Romancing the stone

Engagement Rings | Wedding Bands

She was the queen of Ancient Egypt; and she was the queen of classical Hollywood cinema (1950s). Both queens were mythologised for their beauty, legendary loves and prodigious appetite for emeralds. Even though their reigns were millenniums apart, the similarities Cleopatra and Elizabeth Taylor share are spooky.

Cleopatra (69-30BC) was so besotted with the deep green precious gemstone that she claimed ownership of Egypt’s emerald mines. Not only were her royal adornments dripping with emeralds, it’s said Cleopatra presented dignitaries visiting Egypt with large emeralds carved in her likeness. The world’s most famous, and biggest, emerald (measuring 97-carats of pure, flawless green), was named after Cleopatra. The Egyptian queen split it in two. She kept half and gave the other half to her married lover, Marc Antony (83-30BC), one of three powerful dictators who ruled Ancient Rome.

The beguiling Egyptian queen’s half of the Cleopatra Emerald resurfaced last Century, however Marc Antony’s half is still missing. According to folklore, until the two halves of the mythical Cleopatra emerald are re-united, it will bring misfortune to its owner.  

Antony and Cleopatra loved with a passion that burned brightly, fueled by a pyre of political ambition, power struggles, manipulation and betrayal. They were antiquity’s version of the’ power couple’, they co-ruled Egypt and had three children together. A piqued Rome declared Antony a traitor and forced him in to battle. With defeat looming, and the false belief Cleopatra was dead, Antony did what any noble Roman soldier would do and fell on his sword. As he lay dying, he learned his love was alive and he was taken to Cleopatra to die in her arms. Rather than be made a scapegoat of the Empire, Cleopatra put an asp to her breast and died from the serpent’s poison.

This legendary love affair has sparked many an imaginative re-telling, from William Shakespeare to Century-Fox, whose epic 1963 bio-pic, Cleopatra, was almost financially ruinous for the studio. Starring Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra and Richard Burton as Marc Antony, the actors’ on-screen chemistry sizzled just as dramatically off-screen. A classic case of  life imitating art, the adulterous Taylor-Burton affair caused an almighty scandal. Publicly staged, their relationship was just as flashy as the Bulgari jewels Burton (the lover-turned-husband) gifted Taylor.

While she might not have commanded Cleopatra’s mines, Liz did amass one of the world’s most expensive private collections of jewellery in her lifetime. The screen diva’s most famous Bulgari pieces include an emerald-and-diamond necklace and detachable pendant (an engagement gift from Burton) and an 18.6-carat emerald ring surrounded by pear-cut diamonds, which Burton gave Liz on their 1964 wedding day.

Liz’s fabulous jewellery collection has augmented the emerald’s reputation as a status symbol of the wealthy. Also the birthstone for May, the emerald is claimed to represent renewal of life, youth, faithfulness, loyalty, foresight and good fortune. Make your friends green with envy by acquiring any of Secrets’ new simulated emerald jewels.