Precious stones are a gift from nature, each of them unique like a human soul. As an Italian, believe me when I say that any love story should be celebrated as a gift. When you find your soul mate—someone you feel you have known for a thousand years—the jewellery you give them should be deeply personal.
One of the greatest love stories of the last century was between Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor—a romance for the ages that captivated millions around the world. Part of the tale featured one of the most extravagant ways ever to say “I love you forever”. This was done in the form of the Taylor-Burton diamond. The rough stone weighed in at a staggering 241 carats when it was discovered in South Africa in 1966. It was then cut into a 69.42-carat pear-shape by Harry Winston.
Following a bidding war which Cartier won, Burton cut a deal to buy the ring for $1.1 million. Cartier would be allowed to display it when it wasn’t being worn. “I was going to get that diamond if it cost me my life or $2 million, whichever was the greater,” Burton recalled. “I wanted that diamond because it is incomparably lovely … and it should be on the loveliest woman in the world,” he said, referring to his beloved Taylor. Now named the Taylor-Burton diamond, the actress commissioned Cartier to transform the ring into a more wearable necklace, which made its debut at Princess Grace of Monaco’s fortieth birthday party.
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Blood red and evoking feelings of passion and love, rubies are the most difficult stone to find, design and wear. The most spectacular ruby ever found was a 23.1-carat Burmese ruby, mined in Mogok in the 1930s. Set in a ring with diamonds, it was donated to the Smithsonian museum by businessman and philanthropist Peter Buck in memory of his wife Carmen Lúcia—another eternal love story with a gemstone at its heart. Rubies have been breaking records at auction in recent years. In 2014, an eight-carat ruby sold for over US$1 million per carat. If you insist on the finest ruby, make sure that it is Burmese, pigeon blood in colour, loupe clean and perfectly cut.
Sapphires too symbolise true expressions of romance. While September’s birthstone was believed by the Persians to give the sky its colour, and by the Greeks to cure sickness, many love stories have also been written about this most treasured of gems. It is said that Helen of Troy’s enchanting beauty came from a large star sapphire. Then there was Shah Jahan, who like many other Mughal emperors, was an avid gemstone collector. His passion for sapphires and other jewels was only matched by his love for his wife, for whom in death he built the sumptuous Taj Mahal as an eternal memorial.
Perhaps the best-known tale is of Catherine the Great when she received an enormous 377-carat sapphire from an admirer. The jewel remained in the Romanoff collection until it was sold by Nicholas II to finance a hospital during World War 1. After a turn under Harry Winston’ ownership, “Catherine the Great’s sapphire” is now owned by a private party. As befitting of a stone beloved of goddesses and monarchs, the sapphire represents a woman’s most regal attributes. It also provides one of the best ways to say: “Be my queen, I will love you forever.”
The emerald was believed by the ancients to be a sacred symbol of fertility and immortality. First mined in Egypt in at least 330BC, it went on to become known as the “stone of Cleopatra”. This was in honour of the Egyptian queen who adorned herself and her palace with the gemstones as a glorious green display of wealth and power. Modern-day Cleopatras still adore emeralds and Colombia now supplies the best, most vivid green ones. These are among the rarest and most desirable stones for collectors and investors to find. With prices reaching up to US$300,000 per carat in recent years, it’s no wonder that giving an emerald is a perfect way to say “I love you”.
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Perhaps not as famous as diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds, spinels are still my favourite gems. They are unique in their enormous range of colours, glitter brighter than other gems, and they can be found totally flawless. The Spinel is said to be a stone of hope that will provide encouragement when experiencing challenges in a relationship by getting rid of negative thoughts and feelings. Black spinel, in particular, is believed to solve all the root causes of all physical, emotional and spiritual imbalances. It is believed that a spinel’s ability to release anxiety and lower stress can make the wearer feel energised enough to work harder on the things that matter. In this way, a young couple’s love story might start with a fiery pink or red spinel. It would be like saying: “My love for you is shining of his own light—and we will get through any problems we may face.”
Indicolite tourmaline, aquamarine and tanzanite are becoming more and more popular, and I expect in the near future they will become increasingly treasured as gifts to loved ones. We are all individuals, with different emotions, favourite colours and varying attachments to places, people and experiences. Likewise, there is no formula defined for how we should express our love through jewellery. A declaration of love shouldn’t necessarily tick a specific box. Sometimes the most beautiful stone is the one that makes her smile, no matter if it costs a million or a thousand dollars.
Article by Danilo Giannoni, founder of Arte Oro, an independant Italian bespoke jeweller in Singapore.