On this day in October 24, 1969, the legendary movie star Richard Burton surprises his wife Elizabeth Taylor and several of their fans when he bought a 69-carat Cartier diamond ring that cost $1.5 million.
The two lovebirds fell in love during the shooting of Cleopatra in 1963. Elizabeth Taylor was a London-Born American wannabe aged 30 who was in her forth marriage to Eddie Fisher. While Burton was a British stage actor who had also been married twice but was known for his drinking habit and flirting around with other actresses while on stage, which earned him the name "le scandale". They were both made superstars by the film Cleopatra, which released on June 11, 1963 and made over $26 million. A year after the movie was released, they tied the knot of March 15, 1964 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Montreal where Taylor declared, "I am the happiest woman on earth! I know this marriage will last forever." Being one of the most celebrated married couples in the world, they earned huge amount of money to appear in movies together. They both appear in nearly a dozen film such as The V.I.P.s where Burton played Taylor's tycoon husband, The Sandpiper which earned them the name Liz and Dick by the press, the critically acclaimed Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf? 1966, and The Taming of the Shrew in 1967.
There was much attention on their private life than their movie roles because they lived an extravagant lifestyle. Earning up to $88 million together, however, they both spend more than $65 million of their earnings. They lavished the money on expensive luxuries items like cars, bought whole floors of 5 star hotels, a private jet, a helicopter, and a million dollar yacht. However, their marriage began to fall apart, Taylor was not helping Burton's drinking habit either, in fact, aggravated the problem. Five years later, their marriage became synonymous with physical and verbal abuse that ended with expensive gifts. In fact, the aforementioned Cartier diamond ring was a result of a fight they had one night in a restaurant. While they were dining, Burton said Taylor's hand was big and ugly and she replied that she should buy her the 69-carat ring so that her hands may look smaller and attractive.
The pear-shaped diamond was uncovered from the Premier mine of South Africa in 1966. Sold in an auction to Cartier jewelry firm for $1.05 million, the following day, which was October 24, Burton bought the diamond for $1.5 million and gave it to his wife.
They first separated in 1973, and eventually divorced in 1974. 16 months later, they remarried at Chobe National Park in Botswana. The following year, they divorced for the second and last time and Elizabeth Taylor eventually put the diamond ring for sale at an auction three years later. Elizabeth Taylor remarried twice, but both marriages ended in divorce. In 1984, Richard Burton died of brain aneurysm at the age of 59.