Diamond diva: C4 documentary to tell Liz Taylor’s life through jewellery

Channel 4 is to tell the definitive story of the late actor Elizabeth Taylor in a feature-length documentary – through the history of her extensive jewellery collection.

The broadcaster is to air the documentary, which explores the actor’s life story through some of her most precious jewels, later this spring.

The jewels have recently featured in landmark auctions in New York and London and at her death were valued at more than £100m.

Taylor once declared that jewels were one of the three loves of her life, alongside two of her seven husbands – the producer Mike Todd, who died in 1958, and actor Richard Burton, whom she married twice.

“You can’t cry on a diamond’s shoulder, and diamonds won’t keep you warm at night, but they’re sure fun when the sun shines,” she once said.

People central to Taylor’s life – including Joan Collins, Liza Minnelli, the fashion designer Valentino and Mickey Rooney – will also appear in the 90-minute film, which has the working title Elizabeth Taylor: The Auction.

Rooney – Taylor’s co-star for her first major film, National Velvet, which she made in 1944 when she was aged just 12 – discloses that she was also given a horse from the producers at the end of shooting National Velvet. This sparked her interest in free luxury gifts, which never deserted her despite her enormous wealth.

Collins recounts an anecdote in which Princess Margaret, over dinner with Taylor, denounced a diamond as vulgar. Taylor put it on her, with the words: “Not so vulgar now, is it?”

Actor Robert Hardy, a long-time friend of Taylor and Burton’s, also appears in the film to talk about the actor’s 33.19-carat diamond ring. Hardy, a star of the hit BBC series All Creature Great and Small, is one of the few people to have seen it off her finger.

“The first time I met the famous diamond ring I was staggered by it,” he says in the documentary.

Filmed in London, Paris, Rome, New York and Los Angeles, the film features the “La Peregrina” pearl which was once owned by Mary Tudor and was given to Taylor by Burton. It sold for a record £7.6m in December.

Taylor, who was an Anglo American, died of heart failure in March 2011, aged 79, having suffered many years of ill health.

“It is a genuine privilege to be given such unique access to these amazing jewels,” said Sara Ramsden, Channel 4 specialist factual commissioning editor.

“The film offers real insight into the queen of bling and why diamonds really were one of her best friends.