schuster, 2010.
  7. World War II Database. “Alfried Krupp.” Accessed January 10, 2015.

The Krupp Diamond Legacy

Big Bertha in action. This was one of Krupp's first large cannons. Photo credit.
Big Bertha in action. This was one of Krupp’s first large cannons. Photo credit.

The Krupp Diamond, most famously owned by Elizabeth Taylor, swirls with stories of war crimes, marital neglect, armed robbery, and secret compartments. In this early history you’ll read of the founding of the Krupp family and the acquisition of the Krupp Diamond by its first owner.

Vera Krupp was married to Alfried Krupp in 1952. Three years prior, in 1948, Alfried Krupp was convicted in Nuremberg for crimes against peace and humanity for his abhorrent actions during World War II. The Krupp Legacy begins in the 1600s in Essen, Germany.

German Industrialists

Keen merchants and industrialists, the Krupps were acute business women* and men who came to dominate the armaments industry in western Germany throughout the 20th century {1}. Their fabrication of guns and armor began under the keen watch of Catherina Krupp-Huyssen in the early 1600s {1}. Catherina’s brother, Anton Krupp, sold gun-barrels, while other members of the family were believed to have sold cannon balls and bayonets during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) {1}.

In 1737, Friedrich Jodokus Krupp, a grocer and cattle-dealer, married up. With his heiress wife’s money, he established the House of Krupp at the center of Essen, Germany {1}. A widower in his forties, Friedrich married his distant relation, Helene Amalie, several years later. It was Helene, a widow after only six years of marriage to Friedrich, who acquired shares in the family’s first coal mines and purchased an iron-fulling mill and an iron-foundry.

The Krupp dynasty began manufacturing (as opposed to brokering) armaments as early as 1843, under the direction of Alfred Krupp, great-grandson of  Helene Amalie {1}. The dread guns of Krupp brought triumph for Prussia in the 1870s, after which it seemed the whole world “was scrambling to buy Krupp…” {1, pp. 83 & 93}.

In 1877, Alfred ensured that Krupp guns served on both sides of the Russo-Turkish {1, p. 96}. In the 1890s, his son and heir, strongly leading Krupp into the 20th century, equipped Germany’s new navy {1, p. 106).

Bertha Krupp

After Alfred’s death in 1902, the House of Krupp, reported to be worth more than 20 million pounds, passed to Fritz’s 16-year-old daughter Bertha {1}. In 1906, the young heiress married Gustav von Bohlen und Halbach, who took the Krupp name for his own.

Under Gustav’s direction, the Krupp family continued to monopolize the gun industry in Germany, their steel dominating the German battlefields of  World War I. During the three years following the First World War, Germany and the House of Krupp were as entwined as braided rope. It should come as no surprise that in these years of peace the House of Krupp was urged to manufacture such non-militant products as false teeth, garbage cans, and trains {1}.

Although the official record relates that Krupp refrained from manufacturing armaments between 1918 and 1936, Peter Batty, in his definitive biography, The House of Krupp, writes of an article written by Gustav Krupp in 1942 {p. 144}. In this article, Gustav reports that while the Krupp weapons of World War I were being destroyed, his factories were manufacturing such products as “padlocks, milk-cans, [and] cash registers” {p. 145}.

Much to the chagrin of his heir, Gustav revealed that these benign products served as cover for Krupp’s allegiance to the new Kaiser, Adolf Hitler. Rather than keeping the agreements made under the Treaty of Versailles, he assured Herr Hitler that Krupp would “begin the rearmament of the German people without any gaps of experience…” {p. 145}.

Alfried Krupp

In 1907, Bertha Krupp gave birth to the sole heir of the Krupp dynasty. Raised under the rule of Germany’s most notorious Kaiser, Alfried would serve the German Reich without hesitation. It is not known whether Alfried was aware of his father’s disregard for the Treaty of Versailles, but Batty reminds us of Alfried’s loyalty to his family and to Germany {p. 173}.

By the time World War II broke out, Alfried was leading Krupp in his father’s stead. Peter Batty calls him “far too essential to Hitler and his generals for him to be allowed to go off to fight” {p. 175}. Just how essential was he?

According to an official military document prepared by the German military in 1942, Krupp supplied to the Germans a host of tanks and U-boats; anti-tank, anti-aircraft, self-propelled guns; as well as rocket-assisted and armor-piercing shells {1}. And that is the short list of weapons and armor supplied to Germany’s troops during the hellish reign of the Fuhrer.

Not only did Krupp supply these weapons of mass destruction, but he also seems to have initiated the detestable labor camps where countless human beings lost their lives. According to Jeff Burbank, who wrote Las Vegas Babylon; Tales of Glitter, Glamour and Greed, Alfried established an outsourced company to oversee the labor camps.

This company forced 100,000 concentration camp detainees to make munitions and build factories for Krupp throughout Germany and German-occupied states. Burbank states that the same Krupp company managed the concentration camp Bushmannshof, which housed the infants and toddlers of the forced laborers.

This man’s second wife, Vera, would be the very first woman to wear the Krupp Diamond. The diamond was purchased at some point between 1952 and 1955, and Vera Krupp favored the stone until her death in 1967.

*To read the early portion of Peter Batty’s book, The House of Krupp, is to see the German tradition of women and men reigning as equals in business and household affairs. On pages 30-31, we read of Helene Amalie Krupp, who “proceeded to bring up her two small children while at the same time improving and expanding the family business.”


  1. Batty, Peter. The House of Krupp. New York: Stein and Day, 1966.
  2. “Krupp – Steel and Diamonds,” World’s Luxury GuideApril 25, 2012.
  3. Simkin, John. “Alfried Krupp.” Spartacus Educational. Accessed January 10, 2015.
  4. Watson, Peter. The German Genius: Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution and the Twentieth Century. London: Simon & Schuster, 2010.
  5. World War II Database. “Alfried Krupp.” Accessed January 10, 2015.

Elizabeth Taylor’s Taj Mahal Diamond

Press photo of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the film, The Sandpiper. This work is in the public domain in that it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 and without a copyright notice.
Press photo of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the film, The Sandpiper. This work is in the public domain in that it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1977 and without a copyright notice.


Elizabeth Taylor’s Taj Mahal Diamond* traveled a far distance before it was acquired by the celebrated Hollywood star. Its journey began on the workbench of a court jeweler of the Mughal Empire. Fashioned for the reigning Empress Nur Jahan in the year 1627, the diamond passed on to Empress Mumtaz-I-Mahal, the following year.

The Taj Mahal Diamond’s Early Features

At the time of its creation, Nur Jahan’s Diamond, as it is also called, featured a table-cut Indian diamond fashioned in the shape of a heart. This large diamond was set within a gray-white jadeite mount, which was also heart shaped. The splendor of the setting was completed with trimmings in gold, diamonds, and red gemstones.

The outer rim of the mount was decorated with six old-mine cut diamonds set bezel style in yellow gold. The red gemstones were set side by side in a bezel-style gold channel. They are believed by some to be spinels {2}. These red stones formed yet another heart-shaped frame around the central diamond. The striking red offered a beautiful contrast to the matte white Persian inscription on the diamond.

Engraved with the Islamic date 1037, the number 23, and the words Nur Jahan Baygum-e Padshah, the diamond jewel is testament to the skill achieved by Indian stone cutters in the 1600s. In a technique lost to modern-day craftsmen, these talented artisans managed to carve the world’s hardest material without the use of lasers {2}.

This beautiful diamond and jadeite jewel was originally suspended, without further embellishment, from a silk cord. It is unclear whether either Empress wore this beautiful jewel. However, given the splendor of Shah Jahan’s kingdom, it would be hard to imagine that such a display of beauty and wealth would have remained in a jewelry box for its whole life.

Richard Burton Buys the Taj Mahal Diamond

Writers Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger, in their book Furious Love, tell the story of Richard Burton’s purchase of the Taj Mahal Diamond. According to their account, Richard and Liz were awaiting a flight at the Kennedy Airport. At their request, representatives from Cartier’s New York arrived to entertain them with a feast of jewels.

The Taj Mahal Diamond caught Liz’s eye, and Richard bought it on the spot, supposedly an early birthday present. Records do not indicate whether the jewel they saw was in its original condition or whether Cartier had already refashioned the new mounting for it. Some report that the Taylor-Burton’s requested the addition of the golden lariat, while others make no comment.

Given that Elizabeth was said to have worn the jewel before her birthday celebration several months later, it is somewhat safe to assume it was already housed in its new mounting and they purchased it on spec. Without further details from Cartier, this remains pure speculation.

The Taj Mahal Diamond’s New Mounting

This new designer mounting is perhaps among the most exquisite modern settings created for an historic diamond. In 1972, Cartier fashioned an elaborate heart-shaped case from gold in latticework enamel style. Into this beautiful case they set the original jadeite and diamond gem.

The gem was originally outfitted with large gold loops through which Cartier strung the terminating ends of an exquisite golden rope fashioned to resemble the jewel’s original silk cord. On each side, the golden rope’s tiny ends flair out in miniature golden tassels capped with a single cabochon ruby.

The neckchain is unadorned all the way up both sides to form a golden lariat which terms in a gorgeous golden tassel emerging from a floret of gold, rubies, and diamonds. A sphere of gold, decorated with perhaps a dozen cabochon rubies, serves as an adjustable band allowing the pendant to be displayed at varying lengths.

The individual strands of gold that form the larger tassel are each capped with a single cabochon ruby. The overall effect is Mughal splendor with a modern twist.

True to form, Cartier effectively drew upon their extensive knowledge of Indian and Persian style to create an entirely new jewel. This new treasure represented perfectly the splendor and majesty of the Mughal courts of old while perfectly accessorizing America’s reigning queen of fashion throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The Taj Mahal Diamond was yet again a jewel fit for a queen.

Richard Burton Holds a Press Conference

Though she is rumored to have worn the Taj Mahal Diamond several times prior to her birthday, Elizabeth Taylor officially received the jewel as the crowning gift of her 40th birthday celebration. This birthday celebration represented more to the couple than just a mere passing of time.

Having endured a long bout of rumors of his infidelities, Richard decided a public display of affection was in order. He invited Elizabeth to plan an elaborate party at the Duma Hotel in Budapest on February 27, 1972 {4}. During the party they planned to renew their vows.

Beforehand, Richard hosted a press conference during which he offered a close-up view of the Taj Mahal Diamond necklace. In several of the photographs, he wears the jewel draped across his forehead. In the remaining images, it hangs upon the neck of a young Hungarian boy who passed by during the public event.

The Birthday Bash Benefits UNICEF

According to author Kitty Kelley, another public announcement was made during the party. This does not appear to have taken place during the press conference. Instead, it seems to have been incited by the young son of one of party guests.

According to Ms. Kelley, Emlyn Williams’ son called Elizabeth Taylor a “beautiful doughnut covered in diamonds and paint,” accusing her of not caring about the Hungarian Revolution raging at the time. Richard, after consoling his crying wife, announced at that moment that Elizabeth Taylor would write a check to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The amount of the check was to match the amount spent on her party.

Four months later, on July 8, 1972, Richard handed UNICEF’s representative Peter Ustinov a check in the amount of $45,000. During the party, Elizabeth Taylor’s Taj Mahal Diamond hung regally around her neck, accompanied by her Krupp diamond which she wore mounted in a ring. Liz Taylor was a vision in white, wearing a Grecian gown and white cyclamen blossoms in her hair {4}.

An Auction at Christie’s

The Taj Mahal Diamond remained one of Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite jewels. She wore it on many occasions, often at its longest length. Even after she and Richard Burton split for good, she treasured the jewel he purchased for her.

It remained in her collection until shortly after her death on March 23, 2011. That December, Elizabeth Taylor’s Taj Mahal Diamond went under the hammer at Christie’s evening event called The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor: The Legendary Jewels. The sale took place on December 13, 2011, drawing a large crowd of collectors, designers, and spectators.

As is customary, the renowned auction house set an estimated price based on the jewel’s material value. This estimate of between $300,000 and $500,000 was eclipsed by a fierce bidding war which drove the price into the millions. By the time the hammer fell, the realized price for the gem was a staggering $8,818,500.

Writing for The New York Times, Charles Isherwood reported that at least one man (surely more) walked away sorely disappointed. Mr. Isherwood writes that a representative from the Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, had flown to New York for the sole purpose of purchasing the Taj Mahal Diamond for the museum’s collection. According to his report, the man “put his paddle down well before that number had been reached” and left defeated but possibly relieved, as well.

Today, Elizabeth Taylor’s Taj Mahal Diamond has slipped into what I’m sure is a well-documented, but closely guarded segment of its history. I wonder when it will surface again.

~by Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer

*Press photos of this gem are no longer widely available. As such, this writer has created a Pinterest board with a number of photos of the Taj Mahal Diamond for your viewing pleasure.


  1. Christie’s. “The Taj Mahal, An Indian Diamond and Jade Pendant Necklace, Ruby and Gold Chain, by Cartier.” Sale date: December 13, 2011.
  2. Internet Stones. “The Taj Mahal/Nur Jahan Diamond.” Accessed January 10, 2015.
  3. Isherwood, Charles. “Once a Star, Always a Star,” The New York Times, December 16, 2011.
  4. Kashner, Sam and Nancy Schoenberger. Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor * Richard Burton The Marriage of the Century. London: Aurum Press, 2013.
  5. Kelley, Kitty. Elizabeth Taylor: The Last Star. USA: Simon & Schuster, 1981.
  6. Walters, Rob. Rogue Males: Richard Burton, Howard Marks, and Sir Richard Burton. England: Satin, 2010.

The Taj Mahal Diamond

Western View of the Taj Mahal. This is the view Shah Jahan would have had from Agra Fort. Photo taken by Muhammad Mahdi Karim, 2012. Used with permission.
Western View of the Taj Mahal. This is the view Shah Jahan would have had from Agra Fort. Photo taken by Muhammad Mahdi Karim, 2012. Used with permission.

Tracing the Taj Mahal Diamond through history is a fascinating endeavor. It was created by Mughal court jewelers for Emperor Jahangir Shah and his beloved wife, Nur Jahan. After his death, the emperor’s son, Shah Jahan, ascended the throne and took possession of the heart-shaped pendant.

This gorgeous jewel* features a table-cut white diamond of unknown size carved into the shape of a heart. Inscribed upon the face of the diamond, in Persian, is a declaration of Nur Jahan’s position as Lady of the Master. The numbers inscribed on the6 stone mark the final year of her claim to that title.

Shortly after the diamond was created, Nur Jahan’s husband died. Her stepson Shah Jahan seized the throne by force.  The jewel became his possession, and it is rumored that he passed it along to his most beloved wife, Mumtal-I-Mahal.

Mumtal-I-Mahal’s Death

Here begins Act II of the Taj Mahal Diamond’s history. (Read Act I here.) Three years after becoming empress of the Mughal Empire, in the year 1631, Mumtal-I-Mahal died in childbirth.  The court chroniclers recorded the death of their queen soon after she gave birth to a daughter:

When she brought out the last single pearl,
She emptied her body like an oyster. 
{5, p. 1}

Diana Preston, in her book Taj Mahal: Passion and Genius at the Heart of the Moghul Empire, details the legendary story:
“In a dusty fortress on the hot, airless plateau of the Deccan in central India…a severe pain gripped [Mumtal-I-Mahaz’s] abdomen. Doctors were hastily summoned, but despite their efforts, the 38-year-old mother’s fourteenth pregnancy was going severely wrong. Weak through loss of blood, she whispered to her distraught husband of their everlasting love and begged him not to marry again. Her final request was that he should build her a mausoleum resembling paradise on earth, just as she had seen in her dreams” {p. 1}.

Shah Jahan would do as she asked, but not before he locked himself away in his rooms, refusing food for eight days {1}. Even after he agreed to take food, he remained in seclusion for two years {5}. She writes that his hair turned completely white in one night and that he turned his back on riches and pleasures. He donned a simple white mourning costume and devoted the next 20 years of his life to fulfilling his wife’s deathbed wish {5}.

The Taj Mahal

Unesco calls the Taj Mahal “the jewel of Muslim art in India” {6}. Diana Preston calls it “the world’s most famous memorial to love” {p. 1}. A fusion of Persian, Muslim, and India design elements, the Taj Mahal casts a spell on all who gaze upon it.

Eleanor Roosevelt, who saw its magnificent just after the sun went down, wrote, “I held my breath unable to speak in the face of so much beauty…this is a beauty that enters the soul” {5, p. 3}.

With the treasury of the entire Mughal Empire at his disposal, Shah Jahan poured every ounce of his grief and passion into ensuring the intricate beauty of his wife’s resting place. Made entirely of white marble and rose sandstone, the Taj Mahal features exquisite mosaic work in precious and semi-precious stones. The History Channel relates that the colorful display was fashioned out of jade, lapis lazuli, turquoise, amethyst, and other crystals in the pietra dura technique.

An Empire in Decline

Having thrown everything into the creation of this paradise on earth, Shah Jahan, indifferent to his kingly duties, depleted the kingdom’s stores. After 22 years of neglect, the empire was heading toward decline.

In 1653, the remains of Mumtal-I-Mahal were finally interred in her final resting place. Four years later, Shah Jahan fell ill, and his son Dara, the favored son of Mumtal-I-Mahal, took over his father’s duties. Dara’s three brothers, Aurangzeb, Shuja, and Murad, amassed an army which defeated Dara’s military delegation.

They declared their father incompetent to rule, and Aurangzeb took to the throne. He ordered his father’s arrest and had him detained in Agra Fort. From here, the former ruler had a pristine view of the western face of the Taj Mahal. It is said that he spent most of his time staring at it until he died in 1666 {7}.

The Taj Mahal Diamond

During this time, the Taj Mahal Diamond remained in the Mughal treasury. It was passed from ruler to ruler until 1739. In May of that year, Nadir Shah, ruler of Persia, swept in and defeated the Mughal armies.

The treasury of India’s Mughal emperors, worth an estimated value of 700 million rupees {3}, was handed over to Nadir Shah. Chests of gemstones, including some of the world’s most famous diamonds (Koh-i-Noor and Darya-i-Noor), the Peackock throne of Shah Jahan, and likely the Nur Jahan Pendant (now called the Taj Majal Diamond), were carried into Persia.

In 1749, Nadir Shah was assassinated by those who were charged to protect him, and the Persian treasury was dispersed among these former bodyguards {3}. During this chaotic time, the whereabouts of the Taj Mahal Diamond are undocumented.

One theory suggests the possibility that the diamond was not among the jewels taken by Nadir Shah {3}. Another poses the possibility that the jewel was recovered through acts of torture perpetrated by Agha Muhammad Khan Qajar. Still others propose that the jewel may have been recovered in an attack on Nadir Shah’s convoy as it made its way through Indian lands.

While it’s method of recovery remains a mystery, the Taj Mahal Diamond was returned at some point to the Mughals, having been documented in the city of Delhi as part of the collection belonging to the Mughal Empire’s final ruler, Bahadur Zafar Shah II.

The Taj Mahal Diamond in Britain

In 1857, British forces captured the city of Delhi. The emperor was placed under arrest, and the jewels of the Mughal treasury were cataloged for transport to England. Since the Taj Mahal Diamond did not find its way into the official registry, it’s believed that the stone was pilfered by one of the British soldiers, who smuggled the jewel into Britain for his own purposes {3}.

At some point, Cartier acquired the Mughal relic and fashioned for it a beautiful new setting of gold and rubies. In their book, Furious Love, Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger detail the story of how Elizabeth Taylor fell in love with the Taj Mahal Diamond necklace:
“…during a layover at Kennedy Airport. Cartier accommodated the Burtons by bringing a king’s ransom of jewelry to the airport for them to consider while they waited for the next plane. The Taj Mahal necklace was among the selections” {p. 31}.

Burton purchased the glorious jewel as an early birthday gift for Elizabeth. She was overjoyed and wore it many times throughout her life. Thus begins Act III of the Taj Mahal Diamond’s history.

Read More…

*Press photos of this gem are no longer widely available. As such, this writer has created a Pinterest board with a number of photos of the Taj Mahal Diamond for your viewing pleasure.


  1. Christie’s. “Lot 56: The Taj Mahal an Indian Diamond and Jade Pendant Necklace Ruby and Gold Chain, by Cartier.” Accessed January 4, 2015.
  2. “Deconstructing History: Taj Mahal.” Accessed January 4, 2015.
  3. Internet Stones. “The Taj Mahal/Nur Jahan Diamond.” Accessed January 4, 2015.
  4. Kashner, Sam and Nancy Schoenberger. Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor * Richard Burton, the Marriage of the Century. London: JR Books, 2010.
  5. Preston, Diana. Taj Mahal: Passion and Genius at the Heart of the Moghul Empire. New York: Walker Publishing Company, 2007.
  6. Savion Travel Services. “Shah Jahan,” Taj Mahal. Accessed January 4, 2015.
  7. Unesco. “Taj Mahal.” Accessed January 4, 2015.

Princess Soraya’s Engagement Ring

Shah Reza Pahlavi and Princess Soraya on their wedding day in 1951.
Shah Reza Pahlavi and Princess Soraya on their wedding day in 1951.

Princess Soraya’s engagement ring is listed as one of the most famous vintage engagement rings of modern history. It features a Harry Winston diamond weighing a massive 22.37 carats, with two tapering baguette diamonds set horizontally onto the platinum band. The step-cut (either emerald- or table-cut) stone is held in place by four fancy platinum prongs.

The story of this white diamond betrothal gift reads eerily like the tragic love story of Napoleon and Josephine. Like many royals before them, the last Shah of Iran and his lovely bride made the hard choice to exchange their personal happiness for civic duty in service to their country.

According to the history on the Bakhtiari family’s website, which tells the detailed story of the life of Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiari, “The two were drawn to one another instantly and sparks began to fly.” The Washington Post reported that Soraya told a German interviewer that “it was love at first sight” {cited}.

Soraya is Considered

Soraya Esfandiary-Bakhtiari was born into a Persian noble family in 1932. At the age of 17, she was presented to the Shah of Iran and invited to become his Queen.

Forough Zafar Bakhtiari, a close friend of Shah Pahlavi’s mother, had been asked to scout the eligible women in her family {2}. Forough’s niece told her about Soraya, who was studying in London at the time.

Based on Forough’s report, the Queen Mother requested photographs and asked her daughter, Princess Shams, to meet with Soraya in London {2}. After meeting with the young Persian noblewoman, Princess Shams sent word to her mother:

“…I don’t need to see any other girl. The woman is born to be a Queen. She is beautiful, very well educated, and has excellent mannerism” {2}.

Soraya, Born to Be Queen

According to Van Cleef & Arpels, Princess Soraya was among the most photographed women in the 1950s. A survey of photographs from the time demonstrate the power of her exotic beauty. According to Nasser Amini, one of the Shah’s diplomats, the princess “had the most captivating eyes in the world….They had such a rare intensity, deep green like the rarest of emeralds” {cited}.

She was hailed by Life Magazine as “a remarkable woman, charming and unpretentious” {May 12, 1958}. Clearly, it was her charm that won over her future sister-in-law, and it was her beauty that captured the heart of a king.

Shah Pahlavi Asks for Her Hand

The Queen Mother showed her son the photograph, and he immediately requested a meeting in person. Princess Shams, whom Soraya had just met, accompanied Soraya to Tehran.

The night of their first meeting, at two in the morning, Shah Pahlavi called Soraya’s father, Khalil Khan, and asked for her hand in marriage {2}.  At some point during their official courtship, he presented Soraya’s engagement ring to her.

Their courtship was bliss, a romance for the ages. The royal family announced their engagement formally on October 11, 1950 {2}, and a date of December 26, 1950, was set for their wedding.

Unfortunately, a serious bout of typhoid fever and grippe assailed Soraya just before her wedding {10}. According to Van Cleef & Arpels, her convalescence, which lasted several months, was punctuated daily by elaborate jeweled gifts from her fiance, Shah Reza.

One of these gifts, a delicate yellow gold, ruby, diamond, and blue sapphire brooch, features a trio of lovebirds perched on a branch. A photo of the exquisite piece can be seen on VC&A’s website.

A Legendary Gown

As Soraya grew stronger, a new wedding date was set for February 12, 1951. Life Magazine reported, in their issue dated February 26, 1951, that “a coverlet of snow on the earth” heralded “a happy marriage.” The Shah was seen chain smoking outside the Marble Palace as his bride’s arrival was announced by the roar of two jets.

Against the backdrop of nearly two tons of orchids, tulips, and carnations flown in from the Netherlands {8}, Soraya proved a vision in her Dior gown of silver lame bedecked with 20,000 marabou stork feathers {8} and 6,000 diamonds {2}.

The writer at The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor describes the dress as “the most couture couture gown ever seen at a royal wedding,” a work of art that was “utterly, unabashedly over the top.” According to British Pathe, the dress weighed 40 pounds, though the Sartorial writer reports it weighed 44 pounds.

Either way, combined with the full-length white mink coat the Shah draped over her shoulders at one point, the weight of this ensemble was altogether too much for the Princess to bear after her prolonged illness. Concern for his bride led the Shah to consult with Dr. Ayadi. A lady-in-waiting was soon asked to cut off several yards of the Princess’s petticoats with a pair of scissors to relieve her of her burden {2}.

A Fairy Tale Wedding

Their ceremony took place in the Mirror Hall in Golestan Palace in Tehran, followed by a banquet and reception. The British news reel reports that the scene that night in the “fabulous, pink-marbled Golestan Palace” was one of “glittering brilliance” {cited}.

Against the backdrop of Mughal splendor, men and women of nobility from around the world came together to celebrate the budding romance in a grand show of flowers, couture, gold, and gemstones. What “started with a snapshot,” says the British newscaster, came “to a fairy tale climax.”

by Angela Magnotti Andrews, EraGem Staff Writer


  1. Afkhami, Gholam Reza. The Life and Times of the Shah. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.
  2. Bakhtiari Family. “Princess Soraya Esfandiari Bakhtiari.” Accessed January 2, 2015.
  3. “Beautiful Soraya in New York,” Life Magazine, May 5, 1958, p. 42.
  4. British Pathe. “Special–Tehran–The Shah’s Wedding,” Video dated 1951.
  5. “Iran’s Shah to Wed in Splendor Today,” The New York Times, February 12, 1951, p. 6.
  6. Kadivar, Cyrus. “Soraya: Fragments of Life,” The Iranian, June 25, 2002.
  7. “Late Princess Soraya’s Personal Effects Sell for $6 Million,” Hello Magazine, June 3, 2002.
  8. “Shah of Iran Wed in Palatial Rites,” The New York Times, February 13, 1951, p. 14.
  9. “Soraya in Search of Solace,” Life Magazine, May 12, 1958, pp. 117-122.
  10. “The Shah Takes a Bride,” Life Magazine, February 26, 1951, pp. 30-32.
  11. Van Cleef & Arpels. “H.I.H. Princess Soraya.” Accessed January 5, 2015.
  12. “Wedding Wednesday: Queen Soraya’s Gown,” Sartorial Splendor blog, October 26, 2011.
  13. Zoech, Irene. “Fortune of Shah’s former wife goes to German state,” The Telegraph, April 6, 2003.

LeAnn Rimes’ Engagement Ring Details

Capture the Essence! of LeAnn Rimes' love of fleur-de-lis with this Rhonda Faber Green Diamond Pendant Fleur-de-Lis. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of LeAnn Rimes’ love of fleur-de-lis with this Rhonda Faber Green Diamond Pendant Fleur-de-Lis. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

LeAnn Rimes’ engagement ring traces its roots back to Seattle, Washington. It was custom made by California jeweler Brent Polacheck.

According to IWMagazine, Polacheck Jewelers began as a Seattle diamond store in the 1920s. It has now burgeoned into a multigeneration California jewelry outfit with appeal to “sophisticated males” between 32 and 50 years of age.

This appeal to men of distinction comes largely from Polacheck’s emphasis on large diamonds and luxury watches by Patek Philippe, Cartier, and Rolex {cited}. A visit to Polacheck’s website confirms this focus on mens jewelry. The site showcases Patek Philippe watches and bold gemstone pieces by Armenta, Ippolita, and Roberto Coin.

They do offer a selection of womens jewelry. However, their marketing definitely appeals to the cosmopolitan man purchasing a gift for his woman. Here we see the sculptured pieces of David Yurman,  the colorful offerings of KCDesigns, and delicate elegance of Penny Preville.

One thing Polacheck Jewelers does not present on their website is engagement rings. So, how did Eddie Cibrian convince the esteemed jewelers to spend countless hours designing Leann Rimes’ engagement ring?

Turns out Brent and Eddie grew up together. It was a natural fit for Brent to fashion the diamond, platinum, and rose gold engagement ring for Eddie’s lady love.

Together, they conceived the 5-carat diamond engagement ring set in platinum and rose gold. The central stone appears to be rimmed by shimmering single-cut diamonds. The rose gold band features twin fleur-de-lis paved in rose-cut diamonds.

“Le[Ann]’s participation in the design was solely regarding the Fleur de Lis. She had her heart set on having that incorporated in the ring,” Brent told People. The overall effect is unique and absolutely beautiful.

What do you think? Did the men do her proud?

Let us know on our Facebook page. #LeAnnRimes

Chelsea Clinton’s Wedding Jewelry

Capture the Essence! of Chelsea Clinton's Wedding Jewelry with these Sonia B Floral Diamond Earrings. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Chelsea Clinton’s Wedding Jewelry with these Sonia B Floral Diamond Earrings. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Chelsea Clinton’s wedding jewelry is a vision of classic elegance. Her engagement ring is tucked behind a beautiful bouquet of white roses.  A diamond tennis bracelet is wrapped elegantly around her wrist. It features a dainty floral centerpiece.

She wears a rhinestone and pearl sash. A beautiful accent to her strapless white dress. On her ears she wears a pair of diamond earrings. About Style reports that Ms. Clinton’s earrings feature the same floral pattern as her bracelet.

Photos of Ms. Clinton’s wedding jewelry reveal no more than what is mentioned here. Her happiness is the greatest adornment of all.

If Chelsea’s wedding jewelry is cloaked in mystery, her engagement ring is left in downright obscurity. Experts can only guess as to the cut. Some say it’s a square cut, others an an Asscher cut. Still others claim it’s an emerald cut.

At EraGem, we agree it could be any one of these cuts. It is a stellar white diamond mounted on a platinum or white gold band. The available photos do not show enough of the ring to comment on accent stones. It might be a perfect solitaire.

History of the Ashoka Diamond

EraGem Diamond Engagement Rings

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Ashoka Diamonds made a big splash in 2011, when Reese Witherspoon revealed her 4-carat Ashoka-cut diamond engagement ring. Her husband, Jim Toth chose the William Goldberg patented cut because he was moved by the story of its origins.

Ashoka’s Bloody Battle

Between 268 BCE and 232 BCE, a Mauryan emperor named Ashoka ruled India with an iron fist. Imperialist by design, he set about conquering India’s feudal states. One such state on the Bay of Bengal had defied Mauryan rule for centuries. Determined to succeed where his forbears had failed, Ashoka sent forces into Kalinga to begin one of the bloodiest and most brutal battles of world history {5}.

It is written in stone that 100,000 Kalingans lost their lives, and 10,000 of the emperor’s men were killed {6}. This stone was carved by edict of King Ashoka, who is said to have witnessed firsthand the destruction he ordered. Reports claim that the river ran red with blood and that a distraught woman turned the tide on Ashoka’s imperialism.

“Your actions have taken from me my father, husband and son, now what will I have left to live for?” she entreated {6}.

Confessions Carved in Stone

In perhaps one of the most transformative moments in world history, a repentant Ashoka turned to the Buddha’s teachings for direction. Little is known of the circumstances surrounding his conversion, but the result is carved in stone pillars that stand across the continent.

Signed Devanampiya Piyadasi (‘beloved of the gods and handsome in looks’), historians are positive that these stone edicts are the confessions, reparations, and assertions of this same King Ashoka, known the world over as Ashoka the Great {9}.

“Conquest by Dharma”

Turning his back forever on imperial conquest, he turned instead to “conquest by dharma” {4}. In a tone of sincere remorse, he wrote of his crimes against his fellow man, and he urged his officials, his kinsmen, and his subjects to adopt the way of dharma.

He believed dharma to be “the energetic practice of the sociomoral virtues of honesty, truthfulness, compassion, mercifulness, benevolence, nonviolence, considerate behavior toward all…nonextravagance, nonacquisitiveness, and noninjury to animals” {4}.

He encouraged an atmosphere of religious tolerance and respect for all life, and he spent the remainder of his days beautifying all of India, preaching the way of dharma, and providing water and medicine to his countrymen {4}.

The Ashoka Diamond in the West

These pillars of history can be found in many locations in India, including Delhi, Allhabad, Bihar, and in Nepal {9}. James Prinsep, a scholar specializing in translating ancient texts, was the first to bring Ashoka to the attention of the western world.

More attention was paid once the Ashoka Diamond emerged onto western soil. It first emerged on the finger of famed Mexican actress Maria Felix. Later, art investor Roberto Polo acquired the stone for his collection (and for his wife, Rosa).

Eventually, under the watchful gaze of legendary diamantaire William Goldberg, the Ashoka Diamond emerged as a pinnacle choice for diamond engagement rings.

Dunne is Dazzled

A disputed article* written by Dominick Dunne, which appeared in Vanity Fair in October 1988, detailed the journalist’s encounter with the Ashoka Diamond. Sitting at the table of John Loring, Tiffany & Co.’s senior vice president, the writer was dazzled by the glittering stone on the finger of Mr. Polo’s wife, Rosa.

By this time, Mr. Polo was a legendary art and jewelry investment adviser. His substantial investment in Sotheby’s stock options saved the company from ruin in the early ’80s, and his other investments in the international art scene led to success for many artists and dealers.

Ashoka Diamond, Sold! for $3.85 Million

In that same year, 1988, Mr. Polo curated the record-breaking sale of eight sensational gemstones at Sotheby’s. Leading the list was the “41.37-carat oblong cushion-shaped Golconda Ashoka Diamond set as a ring, bought in 1984 for $ 1 000 000 from the beautiful Mexican film star Maria Felix, sold for $ 3 850 000, the second highest auction price in history for a white diamond…” {8}.

According to Mr. Dunne, the stone was “so huge it would have been impossible not to comment on it” {3}. Roberto told him it was “a 41.37-carat D-flawless stone named after Ashoka Maurya, the third-century B.C. Buddhist warrior-emperor” {3}.

Once the ring was sold by Sotheby’s, its provenance has remained somewhat obscured by the tightly held secrets of important jewelers and dealers. However, given the extensive opportunity he had to study the diamond {2}, its possible that Mr. Goldberg was the lucky man who welcomed that stone into his collection. This is mere theory, though, so don’t quote me.

The Right to Be Beautiful

William Golberg once said, “You shouldn’t cheat a diamond of its right to be beautiful” {10}. After studying the Ashoka Diamond extensively, he worked tirelessly alongside his gemologists to recreate the great king’s diamond.

According to the diamantaire, this cut renders a diamond that rivals its namesake in distinction, “a cut so unique, so distinctive and original, it was granted its very own patent” {2}.

This premiere diamond cut requires a scarce form of diamond rough. These raw diamonds must be of high quality (D to K, flawless to SI2) and must be extra long {1}. Given the rarity of rough diamonds of this caliber, an Ashoka Cut Diamond is an exquisite and exclusive choice for a diamond engagement ring.

For Further Reading

The article can be read in Dominick Dunne’s collection of his Vanity Fair articles, “Mansions in Limbo.” According to, Mr. Dunne’s account was “slanderous” and that his journalistic practices were “sensationalist, deceptive and responsible.” Both accounts make for interesting reading.


  1. AM-Diamonds. “Ashoka Fancy Cut Diamond.” Accessed December 15, 2014.
  2. Ashoka Diamond. “History of Ashoka.” Accessed December 15, 2014.
  3. Dunne, Dominick. The Mansions of Limbo. New York: Crown Publishers, 1991.
  4. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. “Ashoka.” Accessed December 15, 2014.
  5. Indian Saga. “History of India: Kalinga War.” Accessed December 15, 2014.
  6. Keuning, Wytze and J.E. Steur. Ashoka the Great. New Delhi: Rupa Publications Pvt. Ltd., 2010.
  7. Maps of India1. “The Battle of Kalinga and its Aftermath,” Maps of India Blog, October 18, 2011.
  8. Roberto Polo. “Setting the record straight.” Accessed December 15, 2014.
  9. Sen Gupta, Subhadra. Ashoka. UK: Puffin Lives, 2009.
  10. William Goldberg. “Famous Diamonds.” Accessed December 15, 2014.

Amy Adams’ Engagement Ring

Capture the Essence! of Amy Adams' Engagement Ring with this 1.15-Carat Diamond Halo Engagement Ring in Platinum. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Amy Adams’ Engagement Ring with this 1.15-Carat Diamond Halo Engagement Ring in Platinum. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Amy Adams’ engagement ring is a stunning designer creation by Jean Dousset, of Cartier descent. According to InStyle, her now-husband, Darren Legallo, an actor and rally driver, wrapped the ring box in wrapping paper that the actress decided to keep. According to sources, the central stone is a 1-carat brilliant-cut diamond.

Ms. Adams’ engagement ring is a study in perfection, designed specifically with Amy in mind. While the intimate details of her ring belong to the actress and those closest to her, we are privy to some general details.

For one, Mr. Dousset confirms on his website that Ms. Adams’ engagement ring, featured in Us Magazine’s Celebrity Sparkler Quiz on May 13, 2013, is patterned after his EVA design.  Handcrafted in his “seamless halo” design, the central diamond is 1 carat and surrounded by hand-cut diamonds that seamlessly flow around the girdle of the stone. This leaves the crown and the pavilion of the stone visible to the eye from nearly every angle.

Set in this way, the center stone is held snugly without the use of prongs, a unique characteristic of Jean Dousset Diamonds. Mr. Dousset states, “The diamond center stone should always be the focus of an engagement ring, and the metal should only play a supporting role.” By creating seamless, prongless houses for his diamonds, he gives center stage to the beautiful hand-selected stones.

For Ms. Adams’ ring, the supporting metal is platinum. The solid band is paved midway with rare colorless melee. One final intimate detail is known only because it represents one of Mr. Dousset’s key signatures. Beneath the crown, cradled in a ring of platinum, rests a colored gemstone.

It’s impossible to know which stone she would have chosen, but it could be her birthstone (peridot or sardonyx), or it could be one of the royal trio (sapphire, emerald, ruby), or it could be a semi-precious stone of significance to her alone.

Today, she wears the beautiful diamond nestled against three thin platinum wedding bands paved in diamonds. The one she wears nearest to her heart is rimmed with tiny yellow diamonds (or sapphires). The other two are the same size and weight, paved in white diamonds. She wears them between the yellow-stone band and her Jean Dousset engagement ring.

Which mystery stone do you think Ms. Adams’ engagement ring features?

Drew Barrymore’s Engagement Ring Details

Capture the Essence! of Drew Barrymore's Engagement Ring with this 1.5-Carat Radiant-Cut Diamond Engagement Ring by Palladio. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.
Capture the Essence! of Drew Barrymore’s Engagement Ring with this 1.5-Carat Radiant-Cut Diamond Engagement Ring by Palladio. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Art consultant Will Kopelman chose Drew Barrymore’s engagement ring with an eye for beauty, style, and class. He turned first and only to Graff Diamonds for the D-color, radiant-cut diamond which weighs between 3 and 4 carats.

According to their press release, Graff Diamonds deals in only the most extraordinary diamonds, ensuring the highest quality in cut and craftsmanship.  Ms. Barrymore’s engagement ring is clearly no exception to this claim.

The gorgeous diamond is set minimally in a four-prong platinum setting atop a platinum band paved in sparkly white diamonds. During early interviews, Ms. Barrymore appears both intimidated and fascinated by the massive jewel.

“It’s beautiful,” Ms. Barrymore told Anderson Cooper. “He picked it out, and he’s just got lovely taste, and it’s really fancy. I’m sort of funky eclectic girl, so I feel like this is very fancy, and I’m trying to feel comfortable with it.”

It’s clear that although Ms. Barrymore’s engagement ring is far more classic in its appearance than we would expect, it looks so beautiful and natural on her finger. The radiant cut gives off a gorgeous flash of light, even from a distance.

Today, Ms. Barrymore wears a beautiful platinum and diamond wedding band alongside her exquisite diamond engagement ring. This timeless band features round and oval-shaped diamonds set in bezel-style settings. Keeping with tradition, she wears her wedding band nearest her heart.