Elizabeth Taylor's favorite diamond ring, an iconic sparkler that sold for $8.8 million Tuesday at Christie's New York auction house, was nearly lost on a desert highway outside Las Vegas.
Also known as the Krupp diamond, the 33.19-carat gem was purchased by actor Richard Burton in 1968 for $305,000 as a gift for Taylor, a two-time Academy Award winner who was celebrated as the most beautiful woman in the world.
It was the highest price paid for a diamond ring at that time.
Actress Vera Krupp, married to German arms manufacturer Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach from 1952 to 1957, owned what is now known as Spring Mountain Ranch from 1955 to 1967. She didn't cotton to strangers showing up at the ranch, a distrust no doubt rooted in having the diamond stolen in 1959. The FBI in Las Vegas caught the thieves and recovered the diamond.
One of Krupp's run-ins during the 1960s was with Thalia Dondero, who went on to serve 20 years as a Clark County commissioner and a University of Nevada regent.
One day Dondero was in the vicinity of Krupp's home, with a group of Girl Scout Brownies at a day camp in Calico Basin.
Krupp suddenly appeared on a ridge above Dondero's group and ordered them off the land.
"She said she owned all the water rights and grazing rights for her Brahma bulls and was bringing them in the next day. She was a tough cookie," Dondero said by telephone Wednesday.
"I told her, 'I have a (BLM) permit, and we're going to stay.' The next day she brought a Brahma bull in and left it there.The girls called him 'Lonesome George.' "
Years later Krupp turned to Dondero, Clark County's first female commissioner, for help.
"She had purchased some property in Moapa and was driving back . She called me. In her strong voice, she said, 'Thalia, I've lost the diamond. I don't know if staff took it or I lost it.' "
Dondero called the sheriff's office, and they were getting involved when another call came in from Krupp.
"I found it," a relieved Krupp said. Miraculously, the diamond was found hanging on the door handle of Krupp's car in a small clothes bag.
Krupp sold the ranch in 1967 to billionaire Howard Hughes . After Krupp's death in 1968, the diamond was part of her estate when Burton bought it.
Taylor, who died March 23 at 79, said she rarely removed the diamond ring, proudly flashing it in many of her movies. She was wearing the megarock the night I interviewed her after Siegfried & Roy's New Year's show in 2001 at The Mirage.
In a 2003 interview with CNN's Larry King, Taylor estimated the ring, later named "The Elizabeth Taylor Diamond," was worth more than a million dollars.
She wasn't the only one who misjudged its worth. Christie's established a presale estimate of $3.5 million .
Taylor's jewelry collection went for a record-setting combined total of $116 million.
Another gift from Burton, her "La Peregrina" necklace featuring a 50.6-carat Cartier pearl, diamonds and rubies, fetched $10.5 million.
KIM KARDASHIAN'S BIG BUY
Kim Kardashian, in town for today's 6 p.m. opening of Kardashian Khaos at The Mirage, got in on the frenzied action for Taylor's jewels.
According to Forbes magazine, the reality show star had Los Angeles jewelry designer Lorraine Schwartz buy three jade bracelets created by Schwartz.
Kardashian , who paid $64,900 for the lot, was a fan of Taylor and jade.
"If you have a piece of jade, the energy goes into the piece and you absorb the energy," Kardashian said. "So I can feel Elizabeth in the piece."
THE PUNCH LINE
"This guy (Donald Trump) is something. He's committed to the debate, he's not committed; he's running, he's not running; he's in, he's out. What does he think this is, one of his marriages?" -- Jimmy Kimmel