“My name is not L-I-Z, it’s E-L-I-Z-A-B-E-T-H!”

May 2024

“My name is not L-I-Z, it's E-L-I-Z-A-B-E-T-H!”

Whenever I hear people talking about diamonds, I always think of this anecdote about Liz – sorry, Elizabeth – Taylor, from the time she was married to the Republican senator John Warner, her 7th husband out of 9 (counting Richard Burton twice).


arner had neither Richard Burton’s taste, nor his working-class roots, and he was notoriously tight-fisted. While Burton had presented Liz with the 68-carat Cartier-Burton diamond (worth approximately 70 million dollars), John Warner once gave Liz, for her birthday, a necklace that had three diamond-set letters: L-I-Z.

The birthday girl, on discovering this outrage, hurled the necklace in his face, shouting, “My name is E-L-I-Z-A-B-E-T-H!”

This was the final straw for the marriage, which ended with Liz sinking into a deep alcohol-fuelled depression. But she soon turned things around, quickly tying the knot with construction worker Larry Fortensky, whom she met during her second stint at the Betty Ford Center. It’s a safe bet that he was no connoisseur of the Harry Winston catalogue. All of which goes to show that Marilyn Monroe’s assertion that Diamonds are a girl’s best friend requires a disclaimer: not always.

But… these anecdotes do point to an obsession that has persisted over thousands of years. Many years ago, I spent a winter on the shores of Lake Bienne in Switzerland, in an old house whose ground floor was occupied by a group of archeologists, there to excavate the remains of a prehistoric lakeside village.

One evening, one of them showed me his incredible find: a loincloth, a sort of prehistoric miniskirt made from a sheer curtain of pearlescent shells, that would have been worn by a young girl 4,000 or 5,000 years ago. He was awestruck, head-over-heels in love.

I don’t know if this prehistoric girl was called Liz, Elizabeth, or something else entirely. I don’t know if she ever threw this shell miniskirt in her lover’s face. Nevertheless, this delicate garment has made her immortal, in a way.

And that is probably the secret allure of jewellery. We mortals know that our beauty is perishable. Stones (or shells) are immortal. When nothing remains of the meat suits we were born in, our jewellery endures, the glittering reflection of our vain dreams of immortality.