Jewellery is so much more than just ornamentation. Bracelets, rings, necklaces all carry with them a unique history, and have the ability to tell incredible stories.

All this, and they also fetch eye-watering prices at auction.

While few of us can regularly wear 70-odd carat diamonds worth millions, that doesn’t mean we can’t ogle some of the most iconic jewels from history…

1. The Burton-Taylor diamond

Elizabeth Taylor Oscars GIF by The Academy Awards - Find & Share on GIPHY

As a keen jewellery collector, plenty of pieces from Elizabeth Taylor’s collection could go on this list. Arguably the most famous is the Burton-Taylor diamond – the 69 carat whopper Richard Burton bought for his wife in 1969. According to National Jeweler, Burton purchased the stone for $1.1 million (£840,000) from Cartier.

Taylor most famously wore the stone as part of a diamond encrusted necklace to the 1970 Academy Awards, where she presented the award for best picture. She wore a pale blue chiffon dress by Edith Head with a deep V to show off the necklace.

She sold the diamond after her second marriage to Burton broke up.

2. The Tiffany Diamond

Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga at the 2019 Oscars (Ian West/PA)

This large yellow diamond owned by Tiffany & Co was mined in South Africa in 1877 and has only been worn publicly three times: in 1957 when Mary Whitehouse, the wife of an American diplomat, wore it to a charitable ball; in 1961 by Audrey Hepburn in the publicity photos for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and most recently by Lady Gaga at the 2019 Oscars.

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

It comes in at 128.54 carats and has been presented in different ways. In honour of Tiffany’s 175th anniversary in 2012, the diamond was reset into a white diamond necklace of over 100 carats.

A recreation of the famous sparkler will soon take on a starring role in Kenneth Branagh’s upcoming adaptation of Agatha Christie’s book Death on the Nile, with Gal Gadot’s character wearing the jewel.

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

3. Wallis Simpson’s Cartier panther bracelet

The Duchess of Windsor
The Duchess of Windsor wearing the bracelet in 1959 (PA)

There is still so much fascination around the Duchess of Windsor, the American socialite who the Duke of Windsor abdicated the throne to marry in 1936. It was a scandalous story at the time – and Wallis Simpson’s legacy is no doubt boosted by the sheer glamour of her jewellery collection.

One of her most famous jewels was an onyx and diamond panther bracelet from Cartier, which when it was made in Paris in 1952 must have felt exceedingly modern. According to the BBC, when sold for £4.5m in 2010 the bracelet became the most expensive bracelet and priciest Cartier item to be sold at auction.

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Now, the panther is the instantly recognisable symbol of Cartier.

4. Princess Diana’s engagement ring

Duchess of Cambridge wearing her engagement ring
The ring is now worn by the Duchess of Cambridge (Arthur Edwards/PA)

In 1981 Princess Diana revealed her engagement ring – one she picked out herself – and it apparently caused a bit of a stir within the monarchy.

The ring is made up of a Ceylon sapphire surrounded by diamonds, all set in white gold. Made by the Garrard jewellers, it wasn’t custom-made – meaning anyone who had the money could buy it from a catalogue. Rumour has it some within the royal family thought Diana should have chosen something unique instead.

Now, the ring is worn by the Duchess of Cambridge.

5. The Black Orlov Diamond

The Black Orlov Diamond
The Black Orlov Diamond (John Stillwell/PA)

A ginormous black diamond might already seem dramatic enough, but this stone goes the extra mile and was allegedly cursed. The Black Orlov is also known as The Eye of Brahma, and is rumoured to have been removed from a Hindu idol in India.

Three people, thought to have been former owners, are said to have died in apparent suicides, leading to the stone being christened the ‘Evil Death Gem’ by the media in the mid 20th century. The original 195 carat stone was later re-cut into three, so the Black Orlov Diamond is now 67.5 carats and the curse is apparently broken.

In 2005 it went on display at an exhibition at the Natural History Museum, with the BBC reporting the curator Alan Hart as saying: "The intriguing legend of the Black Orlov highlights the powerful way that diamonds have captured human imagination for thousands of years. This jewel’s beauty and apparent infamy make it a fitting addition to the world’s biggest diamond exhibition."

6. The Dresden Green Diamond

We need your consent to load this Instagram contentWe use Instagram to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

The Dresden Green Diamond – often known more simply as the Dresden Green – has far happier connotations than the Black Orlov. It’s said to bring good luck, as it’s the largest green diamond in the world.

Thought to have been mined in India, it was notably owned by Polish royalty in the 1700s. It was shown off as a symbol of power and wealth, and since 1768 it has been part of a hat ornament. It’s surrounded by several bright white diamonds in an intricate pattern, and earlier this year it went on display at the Met Museum in New York.