Category Archives: Designer News

Tiffany’s Picasso Kunzite Necklace

In 1989 Tiffany & Co. donated the gorgeous Picasso Kunzite Necklace made by Paloma Picasso. This gorgeous 22.96-carat cushion-cut pink kunzite cocktail demonstrates the luminous quality of kunzite. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.
In 1989 Tiffany & Co. donated the gorgeous Picasso Kunzite Necklace made by Paloma Picasso. This gorgeous 22.96-carat cushion-cut pink kunzite cocktail ring demonstrates the luminous quality of kunzite. Photo ©2015 EraGem Jewelry.

The Picasso Kunzite Necklace is on permanent display at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. It was donated by Tiffany & Co. to the prestigious museum in 1989. Nearly ten years into her career as a jewelry designer, Paloma Picasso (1949-present), who designed this exquisite necklace, had become an internationally respected jewelry designer.

Gemstone Bikinis & YSL

Ms. Picasso first entered the world of jewels and gemstones in the late 1970s, after a stroke of imagination inspired her to craft necklaces out of the gemstone bikinis worn by the cabaret performers in the Folies Bergeres. At this time, she worked as a stylist for the shows {2}.

However, having discovered her passion in styling those flashy necklaces, she soon enrolled in jewelry design school {1}. Around that time, Ms. Picasso had become a chic fashionista. Currently, her name can be found in the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame {1}.

In the 1970s, Paloma’s penchant for vintage flea market clothes caught the eye of her friend and legendary designer, Yves Saint Laurent {4}. His “Scandal Collection” debunked the traditions of haute couture with its nod to the French Occupation, drag queens, and theatrical mixture of new and old {4}.

By the time Paloma graduated from design school, Mr. Laurent had been captivated by her sense of style for a number of years. Naturally, he was one of the first people to whom Paloma showed her first collection of jewels {1}. YSL immediately commissioned her to design a collection for his clothing lines.

Tiffany & Co.

Sometime later, Paloma went on to work for the House of Zolotas, where she refined her skills in gold and gemstones {1}. In 1979, after staging a window display for Tiffany’s, Ms. Picasso was invited by Tiffany’s design director, John Loring, to join the Tiffany design team {1}. Today, Paloma Picasso is one of a small handful of designers given their own signature collections at Tiffany’s.

In 1986, Paloma Picasso was well known for her signature use of large semiprecious stones in bold colors. John Loring is reported to have described the hallmark of her designs as “X’s, scribbles and zigzags, all sculpted in gold” {1}.

Four years later, the editors at Gems & Gemology credited her with “helping to broaden consumers’ acceptance of colored stones other than the ubiquitous ruby, emerald, and sapphire in high-fashion jewelry” {p. 87}. One of her favorite colored stones was kunzite, a pink-to-lilac colored form of spodumene.

The Picasso Kunzite Necklace

True to form, Paloma fashioned what has become one of the world’s most famous kunzite jewels. A marvelous cushion-cut, deep pink kunzite stone, which weighs an astonishing 393-60 carats, appears to float within the embrace of an 18k yellow gold and diamond ribbon. A Picasso X crosses beneath the gem’s base.

This exquisite pendant hangs from a string of 30 South Sea baroque pearls. The clasp is hidden within another ribbon X made of yellow gold and white diamonds. Ms. Picasso designed the necklace to commemorate Tiffany & Co.’s 100th anniversary.

~Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


  1. About Tiffany & Co. “Paloma Picasso.” Accessed February 24, 2015.
  2. From the stage to the garden: Paloma Picasso talks inspiration with Vogue,” Vogue Australia, September 5, 2013.
  3. “Jewelry in the 1980s: A Retrospective,” Gems & Gemology, Spring 1990, p. 76-93.
  4. “Paloma Picasso, the seventies IT girl inspired YSL ‘Scandal Collection’.” A. G. Nauta Couture blog, June 29, 2014.
  5. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “Picasso Kunzite Necklace,” Mineral Gallery. Accessed February 24, 2015.

Vera’s Spring Mountain Ranch

Spring Mountain Ranch, Nevada. Photo ©2013 Billy Kerr.
Spring Mountain Ranch, Nevada. Photo ©2013 Billy Kerr.

Vera Krupp moved to Las Vegas, where her large 33.19-carat Asscher cut diamond was seen whenever she visited town. Much like the diamond’s later owner, Elizabeth Taylor, Vera Krupp was a glamorous and ostentatious woman who thought nothing of wearing such a large glittering diamond wherever she went. Finally free of the doldrums of Germany and her listless marriage, she set to work reinventing herself as a rancher.

Spring Mountain Ranch

With her settlement from Alfried Krupp, Vera purchased a spread of 500 acres situated 26 miles outside Las Vegas proper. She set up for cattle ranching and took to country living like a fish to water. The land she purchased has a fascinating history dating back to 1829, when Antonio Armijo forged a trade route from Santa Fe to Los Angeles {7}.

Known as the Old Spanish Trail (now the Mormon Trail), this route ran east from Santa Fe, New Mexico, until it reached the Mojave Desert. Not daring to cut through Death Valley, Armijo jogged south to the San Gabriel Mission. This turning point was located right where Vera’s property now sits {7}. For decades, the site in Nevada served as a hideout to bandits who preyed upon those traveling the Old Spanish Trail {5}.

However, by 1860, according to Paul Papa, author of Discovering Vintage Las Vegas, the land had become a stopping off point for weary travelers. A one-room cabin and blacksmith shop were built on the land. The first real claim was made on the acreage in 1864, by Bill Williams, an outlaw who used the land to service his horses {5}.

In 1876, ranchers James Wilson and George Anderson filed a legal claim for property and established Sand Stone Ranch {6}. At some point, Anderson took his leave, entrusting the care of the land, and his two sons (reputed to have been born to a Paiute Indian woman {3}), to James Wilson.

In 1906, Wilson passed away and deeded the land to his stepsons. In 1929, Wilson’s stepsons sold the ranch to Willard George, who allowed them to remain on the ranch until their deaths. The tombstones of all three settlers, James Wilson, Jim Wilson, Jr., and Tweed, can be seen in the small cemetery that remains on the land today.

From Chinchillas to Diamonds

From 1929 to 1944, Willard George, a notable furrier, raised chinchillas on the property. He also raised cattle on the ranch. In 1944, Chester Lauck (‘Lum’ from the Lum and Abner radio show), leased the ranch from Mr. George. In 1948, Lauck bought it outright and added a ranch house constructed from sandstone and redwood.

Lauck renamed it the Bar Nothing Ranch and continued to raise cattle. In 1955, Vera Krupp came along and bought the 500-acre estate. She moved in and increased cattle operations to support the Herefords and Brahma bulls she raised. Adopting the Diamond V brand, she renamed her estate Spring Mountain Ranch {7}.

Among her regular habits was to ride her horse Sweetheart around the ranch and to wear her favorite Harry Winston diamond ring at all times, including when she went to town. This habit ended April 10, 1959, after which time, an “in-the-know source” told journalist Norm Clarke that she “kept the massive diamond safety-pinned to her bra at all times” {2}.

A Harrowing Encounter

The reason for this change? A harrowing encounter with armed robbers. Vera was never quite the same after this experience. Before this, the ranch offered luxurious privacy. After, a frightening sense of isolation. To ward off the fear, she ordered an addition for her home and a star-shaped badge with her name on it {7}.

The addition was a secret passageway and bedroom camouflaged “behind pine panels in Krupp’s boudoir” {4}.  The badge represented her newly purchased status as a deputy sheriff. She was not one to mess around {7}. For the next 8 years, Vera continued to tend to the duties of ranch life.

For reasons unknown to this writer, Vera sold Spring Mountain Ranch in 1967. Not wanting to see her estate land in the hands of developers, Vera attempted to sell to the parks department. Unfortunately, the state was unable to afford the $1.1 million asking price {6}.

Instead, in July 1967, Vera sold Spring Mountain Ranch to the Hughes Tool Company, a subsidiary owned by Howard Hughes. She took her Russian art collection and her massive Harry Winston diamond and moved off the property. She passed away three months later, and the diamond ring went to auction the next year at Sotheby’s New York, where it was purchased by Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor.

A Park for All

Hughes Tool maintained Spring Mountain Ranch as a working cattle ranch, changing only the brand. Cows and bulls leaving the property were now stamped with a capital T over a capital H {7}. Howard Hughes never lived at the ranch. It’s possible that Mr. Hughes never set foot on the property after her purchased it {4}.

In 1972, for $1.5 million, Hughes sold the property to Nevada developers, Fletcher Jones and William Murphy, purchased the estate. Public protests against their plans to raze the land and build a large housing development led to their eventual decision to sell the land to the Nevada Division of State Parks.

Today, the Spring Mountain Ranch State Park plays host to visitors from all over the world. Regular tours of the ranch house and grounds afford tourists an up-close look at many of the original furnishings, photos of former owners, and a peek into the secret boudoir of Vera Krupp.


  1. Burbank, Jeff. Las vegas Babylon: Tales of Glitter, Glamour, and Greed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.
  2. Clarke, Norm. “DJ finds out popularity doesn’t translate into job security,” Las Vegas Review, January 4, 2002.
  3. Collier, Lynn. “Rustic ranch house, park lure visitors,” Las Vegas Review, September 18, 1996.
  4. Jones, Jay. “Vestiges of Las Vegas’ glory days,” Los Angeles Times, June 5, 2011.
  5. Moreno, Richard. Nevada Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff. Guildford, CT: Morris Book Publishing, LLC, 2009.
  6. Oberding, Janice. The Haunting of Las Vegas. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, Inc., 2008.
  7. Papa, Paul W. Discovering Vintage Las Vegas: A Guide to the City’s Timeless Shops Restaurants, Casinos, & More. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Vera Krupp and Her Diamond

Vera Krupp. Image credit: Alamy Images.
Vera Krupp.

We’ve been following the legacy of Elizabeth Taylor’s famous Krupp Diamond, now called the Elizabeth Taylor Diamond. This gorgeous stone is a 33.19-carat Asscher cut diamond mounted in a Harry Winston platinum band. On its shoulders rest two baguette diamonds set horizontally.

Vera Krupp

The Krupp Diamond began its public journey on the finger of Vera Krupp sometime between 1952 and 1956. By 1956, we find Frau Krupp growing weary of life with her husband in Essen, Germany, where the average temperatures hover between 40 and 50 degrees (F) and the rain falls fairly steadily year-round.

There are many who write of Alfried Krupp’s love for his wife. Several authors, including Jeff Burbank, quote historian William Manchester, who wrote the book The Arms of Krupp in 1968. According to Burbank, Manchester described Herr Krupp as “defenseless against such a woman” {2, p. 117}.

Apparently, Vera was an assertive woman with few inhibitions who was one of the only people who could make Alfried, generally a straight-faced man, smile {Burbank}. Her beauty, ambition, and intriguing ways served Alfried well during high-powered business dinners {1} .

However, Alfried was a driven man on a mission to restore his family’s company to its former glory. As true as his love for Vera may have been, it is well documented that Alfried Krupp owed his prime allegiance to the business.

Krupp Steel Works

The notorious Krupp steel works, which supplied Germany, and many other countries, with weapons and armor for nearly all the European wars of the 21st century, were in dire straits after the Nuremberg trials. Alfried alone could set things right and bring Krupp back to life.

This took nearly all of his time, and after a few years of neglect, the cultured and sophisticated Vera hungered for warmth and excitement. Burbank writes that she eventually abandoned the “hideous, provincial, joyless city” of Essen in 1955, and purchased a ranch in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Though the couple’s parting appears as a mere blip in the history of Krupp, as described by the majority of its various biographers, it doesn’t take a lot of guess work to realize that Vera was done, not only with Essen, but with Alfried Krupp.

Divorce & Alimony

In October 1956, Vera filed for divorce. According to Peter Batty, who wrote The House of Krupp, Vera claimed that Alfried refused to have marital relations with her, pressured her to rescind her American citizenship, and “refused her a home life” {1, p. 305}.

Whether he wanted to contest the divorce or not, Alfried was unable to attend the hearing scheduled on American soil due to his convictions in 1948. The divorce was made final in January 1957, and a sum of ₤1,800,00 was requested immediately, followed by a request for annual alimony payments of ₤90,000 per year {1}.

According to Mr. Batty, the actual amounts settled upon by the two parties are undisclosed to public record due to the extenuating circumstances surrounding Mr. Krupp’s inability to be present for the divorce proceedings. To be sure the settlement was sizable. Given her regular visits into town sporting diamonds and platinum, most prominently the Krupp Diamond, Vera appears to have lived more than comfortably after her marriage ended.


  1. Batty, Peter. The House of Krupp. New York: Stein and Day, 1966.
  2. Burbank, Jeff. Las vegas Babylon: Tales of Glitter, Glamour, and Greed. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.

Halle Berry Wears The Pumpkin Diamond

Halle Berry at the 2013 Golden Globes. Photo ©2013 Jenn Deering Davis.
Halle Berry at the 2013 Golden Globes. Photo ©2013 Jenn Deering Davis.

On March 24, 2002, the Pumpkin Diamond graced the left pinky finger of one of America’s most celebrated actresses. If you haven’t seen Halle Berry’s acceptance speech for the Oscar she won for best actress in Monster’s Ball, you have missed out on a moment of authentic beauty.

Authentic Beauty

The clip begins with Russell Crowe, wearing a knee-length black wool-crepe tux by Armani {People}, saying, “And the Oscar goes to….” Behind him a large screen features live insets of the five nominees: Renée Zellweger for Bridget Jones’s Diary, Sissy Spacek for In the Bedroom, Nicole Kidman for Moulin Rouge!, Judi Dench for Iris, and Halle Berry for Monster’s Ball.

After that momentous pause, Russell Crowe says: “…Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball.” His announcement is immediately followed by a roar from the crowd. The insets now show a combination of expressions: Ms. Zellweger does not appear surprised, Sissy Spacek smiles and claps her hands in front of her face, Nicole Kidman appears satisfied, Judi Dench is thoroughly pleased, and Halle Berry appears so shocked she almost looks horrified.

As the camera zooms in on her, Halle’s stunned look of surprise remains frozen on her face for a few more seconds. Then she begins exclaiming, “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” over and over again, as her smiling mother embraces her.

So Much Bigger

Imagine what it must have been like. Her first Oscar win, and against some of America’s most astounding actresses. She is so overcome, she can hardly walk up the stairs. The audience is on its feet as Russell Crowe hugs her and helps her gain her composure. She accepts the Oscar and simply stands there crying wide-mouthed sobs, before she manages to say it one more time: “Oh, my God!”

It is one of Hollywood’s most historic moments, as the crowd cheers for her again. She finds her breath and a small amount of composure before declaring: “This moment is so much bigger than me!

“This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.” Her composure shatters, and she begins to sob again.

Halle Berry Thanks Everyone

In the moments that follow, Halle Berry thanks everyone she can think of who spurred her on, gave her a chance, and helped her make history with her art.

With tears streaming down my face, it dawns on me that in 2002, Halle Barry shattered the colored woman’s ceiling. She did so by trusting those who believed in her. And by allowing them take her deeper into her craft than she had ever been before.

I also understand the importance of telling a jewel’s story, for in telling the story of one piece of jewelry, we tell the story of the world one person at a time.

This Time, Notice the Diamond

This moment in history deserves to be celebrated over and over again. If you can, I encourage you to watch it again. And this time, I ask you to allow your eyes to find the beautiful orange diamond ring Halle wears on her left pinky finger.

Our first real glimpse of it comes after she’s taken the stage. As she walks toward Russell Crowe, she covers her face with both hands. There it is, shimmering in the stage lights. It’s there for only a moment, before the two actors share their brief moment of privacy.

Then, Ms. Berry steps to the microphone, still speechless. In a gesture of pure gratitude, she blows her peers a kiss as she sobs. The Pumpkin Diamond radiates warmth and vibrancy as she extends her left hand toward the cameras.

She’s weeping so hard that all she can do then is stand facing her audience, right hand clutching her Oscar, left hand squeezed tightly into a fist. It’s the first time we can see the orange tint of the diamond.

As she finds her composure, she grips the Oscar in her left hand. The astonishing beauty of one of the rarest, most notable orange diamonds is nearly lost in the pathos of the moment. Its orange color nearly matches that shine of her golden Oscar.

Do you think the Winstons knew the gorgeous 5.54-carat fancy vivid orange diamond would play such a significant role in history only six years after they purchased it?

by Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


  1. Famous Diamonds. “The Pumpkin.” Accessed January 30, 2015.
  2. Harry Winston. “Our Story: Jeweler to the Stars.” Accessed January 30, 2015.
  3. Oscars YouTube Channel. Video: “Halle Berry Wins Best Actress: 2002 Oscars. Published by Oscars on May 23, 2014.
  4. “Oscars Fashion: A Beautiful Time,” People, Vol. 57, No. 13, April 8, 2002.
  5. William Goldberg. “Orange Diamonds: Colors of the Fall,” October 24, 2012.

The Pumpkin Diamond

Fancy Vivid Yellow Orange Diamond by Leibish & Co. Photo Credit: Flickr under CC License.
Fancy Vivid Yellow Orange Diamond by Leibish & Co. Photo Credit: Flickr under CC License.


On March 24, 2002, when Halle Berry, wearing the celebrated Pumpkin Diamond on her left pinky finger, made her landmark Oscars acceptance speech at the 74th Academy Awards, history was made. Forever forward, the rare orange diamond will be linked to the year that the first African American woman held in her hands the golden statue that honors those men and women who have distinguished themselves in the film industry.

Ms. Berry won the award for her role as Leticia Musgrove in Monster’s Ball. The film tells the story of a poor colored woman who falls in love with a white correctional officer who, she finds out perhaps too late, played a major part in her husband’s execution. While the tale is most definitely about the racial divide, it is also about the dividing lines of poverty, family, gender, and our judicial system.

In her acceptance speech, Berry hints at the depths to which she had to go to nail the role: “…my husband, who is just the joy of my life, and India [her husband’s daughter], thank you for giving me peace, because only with the peace that you’ve brought me have I been allowed to go to places that I never even knew I could go. Thank you. I love you and India with all my heart.

“Our director, Marc Forester, you’re a genius. You’re a genius. This movie-making experience was magical for me because of you. You believed in me, you trusted me, and you gently guided me to very scary places. So thank you.” Ms. Berry went on to thank as many people as she could remember in that shell-shocked moment.

The Pumpkin Diamond

While Halle Berry is on stage making her gut-wrenching speech, she wears on her left pinky the Pumpkin Diamond. It radiates with warmth and energy as she throws a silent, sobbing kiss to her peers in the audience. It glows with golden light as she grips the Oscar in her left hand as she honors all the people who made her moment possible, going back a hundred years. It shimmers elegantly in the stage lights as she covers her face in disbelief.

Could Ronald Winston have possibly known the role that his rare orange-colored Pumpkin Diamond would play in American history that night?

No Thought of Winning


For reasons known only to him, he graciously lent the 5.54-carat fancy vivid orange diamond to Halle Berry for her night at the Oscars. She was nominated, but even she had no thought of winning. She told Libby Brooks, writer for The Guardian, that she had not even planned an acceptance speech.

During the interview, she laments her missed opportunity to thank many more people, most importantly Billy Bob Thornton, without whom her win would have proven impossible. It seems like it was just like any other Oscars night for the House of Harry Winston.

The practice of lending pieces to celebrities for red carpet events may have even been invented by the firm’s founding father, Harry Winston. He was always carrying large diamonds on his person, slipping them onto potential clients’ fingers when they least expected it. Nothing sells a diamond like seeing it in person, feeling the weight of it, falling in love with its mesmerizing qualities.

And nothing captures the interest of collectors like seeing a diamond make history. It would be pure conjecture to guess at the motives behind the Winstons’ choice to slip the brilliant orange diamond on the actress’s finger. She had a one-in-six chance to win, up against America’s most celebrated actresses, Nicole Kidman, Sissy Spacek, Judi Dench, Renee Zelwegger. No wonder she hadn’t planned an acceptance speech.

Making History

But the odds played well for Ronald Winston. His diamond was now making history, as it should. Nearly as rare as Halle Berry’s breakthrough win, this diamond deserved recognition. It was found in 1997, in the Central African Republic. William Goldberg purchased the stone and then had it fashioned into a cushion cut before selling it at auction the next year.

In 1998, during an auction hosted by Sotheby’s, Ronald Winston, representing the House of Harry Winston, purchased the phenomenal orange diamond for $1.3 million {6}. According to Robert Genis, writer for The Gemstone Forecaster, Ronald Winston expressed a desire to name the stone The Tangerine. However, since the stone was purchased the day before Halloween, his staff urged him to connect the stone to the autumn holiday {2}.

Rare Vivid Orange

Ronald Winston and Phillip Bloch set to work right away to design a classic platinum setting for the stone {1}. They mounted it between two specially cut white diamonds. The resulting jewel resembles many antique rings from the late 1800s.

Following the 2002 Oscars, the House of Winston loaned the Pumpkin Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. For three months, the jewel remained on public display in a special exhibit called The Splendor of Diamonds. This exhibition was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, The Steinmetz Group, and the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

The Splendor of Diamonds exhibition showcased seven of the world’s most rare and valuable colored diamonds. The Pumpkin was the only orange diamond included. What makes this orange diamond so special, according to the Smithsonian Institution, is that the majority of orange diamonds manifest with a brown undertone.

The Pumpkin Diamond does no such thing. It is pure vivid orange, catapulting it into diamond history as one of the largest fancy vivid natural orange diamonds in the world {6}.

And that is how diamonds make history.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews, Staff Writer


  1. Famous Diamonds. “The Pumpkin.” Accessed January 30, 2015.
  2. Genis, Robert. “Collecting Orange Diamonds,” The Gemstone Forecaster, Vol. 21, No. 4, Winter 2003.
  3. Oscars YouTube Channel. Video: “Halle Berry Wins Best Actress: 2002 Oscars. Published by Oscars on May 23, 2014.
  4. “Oscars Fashion: A Beautiful Time,” People, Vol. 57, No. 13, April 8, 2002.
  5. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “The Splendor of Diamonds.” Accessed January 30, 2015.
  6. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “The Splendor of Diamonds: The Pumpkin Diamond.” Accessed January 30, 2015.
  7. William Goldberg. “Orange Diamonds: Colors of the Fall,” October 24, 2012.

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.