Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century (on view at the Denver Art Museum until March 15) tells many stories about changes in style, culture, politics, and technology during the twentieth century. It also tells stories about some of the most storied romances of the era, including the following:
Elizabeth Taylor & Mike Todd
One of the great loves of Elizabeth Taylor's life was her second husband, Hollywood producer Mike Todd, who died in a plane crash. In 1957 when she was expecting their child, Todd presented her with the ruby and diamond Cartier necklace (pictured above).
Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton
Taylor's most well-known and publicized romance was with Richard Burton. “This tumultuous love story resulted in divorce and remarriage as well as innumerable gifts of jewelry,” reads the Brilliant catalog. “The most iconic was the necklace designed by Cartier to support the historic Peregrina pearl. Bought at auction on January 23, 1969, by Richard Burton, this perfect drop-shaped pearl boasted a history that reached back to King Philip II of Spain in the 1500s.” (The exhibition showcases the ruby and diamond necklace and has a drawing of the design for the Peregrina pearl necklace.)
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor
King Edward VIII famously abdicated the throne for American divorcee Wallis Simpson. He became the Duke of Windsor and Simpson became the Duchess of Windsor. According to the catalog that accompanies the exhibition, “Mrs. Simpson’s jewelry collection was unique; not only were her pieces chosen—and to some extent, created—by a king for the woman he loved, but many items were also inscribed with intimate messages referring to times they had spent together.” In Brilliant you can see several of the Duchess' pieces of jewelry, including the famous flamingo brooch designed by Jeanne Toussaint.)
Grace Kelly & Prince Rainier III
One of the show-stoppers in an exhibition of show-stoppers is Grace Kelly’s 10.48-carat engagement ring from Prince Rainier III. The Hollywood actress (who once performed at Elitch Gardens in Denver) married the prince in 1956 and became Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco. In addition to her engagement ring, the exhibition features other Cartier objects she owned, including a bird brooch that features a mother bird in a basket atop four pearl “eggs.”
You & ___?
With the romantic lighting and glamorous atmosphere in the exhibition, you never know what might happen. We've even heard of several proposals in Brilliant, including Marc Henderson's proposal to Annie Seperich. After a year of dating, Marc got down on one knee in Brilliant on New Year's Eve 2014. We're happy to report Annie said yes!
Image: 1957 close up Mike Todd putting jeweled necklace on Elizabeth Taylor as she holds earring up to her ear, © Archive Films Analog Collection/Getty Images. Filmmaker: Eve Johnson